Non-Aligned Movement during the Cold War Period!
They were deeply interested in preserving their own independence and playing an independent role in shaping the world and in speeding up the process of destruction of colonialism.
The world had already been engulfed in the Cold War, with military alliances and race for weapons of mass destruction, which posed a threat to their independence as well as the survival of humanity.
The world economic order in which they found themselves was based on gross inequalities and exploitation and the requirements of their development made fundamental changes in the world economic order a necessity.
It was in these conditions that the Non-Aligned Movement emerged and shaped itself.
The Asian Relations Conference:
While the Non-Aligned Movement was formally set up in 1961 when the first conference of non-aligned countries was held in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, its antecedents can be traced back to the early post-war years. The leaders of the Indian freedom movement convened the Asian Relations Conference in March 1947 in Delhi. At this Conference, Jawaharlal Nehru, who was to become the first prime minister of independent India in a few months’ time, declared?
Far too long have we of Asia been petitioners in Western courts and chancelleries. That story must now belong to the past. We propose to stand on our own legs and to cooperate with all others who are prepared to cooperate with us. We do not intend to be the playthings of others…. The countries of Asia can no longer be used as pawns by others: they are bound to have their own policies in world-affairs.
He warned of the new dangers that threatened the world and said,
The West has … driven us into wars and conflicts without number and even now, the day after a terrible war, there is talk of further wars in the atomic age that is upon us. In this atomic age Asia will have to function effectively in the maintenance of peace.
By the end of the 1940s, the Western countries’ military alliance, NATO, had been set up, and in the early 1950s, military alliances had begun to be formed in Asia. The Cold War was being extended throughout the world leading to tensions and conflicts.
In this context India, along with China, enunciated the Panchsheel or the five principles of peaceful coexistence. These principles were incorporated in the preamble to an agreement which India and China signed in 1954. They became integral to the Non-Aligned Movement.
Many outstanding leaders had emerged in Asia in the early 1950s who wanted to build the unity of Asian and African countries to bring about the end of colonialism and imperialism and to keep themselves aloof from Cold War confrontations.
In 1955 Ahmed Sukarno of Indonesia hosted a conference of Asian and African countries at Bandung from 17 to 24 April. The conference was attended by 29 Asian and African countries. Among the outstanding leaders who participated in this conference were Jawaharlal Nehru, China’s Prime Minister, Chou En Lai and Gamal Abdel Nasser, then prime minister, and later president, of Egypt.
Although the conference was attended by many countries including Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, the Philippines, Turkey, Thailand, who were members of the US-sponsored military alliances, the communique unanimously adopted at this conference clearly stated ideas which expressed some of the fundamental principles of non-alignment. The Bandung Conference was a major milestone in the history of the Non-Aligned Movement.
It was also the biggest conference of the countries of Asia and Africa representing half of the population of the world.
From the mid-1950s, leaders of some non-aligned countries had started holding meetings. Gradually, the idea grew that a conference of all non-aligned countries should be held. The 1960 session of the UN General Assembly was a historic one. Seventeen newly independent countries of Africa were admitted to the United Nations that year.
The growing members of new nations, “recently become free, brought about significant changes in the United Nations which became a truly international organisation at which, in course of time, almost every country in the world was represented.
At this time, when the process of ending colonialism had been accelerated, the United Nations started playing a crucial role in furthering that process. On 14 December 1960, the United Nations adopted the historic “Declare on Granting Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples”.
This historic session of the United Nations was attended by leaders of five leading non-aligned nations—Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Sukarno of Indonesia, Nasser of Egypt, Tito of Yugoslavia and Nkrumah of Ghana. They took the historic decision of convening a conference of all non-aligned countries in the following year.
Declaration on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order:
The new international economic order should be founded on full respect for the following principles:
(a) Sovereign equality of States, self-determination of all peoples, inadmissibility of the acquisition of territories by force, territorial integrity and non-interference in the internal affairs of other States.
(b) The broadest cooperation of all the States members of the international community, based on equity, whereby the prevailing disparities in the world may be banished and prosperity secured for all.
(c) Full and effective participation on the basis of equality of all countries in the solving of world economic problems in the common interest of all countries, bearing in mind the necessity to ensure the accelerated development of all the developing countries, while devoting particular attention to the adoption of special measures in favour of the least developed, land-locked and island developing countries most seriously affected by economic crises and natural calamities without losing sight of the interests of other developing countries.
(d) The right of every country to adopt the economic and social system that it deems the most appropriate for its own development and not to be subjected to discrimination of any kind as a result.
(e) Full permanent sovereignty of every State over its natural resources and all economic activities. In order to safeguard these resources, each State is entitled to exercise effective control over them and their exploitation with means suitable to its own situation, including the right to nationalization or transfer of ownership to its nationals, this right being an expression of the full permanent sovereignty of the State. No State may be subjected to economic, political or any other type of coercion to prevent the free and full exercise of this inalienable right.
(f) The right of all States, territories and peoples under foreign occupation, alien and colonial domination or apartheid to restitution and full compensation for the exploitation and depletion of, and damages to, the natural resources and all other resources of those States, territories and peoples….
[Adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 1 May 1974]
The first conference of heads of state or governments of non- aligned countries was held at Belgrade, Yugoslavia, from 1 to 6 September 1961. It was attended by 25 countries as full members. These member countries were Afghanistan, Algeria, Burma (now Myanmar), Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Republic of Congo, Cuba, Cyprus, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, India, Indonesia, Iraq, the Lebanon, Mali, Morocco, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, United Arab Republic (then comprising Egypt and Syria), Yemen and Yugoslavia.
Algeria had not yet become independent but the provisional government set up by the FLN was admitted as a full member, as later SWAPO and PLO were admitted as full members. The conference adopted a declaration which stated that “the principles of peaceful coexistence are the only alternative to the Cold War and “to a possible general catastrophe” and that lasting peace would be achieved only in “a world where the domination of colonialism, imperialism and neo-colonialism in all their manifestations is radically eliminated”.
The conference also addressed letters to Nikita Khrushchev, the Prime Minister of the Soviet Union, and John F. Kennedy, the President of the United States, and urged them to resume negotiations aimed at reducing the risk of war and at ensuring peace.
The basic objectives of the Non-Aligned Movement were laid down at the first conference itself. Some of these objectives were later elaborated and made more specific. The most important objectives included ending of imperialism and colonialism, promotion of international peace and security and disarmament, creation of a New International Economic Order, ending of racism and racial discrimination, and ending of information imperialism.
During the past forty-seven years, the membership of the Non- Aligned Movement has increased to 118. South Africa had become the 109th member in 1994. Almost all of them are members of the United Nations and thus constitute about sixty per cent of the total membership of the United Nations. All countries of Africa are members of the Non-Aligned Movement.
The Charter of the Organisation of African Unity has as one of its principles Affirmation of a policy of non-alignment with regard to all blocs’. Fourteen summit conferences of the Non-Aligned Movement have been held: Belgrade (1961), Cairo (1964), Lusaka (1970), Algiers (1973), Colombo (1976), Havana (1979), Delhi (1983), Harare (1986), Belgrade (1989) and Jakarta (1992). Cartagena de India’s – Columbia (1995), Durban (1998) Kuala Lumpur (2003) and Havana (2006).
At the Fourth Summit conference held at Algiers, it was decided to establish a Coordinating Bureau which was later charged with the task of coordinating their joint activities aimed at the implementation of the programmes adopted at the summit conferences, at ministerial conferences, at meetings of groups of non-aligned countries in the United Nations and at other meetings of the non-aligned countries.
There were doubts about the relevance and future of the Non- Aligned Movement after the end of the Cold War. These doubts were set at rest at the Tenth Summit held at Jakarta in 1992. This was the first summit which was held in the new world situation.
The Tenth Summit, as the Jakarta Message adopted by the heads of state or governments of the Non-Aligned Movement stated, was held at “a time of profound change and rapid transition, a time of great promise as well as grave challenge, a time of opportunity amidst pervasive uncertainty”.
It stressed that the improvements in the international political climate had vindicated the validity and relevance of non- alignment. Pointing out that the world was “still far from being a peaceful, just and secure place”, it stated:
Simmering disputes, violent conflicts, aggression and foreign occupation, interference in the internal affairs of States, policies of hegemony and domination, ethnic strife, religious intolerance, new forms of racism and narrowly conceived nationalism are major and dangerous obstacles to harmonious coexistence among States and peoples and have even led to the disintegration of States and societies.
The message reiterated the commitment of the Non-Aligned Movement “to the shaping of a new international order, free from war, poverty, intolerance and injustice, a world based on the principles of peaceful coexistence and genuine interdependence, a world which takes into account the diversity of social systems and cultures”.
The period after the Jakarta summit was one of far reaching changes in the world situation which gave rise to questions regarding the relevance of the movement. There was acceleration in the process of globalisation and the spread of free market economies that accompanied it. The problem of terrorism was also becoming an important issue in many regions.
There was also the manifestation of the consequences of the world which was believed to have become ‘unipolarity’, such as ‘unilateralism’ and the proclamation of the right by the sole superpower and its allies to interfere in the affairs of other countries and the effect ‘regime change’.
The Kuala Lumpur Summit (2003) laid emphasis on the revitalisation of the Non-Aligned Movement. The Havana Summit (2006) in its declaration reaffirmed it “commitments to the ideals, principles and purposes upon which the movement was founded”.
“On a political level”, it said, “there is a need to promote the good of creating a multicolour world order, based on respect for the application of the principles of International Law and the UN Charter and the reinforcement of multilateralism.”
It further stated, “Now more than ever it is essential that our nations remain united and steadfast and are increasingly active in order to successfully confront unilateralism and interventionism.” The Declaration asserted the principles by which the nations associated with the movement will be guided. Some of these principles were,
1. “No State of group of States has the right to intervene either directly of indirectly, whatever the motives, in the internal affairs of any other State.”
2. “Rejection of attempts at regime change.”
3. “Rejection and opposition to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, committed by whomever, wherever and for whatever purposes, as it constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.
In this context, terrorism should not be equated with the legitimate struggle of people under colonial or alien domination and foreign occupation for self-determination and national liberation.”
The membership of the Non-Aligned Movement comprises almost all the developing countries of the world and notwithstanding differences on some specific issues, there are many issues, including the fulfilment of the right to development that bind them together and make for the continuing relevance of the movement.