Hello amazing people,
Vice-President Hamid Ansari attended the 17th Non-Aligned Summit which was held in the beautiful locales of Margarita (without a straw!), Venezuela in September 2016. The absence of our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi (2nd time in the history of NAM has an Indian PM not attended the NAM Summit) has led to speculations whether the forum is losing its sheen? In light of the ever-changing global equations and International Relations being determined by economic considerations, has NAM become more of a forum which has not been able to keep up with the evolving world-order?
Origins of Non-Aligned Movement
The Non-Aligned Movement was spearheaded by our very own Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru (the-then PM), along with Indonesia’s Sukarno, Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, Yugoslavia’s Josip Broz Tito, Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah. The organization was founded in 1961 in Belgrade. If you look closely, you can see that these countries had a recent past of being victims of colonialization and they came together to ensure that they didn’t need to side with one or the other superpower and could retain their sovereignty without being dictated by the superpowers. There was also the historic pain of suffering under the dual yolks of colonial and imperialistic burden.
What started as a small grouping quickly expanded to include a large number of so-called “Third-World” or developing economies over the years. The recurrent theme across the members remained the fragile/nascent nature of their economies and the desire to not align with any of the superpowers. Over the years, NAM moved from being a promoter of the interests of its members to a promoter of world peace. Especially during the decades of the 1970s and 1980s, the organization vehemently tried to project itself as the harbinger of world peace.
Since the end of the Cold War and the formal end of colonialism, the organization has sought to re-define its objectives and stay relevant according to the new world order. Critics of NAM point out that it has anything but succeeded in this quest. Although it commands a respectable member-base of 120 nations and 15 observer-states, the very foundation of the Non-Aligned Movement is under attack by the new world order where nations have chosen to take calculated side(s) of a nation/nations to further their own economic interests.
While NAM was a safeguard to protect the economic interests of its members by ensuring that they could focus on their fledgeling economies and not forced to choose sides, it has not been able to respect the need of the weaker economies to rely on larger economies. The arena has clearly shifted from political to the economic. In such times, its criticism of US policies (invasion of Iraq, War on Terrorism) has alienated it even further from the process of mainstreaming its ideals and vision. What is needed on its part is an honest analysis of the changing world order and a need to re-define its ideals, goals and vision to match step with the needs of its members. No longer can the organization sustain its relevance owing to the aspirations with which it was setup. It needs to review how it can keep up the interests of its members – economic, political and strategic at the core of its ideology and contribute to making the world a better place.
At the same time, it would be wrong to not give it its due credit in promoting world peace and disarmament. It has also promoted South-South dialogue and sought to lend its voice in favour of sustainable development and the need to unite for the sake of an end to terrorism. It has also been vocal in demanding a much-needed reform of the UN Security Council to include the ‘non-aligned’ states as Permanent members. In these actions we see some shades of the evolution of NAM in sync with the new needs of its members as well as the global scenario.
Much more needs to be done in this space and all members of NAM need to come together to have a deeper look at how to make the organization lithe, effective and committed to the new needs of its members.
Lastly, dismissing such an important organization as a ‘Has-been’ simply due to the non-participation of some Heads of States would amount to not realizing the contribution – both historic and futuristic that the organization has and can make. NAM will have to look at both the internal ideology as well as external set of goals to ensure it can move in sync with the changing times. Otherwise, the oldest joke about NAM – that it was always aligned and never a movement; might unfortunately prove to be true.