Conferences and Meetings

Conferences and Meetings

Vision of Bandung After 50 Years Facing New Challenges (NAM and Contemporary World)

NAM and Contemporary World

The Non-Aligned Movement has covered a long distance since its inception in 1961 at Belgrade, the venue of the First NAM Summit. India's first Prime Minister Pt. Nehru, one of the founding father of NAM, described the non-aligned as the policy of friendship amongst nations. From its very inception the Non-Aligned Movement has successfully worked for promotion of friendship and cooperation amongst member states, end of domination and establishment of peace in the world at large.

India has played a significant role in shaping and guiding the Non-aligned Movement which began as a collective and constructive response of the newly liberated masses of Asia, Africa, Caribbean and Latin America. The Movement is responsible for inculcating self-esteem to these newly liberated countries and to a great extent responsible for the creation of more just and equitable world order. 

There is a widespread scepticism about the relevance of non-alignment itself. Infact this scepticism is not new. So it was even during the Cold War era. The change is that now it is quite prevalent among Non-Aligned Countries themselves. Apart from the erroneous view held by many that Non-alignment was simply a product of Cold War and, therefore, with the claimed end of cold war it has lost its relevance there are other criticisms of the movement also. Its amarphous character has led critics to scoff at its marginality. The original criteria for membership have been diluted and the dividing line between non-alignment and alignment has been somewhat coloured. The regional quarrels and ambitions have tended to displace the larger objectives and demands. The movement's capacity to meet the rigrous of a new and more intensified cold war has been further eroded. The economic power of the rich nations combined with grave economic difficulties and challenges has placed new constraints on the activity, initiative and bounce of the non-aligned.

These criticisms are correct to an extent. But what they miss is the evaluation and role of the movement in the context of its emergence and functioning. The most important aspect in that regard is need to realise that NAM did not originate as an ideological camp. It was, if anything, a revolt against bloc divisions and dominance of the international system by a few powers. A non-aligned country wanted a measure of freedom for itself and, at the same time, to acquire some leverage through this bigger association in the international system. In that sence NAM provided the emerging and struggling countries a certain psychological security, not fool-proof not even demonstrable, but nevertheless permitting some sense of belonging. In a harsh and cruel world it offered them some kind of an anchorage without entangling alliances and with their independence intact, making it possible for their voice to be heard with a little greater seriousness. The chief thrust of the movement, accordingly, had been towards independence, against colonialism, neo-colonialism, racialism and for the maintenance of world peace, democratization of the international political structure and the establishment of a more equitable economic order.

The end of the Cold War has not made the essence of non-alignment irrelevant. The essence is the right to consider every issue on merit and the right to take whatever action is considered feasible against what is regarded as a wrong irrespective of whether that wrong is perpetuated by one power bloc in a bipolar world or by one or both the superpowers in a bipolar world. As Nehru stated in his address to the United Nations, "where freedom is menaced or justice threatened or where aggression takes place, we cannot and shall not be neutral". To say it in another way, taking the essence of non-alignment as the assertion of independence in foreign affairs, non-alignment does not become irrelevant at any time. 

NAM has achieved much in these tasks but a lot is left. The end of Cold War notwithstanding the developing countries, which also happen to be NAM countries remain developing and so their interests for development with dignity. Therefore, the last three non-aligned Summit Conferences in the Post-Cold War era Indonesia (1992), Colombia (1995) and South Africa (1998) expressly and categorically reaffirmed the continuing relevance of non-alignment. The colombia Conference asserted; "The Movement today constitutes a forum which provides us with a basic framework to coordinate our interests and positions". However, the global situation today presents a picture of strage paradoxes.

The end of Cold War had raised various hopes as well as possibilities of creating a new world order. But while economy has started moving along the path of the new dynamics of globalization, expectations of humanity to attain a new, just and equitable international system based on respect, justice and equity among nations do not seem to be realised. Though wealth and trade have grown in an accelerated fashion, life expectancy and access to primary education have increased and infant mortality has noticeably gone down in a number of countries, poverty, hunger, unemployment, environment degradation and threat to peace through unjustified stockpiling of nuclear weapons show no signs of abatement. Similarly, notwithstanding the fact that a number of conflicts have been settled through dialogue and agreement giving significant fillip to regional peace, there has also been excerbation of existing disputes, emergence of new conflicts and reappearance of ethnic, religious and socio-economic rivalries making world a place far from being peaceful and secure. Simmering disputes, violent conflicts, aggression and foreign occupation, interference in the internal affairs of states, policies of hegemony and domination, ethnic strife, religious intolerance, xenophobia, new forms of racism and narrowly conceived nationalism, national and transnational terrorism are, inter alia, major and dangerous obstacles to harmonious coexistence among states and peoples. They have even led to the disintegration of states and societies. The NAM will have to take account of all these development, particularly the way they are affecting developing countries. 

How to shape NAM's world view in the light of the political and economic changes all around is a crucial question today. The United Nations system created after 1945 is out of date as far as developing country's issues are concerned. This needs to be reformed carefully making it more responsible and representative. Vetos and permanent members have lost much of their relevance. But unfortunately NAM is ceasing to be either a cohesive political grouping or an effective economic pressure group. Though NAM has consistently sought to improve the bargaining position of its member nations in global economic forums and at the U.N., it has had to contend with the reality that in the Post-Cold War period several countries have struck their own separate deals with the U.S. ultimately leading to an acceptance of the idea of unipolar world and giving the only superpower a total hegemonic role. The end of cold war and the birth of unipolarism are aberrations in the 350 years old sovereign state system. Multi-polarism is the traditional norm in the functioning of the sovereign state system. And presently it is in the off-line and non-alignment does not become irrelevant even in a multipolar world also.

NAM, therefore has to set its priorities carefully. NAM can be the carrier of South-South collaboration. It has a role to play in WTO negotiations to advance and protect the trading rights and opportunities of developing countries and in muscling up their negotiating positions and skills. NAM can stand up to arbitrary economic sanctions against developing nations, to the unfair cutting down of trade quotas with a view to protect the economy of the developed North. Emergences of "fortresses" in Europe and North America is a warning to the developing world that they must unite for their own economic emancipation. The European community with a market of 300 million people and the North America Free Trade Zone area covering 500 million people pose a great challenge to the countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America. To compete with them in trade and business will be more difficult for the developing countries unless they form an organisation for collective economic development. NAM can be an initiator for that. NAM can make the protests of developing nations against arbitrary application of western concepts of human rights. NAM has now an potentially effective role to play in bringing about meaningful nuclear arms control and disarmament by the nuclear powers. 

With the end of Cold War there might be visible dimination of inter-state warfare. But with the rise of ethnic and religious nationalism, socio-economic inequalities, collapse of state structures, withdrawl of super power support etcetra, the changes and frequency of intra-state and regional conflicts have increased. So far as U.N.s role in the achievement of peace is concerned, it is increasingly becoming a rubber stamping body, endorsing and legitimizing the decisions and actions of the adhocist oligarohic political executive authority. UN seems to be becoming a tool of intervention in the hands of the unipolare oligarchy leading to the erosion of the sovereignty of the Third World and developing states.

The NAM, therefore, has to think of its requvenation rather than taking of becoming rededent. However, it has to redefine its role in the changed international situation. The changed scenario necessitates a shift of emphasis in priorities so as it can force new challenges. On the occasion 50 anniversary of Bandung, it is important to have widespread discussions and debates about identifying the challenges the movement has to address in the wake of the dynamics of globalisation. NAMs role in promoting a just international order would depend largely on its inner strength unity and cohesion. It is, therefore, incumbent on all member states to work earnestly towards promoting solidarity and unity of the Movement. It is expected that in order to enhance its role at the international level, the next NAM Summit of the Head of States or Government will take necessary initiatives to continue to work on exponding and reinforcing its ability and capacity for initiative, representation and negotiation, as well as, its ethical, political and moral strength as a forum representing the interests and aspirations of the developing world.

The fact remains that non-aligned has not lost its validity, since most of the problems faced by the developing nations during the cold war continue to persist. If India has ambition to play a major role in the global economy and rapidly to develop its technology, it must necessarily think of taking the leadership of the non-aligned, while taking into account the norms of international relations.  

The time is ripe to evaluate the past and formulate the future policies of the non-aligned countries to change the existing international order and establish a new international order based on friendship, cooperation, justice and fair play to improve the lot of third world and to restore human rights, democracy and world peace. 


by Dr. R. N. Srivastava

Director, FPSD on the Foundation for Peace and Sustainable Development

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