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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 -21
Web-India-Books
2006

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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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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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 nuclear-
based 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 Non-
Aligned 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. The NAM summit rightly condemned
“unilateralism” and attempts to exercise “hegemonic domination” in
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