Time is ripe to revamp Non-Aligned Movement.
Saudi Arabia has demanded a comprehensive reassessment of the efficacy of Non-Aligned Movement's (NAM) global peace initiatives. The Saudi Cabinet recently urged the NAM leadership to honestly evaluate whether the body is indeed playing a constructive role in promoting international security and stability in conformity with its hallowed charter.
Ever since its formation in 1961, NAM has been a supportive pillar to the developing nations in more than one ways. It not only acted as a protector of small nations against western hegemony but also encouraged and empowered the member states to withstand external influences on domestic policy making. NAM came as a breath of fresh air to Third World nations struggling to escape the magnetic bipolarity of the Cold War era.
Since its very inception, this new bloc has successfully managed to initiate a joint fight against the socioeconomic maladies afflicting most of the member countries and to foster a cooperative spirit on issues relating to global peace and security. The organizations' independence was, however, not above question, as many believed that NAM was actually a front for the Soviet bloc and the founding fathers were all men with socialist orientation.
To these NAM critics, the very concept of non-alignment was nothing more than a Soviet tool to fetter American domination of the globe. India's foreign policy directions of the 60s bear testimony to the fact that Moscow was probably exploiting NAM leaderships' ideological orientation. In fact till the 1962 shock that China handed out to India, NAM founder member Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was convinced about the indispensability of Sino-Indian cooperation in peaceful development of Asia.
Incidentally, any alliance between pro-Stalin Beijing and a left leaning New Delhi at that stage could have ensured that a vast majority of landmass in Asia would be under the strategic control of the Soviet bloc. Besides, the Afghan front presents a glaring example of NAM's failure to adopt a balanced approach at critical times given the fact that Indian intelligence operatives were actively involved in the theater siding and liaising with the Soviet military command in Afghanistan.
Moreover, many NAM member states have not only faltered in upholding the very spirit of non-alignment but also failed to integrate such ethos into their national policymaking structure. Perhaps, the amorphous character of NAM and the undeniable reality of member states working at cross purposes to attain regional supremacy have largely overshadowed the greater objective and ultimate goal of the body. Notwithstanding such skepticism, NAM did play a very significant role in shaping the aspirations of the newly liberated masses in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Caribbean region.
Pandit Nehru nurtured a dream of pooling together the diplomatic resources of Third World nation states in the pursuit of equality ever since he attended the 1927 congress of the oppressed nations at Brussels. Indeed, NAM has been a vital and vibrant coalition of the dispossessed who were provided an exclusive identity and a strong voice that cannot be ignored by the rich nations willfully.
It would, therefore, be too premature to make a negative prognosis at this point of time even though critics might argue that non-alignment lost relevance after getting crushed under the debris of the Berlin Wall. Far from being an ideological concept, NAM was a manifestation of rebellion against the domination of the world by few imperialistic powers, which did not even represent majority of the global populace.
Non-alignment was a product of frustration of the Third World countries, which longed for a measure of administrative autonomy and sought to acquire a leverage to effectively bargain with the super-powers of a bipolar world. NAM aimed at achieving a just world order and equitable economic structure while the main thrust was anti-colonialism.
As rightly pointed out by the Saudi leadership, NAM urgently needs an image-makeover in tune with contemporary reality. Though the old power-bloc mindset continues to dominate global politics and trade albeit periphrastically, NAM members must repudiate policies of "encirclement-through-military alliances" and instead step into the tricky territory of peace brokering and promote demilitarization.
The member states should jointly strive for visible disarmament, not only in the Middle East but across the globe. Very rightly, NAM leaders at the 14th Summit in Havana have pledged to oppose any attempt of unilaterally categorizing countries as "good or evil" and undertaking pre-emptive strikes on them including by nuclear weapons.
Interestingly, the Modi government in India is amenable to the reversal of the country's "no-first-use" nuclear doctrine in violation of the NAM declaration. Also, NAM must adapt itself to the reality of rogue non-state actors intruding into the vacant space left over by an aggressively confrontationist Cold War politics. It has brought a paradigm shift in the security policy of countries across the globe in all dimensions. The demise of Cold War might have diminished the scope of direct inter-state conflict, but a spurt in violent ethnic and religious nationalism, socioeconomic inequalities and the collapse of welfare state mechanism can incite severe fratricidal conflicts in several pockets of the developing world in future.
Besides, factors like national and transnational terrorism, intense religious intolerance leading to xenophobic attributes, various forms of racism and the trend of elected governments legitimizing anti-people neo-liberal policies will disturb social stability equally. Hence, at a time when regressive forces are out to destroy societal cohesion and exploitative crony capitalism running amok, NAM must take the lead to usher in a new era of peace and well being through fair and inclusive globalization.
Seema Sengupta is a Kolkata-based journalist and columnist.
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