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NAM in name only

Publication Date : 24-08-2012


Nepal's Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai, according to some media reports, is all set to go to Iran to attend the meeting of the heads of states and governments of self-professed non-aligned countries, scheduled to be held towards the end of this month. If the past is any guide, the Nepali team will comprise of personalities who are close to those in power. And since Nepal is a rich country and has so much money to waste, the government does not need to think twice before deciding to go to a summit that is not expected to yield any dividends for Nepal. No matter what the critics may say, there will be no stopping the Prime Minister and his delegation from making the trip since the Nepali political parties, without exception, claim to be much committed to the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). (A wise crack confidently mentioned that there was no possibility of PM Bhattarai skipping the Iran trip “because there is where he will meet Sardarji”.)

The Non-Aligned Movement was the result of a conference of some of the prominent Third World countries held in Bandung, Indonesia, in 1955. The Bandung Conference held at the height of the Cold War between rival world powers was meant to show the dissatisfaction of the developing countries towards the way they are treated by big powers, especially the Western powers. Almost 30 countries, including Nepal, took part in the first conference. The five principles of peaceful co-existence were the basis on which the Non-Aligned Movement was founded, and the decision of the countries to remain non-aligned with the big powers led to the first ever summit in Belgrade, the capital of former Yugoslavia. The movement was led by giants like Josip Tito, Gamal Abdul Nasser, Jawaharlal Nehru, Kwame Nkrumah and Sukarno. The movement was relevant when it was born. The Western powers and the then-Soviet Union and its allies were at loggerheads with each other and all attempts were made by each side to draw as many countries as possible to their side, against the other. A propaganda war was in full swing and the man in the street, exposed to it in the form of “news”, would find it virtually impossible to tell if he or she was being taken for a ride.

The Cold War is a relic of the 20th century and one might well ask if the Non-Aligned Movement has any relevance today. Is a summit of over 100 countries necessary today, when the money spent by the hosts and participating nations could go a long way in alleviating the suffering of a large number of people living in developing and least developed countries? It has become trendy for these countries to profess themselves to be non-aligned. But one might ask if most of the non-aligned countries today are really non-aligned.

One of the pillars of the Bandung conference and the Non-Aligned Movement is the concept of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. And yet, not only the big powers, but the self-professed non-aligned countries themselves have no qualms in flouting this basic principle. One does not have to go far to cite an example. Recently, a former Indian Ambassador to this country publicly stated that India intervened in the Maoist government’s Chief of Army Staff fiasco. India’s Nepal “experts” have written about India’s much-needed help in resolving various political crises confronted by this country, including providing covert shelter to Maoist leaders during the decade-long armed conflict. And just to highlight how non-aligned we and our neighbour are, a group of our political leaders belonging to different political parties have flocked to New Delhi, obviously to beg Delhi to help resolve the present deadlock in the country!

Many colonialist countries may have given independence to their colonies, but the age-old colonialist mentality is yet to be wiped away. Today, instead of actually occupying territories, the neocolonists are trying—one reckons successfully—to control countries and the peoples through various economic and cultural means. The Non-Aligned Movement is yet to rise to meet this challenge, and it seems at this stage almost impossible to do so, as many of the non-aligned countries themselves indulge in this neo-colonialism. One of the main goals of the movement has also been to bring necessary reforms in the United Nations, which is seen to be an instrument of the rich and powerful countries. Here too the movement has failed. Further, the Western countries have reservations about the Non-Aligned summit being held in Tehran “because Iran may go nuclear”. This is an example of double standards in international affairs. If the Western countries and some countries in Asia and Eastern Europe can go nuclear, why not Iran?

Regardless, the Non-Aligned Movement today is unable to do anything substantial globally and one or the other non-aligned country becomes de-facto aligned with a superpower in order to pursue its interests. As a result the movement itself has lost initial shine and the summit has become a mere farce at a huge cost to tax payers in the 100-plus “non-aligned” countries.


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