By Nilofar Suhrawardy, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
NEW DELHI- Though India and the US are nowhere at the stage of having drawn diplomatic swords against each other over differences on their stand regarding contemporary relevance of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), they have not refrained in laying stress on their holding opposite views.
While the US thinks NAM has no â€œrelevanceâ€ in the present world order, India thinks differently. Debate over the issue surfaced last week following US Secretary of State Condoleezza Riceâ€™s comments stating that NAM â€œhad lost its meaningâ€ in todayâ€™s world. NAM â€œmade sense during the Cold War when the world really was divided into rival camps,â€ Rice said. â€œAs fellow democracies with so many interests and principles in common at a time when people of every culture, every race and every religion are embracing political and economic liberty, what is the meaning of non-alignment,â€ Rice asked.
She was speaking at the 32nd anniversary celebrations of the US-India Business Council in Washington. Assuming NAM to be an outdated notion, Rice called on Indians to â€œmove past old ways of thinking and old ways of acting.â€ â€œHow can we not afford to join each other, on a global scale, to support opportunity and prosperity and justice and dignity and education and freedom and democracy,â€ she asked.
If the US expected India to mutely concede to Riceâ€™s suggestion, it made a miscalculation. India is a founding member of NAM, the origin of which is traced to the Asia-African Conference held in Bandung, Indonesia (1955), in which PM Jawaharlal Nehru played a leading role. Within less than a decade of India having gained independence from colonialism, NAM was an important diplomatic platform prepared by developing countries to assert their independence and raise their voice against neo-colonialism and western domination. True, the world is no longer subject to Cold War games between two superpowers. However, the entire world is not anywhere near the stage of being subject to only one powerâ€™s whims and fancies. Against this backdrop, it would be erroneous of United States to presume that India would play its diplomatic cards as desired by Washington. In recent past, the progress being made towards finalization of the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project and the importance being accorded in New Delhi to Palestine-issue are a few indicators of India being assertive about its diplomatic priorities.
Not surprisingly, India has reacted strongly against Riceâ€™s comments on NAM having lost its diplomatic relevance. â€œWe donâ€™t believe that the movement has lost its relevance. It has acquired contemporary relevance in fostering cooperation among developing nations, particularly known as South-South cooperation,â€ External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in Jalpaiguri in West Bengal (June 29), where he was on a visit. â€œIndia is founding member of the NAM, and believes that the movement has contributed substantially to the struggle against colonialism and apartheid policies in the post-Second World War period. There is no apparent contradiction in expanding cooperation and democracy of the world and the NAM,â€ Mukherjee said. India was equally interested in developing and widening cooperation with the US, he emphasized.
â€œThere can be no question of Indiaâ€™s firm and abiding commitment to non-alignment,â€ ministry of external affairsâ€™ spokesman Navtej Sarna said (June 29). Drawing attention to pivotal role earlier played by NAM, Sarna said: â€œThe Non-Aligned Movement played a significant role in ending apartheid and colonialism.â€ â€œToday, its relevance continues in promoting South- South cooperation and the democratization of the international system. India remains committed to its ideals,â€ he said.
Signaling that India did not need to be lectured on its commitment to NAM, the Left bloc parties strongly criticized Rice for having commented on it. With the hostility of United States towards NAM being well known, the indulgence of Rice in this exercise by â€œusing the platform of US-India Business Council to decry the NAM and brand it irrelevant has a specific motive,â€ the Communist Party of India (Marxist) said. In contrast to United Statesâ€™ move for domination, NAM was a movement for national sovereignty of nations and for a more equitable world order, the party said in a statement. â€œThe United States is signaling to India not to play an active role in NAM, which has got Cuba as its current chairman. The message is being conveyed along with the assurance that the nuclear cooperation agreement can be finalized provided India understands the parameters of the â€˜strategic allianceâ€™ with the United States,â€ the CPI (M) stated.
With India as a founding member of NAM, it remained one of its leaders and the movement was as relevant for it now as it was earlier, according to Communist Party of India (CPI). In its statement, CPI emphasized that NAM had to express solidarity and rally in support of smaller countries, which were victims of attack and aggression by imperial powers such as the United States. It was for NAM to play a leading role in helping these countries develop, in protecting them from economic domination and in working for a new world economic order, the party said.
The message is clear. India has no intention to view NAM as irrelevant in todayâ€™s world-order, whatsoever United Statesâ€™ diplomatic priorities and/or suggestions be!