WIB e-Monograph Series 2006/21

India and the Non-aligned Movement (NAM) Moral Paradoxes of a Founding Member

K.M.Seethi
(Reader, School of International Relations and Politics Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, Kerala, India)

e-Monograph Series
Web-India-Books 2006

-21

K.M.Seethi

WIB e-Monograph Series 2006/21

India and the Non-aligned Movement (NAM)
Moral Paradoxes of a Founding Member K.M.Seethi

The XIVth Summit of the 118-nation Non-aligned Movement (NAM) came to an end in Havana with a declaration of its total opposition to terrorism—in all its forms and manifestations—and asked countries to combat the menace, including by prosecuting and extraditing its perpetrators. After prolonged negotiations, the two-day NAM summit adopted the Havana Declaration and the "Final Document" calling upon countries to refrain from extending political, diplomatic, moral or material support to terrorism under the UN Charter and also asking them to fulfil global obligations not to give it any support. Does this not reflect the prevailing mood in, and the global agenda of, the advanced capitalist countries which gains momentum under the pet theme of ‘war on terror’? One cannot help resist the temptation to call NAM as “NAMe” only insofar as the pressing problems of 118 countries in the movement. However, the only consolation could be that the mantle of leadership (of the movement) has come back to Cuba, a staunch opponent of American imperialism for decades together. Yet that again does not guarantee the revitalization of an anti-imperialist NAM given the fact a substantial number of NAM members are seeking to take advantage of globalisation.

While the NAM resolved to oppose and condemn the categorization of countries as "good or evil" based on unilateral and unjustified criteria and the adoption of a doctrine of pre-emptive attack, including by nuclear weapons, India—a nation which consistently opposed all forms of imperialism and nuclear deterrence

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WIB e-Monograph Series 2006/21

doctrine for long—seemed to be too soft and, rather, on the retreat with respect to these questions. The Statement made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, howsoever poignant though it was in literal terms, did not address some of the crucial issues that the countries in the Third World have been facing for the last several decades. More so, several remarks made by him do not match the policies of India on the external front, particularly in advancing the cause of the Third World.

Prime Minister graciously quoted Jawaharlal Nehru, the founding leader of NAM: “Non-alignment is freedom of action which is a part of independence.” Nehru wanted us “to judge issues in full freedom and without any pre-conceived partisan bias”, said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. But where is this “freedom of action” today, and are we really capable of judging “issues in full freedom” in the current phase of neoliberal globalisation? Rather the Prime Minister reminded us that as “globalization progresses, national and regional boundaries are becoming less and less relevant. Our problems are global, so must our solutions be.” While the problems the Third World countries face today are surely global in nature, can countries like India ensure that the boundaries of their political independence are inviolable and sacrosanct? Is national sovereignty a mere rhetoric? Nehru once made it clear that the test of a country’s political independence is its independent economic policy. Without independent economic policy, he asserted, a country as big as India cannot claim to have an independent foreign policy. Obviously, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s hands have been tied down for the last one and a half decade, and he cannot vouchsafe where the limits of India’s “freedom of action” lie.

The Havana summit was apparently emphatic in its position on the North-South dialogue. It not only acknowledged the need for interaction among the leaders of the developing world for forging compatible or complementary responses on

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WIB e-Monograph Series 2006/21

global issues for a greater action, but expressed profound concern over the continuing stalemate in negotiations across all areas of Doha work programme. However, the statement made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh conveniently avoided references to the unequal nature of negotiations currently underway in the WTO ministerial meetings. His major concern was only “reforming the UN and revitalizing the UN General Assembly.” His appeal was rather different: “The developing world must find its due representation among the permanent members of the UN Security Council. We must join hands with other like minded countries to promote democratization of processes of global governance, ushering in a new global polity, based on the rule of law, reason and equity.” Prime Minister’s comments also lacked clarity. He said: “Our collective strength is unmatched, and we must now unite behind a common and a fundamentally new vision of “inclusive globalization.” Prime Minister also observed that globalisation “must be accompanied by a more balanced and equitable distribution of its benefits. Otherwise the global response to challenges will remain uneven and partial at best.” What is that countries like India are expected to do in the UN Security Council, even if they are given high-prized seats, when they have too many pressing problems that need to be addressed elsewhere, and that too outside the formal structure of the UN system. Certainly, if there are structures of domination in the present-day international system, that are conspicuous in the very functioning of the Breton Wood institutions and the global pattern of trade. The IMF-World Bank-WTO trinity is the most dangerous manifestation of this global domination about which India had practically nothing to say at the summit. It may be recalled that way back in 1974, in the UN General Assembly, India was in the forefront to advance the cause of a New International Economic Order (NIEO). At the Sixth Special Session of the UN General Assembly, India submitted proposals for a comprehensive policy for the revalorization of prices of raw materials; provision

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WIB e-Monograph Series 2006/21

of additional liquidity for concerned countries; equitable pattern of voting rights in IMF and other international financial institutions; provision of external capital for the development of developing countries; and financial and technical assistance to developing countries. Most of these proposals were incorporated into the Declaration on the Establishment of the New International Economic Order adapted by the General Assembly on I May 1974. The programme of the NIEO contained a number of fundamental concepts spearheaded against oppression and exploitation. This applied, first and foremost, to the principles of self-determination of peoples and the sovereign equality of status, full sovereignty of states over their natural resources and all forms of economic activity, equal participation of all countries in the solution of global economic problems, etc. The essence of this official demand for a new order was a call for the redistribution of the world’s wealth and economic opportunities, and the restructuring of the international economic system and its institutions – to guarantee that the interests of developing states were directly taken into account.

Where is this India today? Manmohan Singh’s neoliberal policy package not only pushed India towards greater dependence on imperialist powers, but made substantial revisions with respect to the welfare agenda of the state enshrined in the Indian Constitution. The NAM too reflects the changing nature of the state in the Third World with several countries running in a frenzied mood to reap the windfall of globalisation. Strangely, NAM no longer sustains an agenda of NIEO! Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called for a worldview based on a rejection of the notion of a “clash of civilizations”. He appealed to the world to work for a “confluence of civilizations.” But this ‘confluence’ should not be an uncritical and blanket call for cultural globalisation which the West has been advancing to dominate the world. Rather India should be able to identify the forces that take advantage of the “clash of civilization” thesis. Certainly imperialism gains

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WIB e-Monograph Series 2006/21

enormous economic and military advantages from this notion where India’s voice is silenced. Hence, anti-imperialism no longer holds good for India! This is more apparent in India’s response to the situation in West Asia. Prime Minister told the NAM summit: “We have just been witness to a tragic and pointless war in Lebanon. It has only sharpened the sense of alienation and resentment, brutalizing a country that had just begun to reclaim its heritage of inter-ethnic and inter-religious harmony after years of conflict.” But the Prime Minister was unable to say who brutalized Lebanon, the countries which supported the Israeli atrocities and, more so, the inconsequential role played by other ‘responsible actors’ in the UN.

The contradictions in India’s proclaimed policy on disarmament also reflected in the statement of Prime Minister in the NAM summit. He said that “the time has come for NAM to once again assume an active and leading role in advocating nuclear disarmament.” While the post-Pokhran-II compulsions of India are understandable, the position that New Delhi has taken with respect to Iran, particularly in IAEA under US pressures, points to the ambivalent nature of Indian nuclear policy. Perhaps all non-aligned countries know well that disarmament negotiations underway for sometime in world fora has suffered a major setback due to the U-turn in the policies of India and the United States. The Havana summit reaffirmed the inalienable right of developing countries to engage in research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination. It also noted with concern that undue restrictions on export to developing countries of material, equipment and technology for peaceful purposes persist. The proliferation concerns must be addressed through multilaterally negotiated, universal, comprehensive and non-discriminatory agreement. While Manmohan Singh invited fellow members of NAM to join in the “efforts to achieve universal nuclear disarmament and a world free of all

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nuclear weapons”, many would have raised their eyebrows. There should, at least, be some consistency in India’s words and deeds.

The Prime Minister in his speech said that the NAM “should take the lead in articulating a ‘new paradigm of energy security’ that addresses the needs of all peoples and of our planet.” This may again be interpreted as a call for a nuclearbased option for the energy requirements of countries. While the West is skillfully avoiding this for themselves, due to obvious reasons, why is that this high-technology option is prescribed for the Third World? Should NAM be another instrument to popularize and legitimize the nuclear energy agenda of countries like India? The untold stories about the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, currently being finalized, remind us of the long-term implications of such global efforts to legitimize nuclear technology not only for “peaceful purposes” but for developing weapons behind-the-scene. At the end Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sought to revitalize the NonAligned Movement. He said that “the collective message of our Summit must be seen as being central to the success of global efforts to deal with urgent transnational issues–-be it terrorism, pandemics, energy security or the environment.” What is glaring in his statement is a substitution of ‘urgent transnational issues’—a conscious reprioritization of Third World agenda, from the pressing global socio-economic as well as trade issues to the questions having mere rhetorical significance. and attempts The to NAM exercise summit rightly condemned in

“unilateralism”

“hegemonic

domination”

international relations, a favourite theme of Cuba for long to attack the American imperialism. But what is in store for countries like India in the emerging global situation may not all that be positive. That is precisely the reason why India’s words are well-guarded and its position rather obscure.

K.M.Seethi