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India to push for contemporary vision for NAM

Written by: Staff

Havana, Sept 14: The 14th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit beginning here tomorrow will bring together 116 member-countries with a resolve to project a new and contemporary vision of the grouping and make it more relevant to the post-Cold War, post 9/11 world.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was in Brasilia to attend the September 12-13 summit of the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) Dialogue Forum, will lead the Indian delegation to the meeting.

He will be accompanied by Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma and National Security Adviser M K Narayanan.

The highlight of Dr Singh's stay here will be the proposed meeting with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, which could lead to the resumption of the stalled peace process between the two countries.

The Prime Minister will use the opportunity to convey to Gen Musharraf that there cannot be forward movement in the peace process unless Pakistan provides susbtantive evidence to show that it had stopped supporting cross-border terrorism against India.

The two leaders had last met in September, 2005, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

The two-day NAM summit will have as its theme ''Purposes and Principles and the Role of NAM in the Present International Juncture.'' While India and other like-minded countries will try and steer the movement back to its basic agenda of development and the establishment of a new cooperative global structure, it is clear from discussions at the levels of senior officials and foreign ministes preceding the summit that the standoff over Iran's nuclear programme and the situation in West Asia will dominate proceedings.

The summit will also see lobbying by both Venezuela and Guatemala for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council. India is yet to make up its mind on which way to vote.

India is certain to use the opportunity to push the candidature of its nominee Shashi Tharoor the position of UN Secretary General.

There is also intense speculation on whether ailing Cuban President Fidel Castro, 80, would recover enough to show up at the summit.

If he does, it will be his first public appearance since undergoing intestinal surgery in July this year.

Raul Castro, 75, is officiating as acting President while his brother recovers from the surgery.

It will be the first NAM summit for Dr Singh, but there are many who feel that he is ideally placed to help bring the movement back to its basic principles, given his background as an economist-turned-politician, who had served as Secretary-General of the South Commission in the late 1980s and then piloted India's ambitious economic reforms as Finance Minister in the first half of the '90s.

The Prime Minister believes that, in the context of the present global challenges, non-alignment remains a valid and effective instrument to ensure the creation of a more just and fair world order. Further, just as NAM played a central role in the struggle for political emancipation in the past, he thinks it is necessary to revitalise the movement to make it a vehicle for social and economic emancipation in the present times.

Towards this end, Dr Singh has been, on the one hand, advocating a manifold increase in cooperation among developing countries, learning from each other's experiences and borrowing from each other's best practices.

Simultaneouly, he has been underlining the need for modernisation of the structures of governance in developing countries to improve the delivery of services to the people.

He also sees great promise in the proliferation of regional associations which could bring about considerable benefits through mutual cooperation.

The Prime Minister is firmly convinced that globalisation, if properly managed, can effect a significant improvement in the human condition in the span of a single generation, though it has also thrown up many new challenges such as terrorism, disease, insecurity and the management of scarce natural resources.

He, therefore, can be expected to call for expansion of the constituency that supports the process of globalisation.

He is also likely to call for the creation of new structures of mutual support and cooperation to benefit from best practices and appropriate technologies among member-countries.

On his way to Brasilia, where he attended the first India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) summit on September 12-13, Dr Singh denied that India's proximity to United States would see it isolated in NAM.

''There is no question of India being isolated. Our stand is fully in conformity with what the founding fathers of our Republic would have liked us to do,'' he said.

''Non-alignment is a state of mind with the ability to exercise an independent judgement on all issues,'' he added.

''I think, in that sense, non-alignment continues to have its relevance. I don't buy this argument that most members of NAM do not want to keep relations with the United States. And we are not seeking good relations with the United States at the cost of other countries. Our desire to normalise and expand relations with the US in no way contradicts or runs counter to the interest of other countries,'' he said.

India realises that a great deal needs to be done by NAM members to enable the movement to play its assigned role in tackling the political, economic and social issues facing the third world.

Globalisation, it feels, has brought about many benefits and opened up possibilities for growth, but these had been uneven in nature and left many countries behind. The summit will look at ways of making globalisation much more inclusive in its benefits.

India is also worried about the possibility of the world entering another era of global divide, with talk of a clash of civilisations.

It feels that NAM, as a plural, multi-religious, multi-ethnic movement, could help bring about a ''confluence of civilisations''.

India will also impress upon member-countries the need to develop systems to ensure pooling of their strengths and resources and exert a collective influence in the resolution of global issues.

India is convinced that many of the issues facing the world today such as terrorism, energy security, environmental degradation and disease were not amenable to national or regional solutions and needed a global effort.

Apart from issues such as terrorism, disarmament and trade, the summit will look at UN reforms, the situation in Afghanistan and West Asia, South-South cooperation, environment and public health.

Proposals would be considered to network the scientific and technological resources of the member-nations.

The NAM summit is returning to Cuba, one of the founders of the movement along with India, after 26 years.

Cuba will take over as Chairman of the movement at the summit, a position it last held in 1982-83.

India had then taken over from Cuba at the Delhi summit. Egypt has thrown its hat in the ring for the Chairmanship of the movement after Cuba this time. A meeting of the G-15, chaired by Algeria, will be held in Havana on the sidelines of the summit. The traditional NAM agenda had, as its core concerns decolonisation, dismantling apartheid, disarmament and development.

In a rapidly changing world, there have been efforts to revitalise the movement and redefine its agenda to make it more relevant and effective.

The last NAM summit in Kuala Lumpur in February, 2003 and the Inter-Summit Ministerial Meet in Durban in August, 2004 identified several political, economic and social issues of concern to NAM members.

These include the relevance of NAM in the post Cold War era, globalisation and its impact on developing countries, the situation in Iraq, the Palestinian issue, Afghanistan, African conflicts, UN reforms, terrorism, human rights and disarmament.

The NAM agenda also includes issues such as poverty eradication, improvement in the global economic environment, enhanced access to markets, capital and technology, debt issues, problems of least developed countries, environment and social issues such as health and HIV/AIDS. These issues are of particular importance to NAM members, given the fact that most of them are developing countries.

Since taking over as Chairman in February, 2003, Malaysia has tried to activate NAM, particularly in the UN framework. NAM Groups were also activated at the Hague and in Vienna to coordinate positions on issues related to chemical weapons and nuclear energy.

Apart from playing an active part in discussions on Iraq at the UN and in matters related to the Palestinian issue, some of the initiatives taken by Malaysia to revitalise NAM include the creation of a NAM Business Council, the establishment of an e-portal and steps to streamline NAM organisationally to make it more efficient and effective.

The 116 members of NAM represent more than half of the planet's population and about two-thirds of the membership of the United Nations, making it the largest such bloc in the world.

The first Conference of the Non-Aligned Heads of State was held in September 1961 in Belgrade, largely due to the initiative of then President of Yugoslavia Josip Broz Tito. Apart from Pandit Nehru and President Tito, other prominent world leaders who attended the event included Presidents Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt and Sukarno of Indonesia.

The last NAM summit was held in February, 2003, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

NAM has no formal structures such as a Constitution or a Secretariat, although Malaysia, in its capacity as the current Chairman, has established an e-Secretariat portal on the Internet.

There have been proposals for the establishment of formal mechanisms to support the Chair of the Movement. Both Malaysia and Cuba, the incoming Chairman, have also been pushing the idea but it has not found adequate support among members, mainly because of the financial implications involved.


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