Millennium Post

The importance of being NAM

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has left the country to attend the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Iran that starts on Tuesday. This international gathering is of significance, with leaders present from 120 full members countries and 17 observer member countries. The choice of the venue has given this particular NAM summit a further dimension, for it it being held in Tehran, the capital of Iran, a country at present trapped in antagonistic relations with the West and under sanctions. Indeed, the Indian prime minister heads into a troubled region which is of great importance to India, not just because it is in the close neighbourhood but also because of economic and other ties. With Syria on the boil and growing unrest in the gulf states, not to speak of issues relating to terrorism, the diplomatic plate is immediately full. Interestingly, Iran will be handed over the organisation’s chair from Egypt and thus, will be the leader of the NAM for the next few years, a position that will allow Tehran to have more influence in world affairs, a fact of which it is conscious of. The summit does, thus, demonstrate that Iran is genuinely not internationally isolated to the extent that the United States and major European Union powers, which are members of NATO, project. No doubt the immediate problems of the region, including the need to maintain peace and security in the region, as well as bilateral issues between Iran and India, will come up between Singh and the Iranian leaders. Yet, other than purely the bilateral issues and the immediate regional concerns, there is perhaps a need for the prime minister to work on the renewal of NAM itself. The organisation remains relevant, despite projections to the contrary.

The so-called non-aligned countries, which are really post-colonial countries of what is called the Global South. They have a large number of common problems which are distinct from the interests of the G8 and the G20 in an international order that is still unequal and hegemonistic. Though the international system has changed dramatically since NAM was founded, with the collapse of certain power centres and with the rise of new regional groupings and arrangements, this does not mean the end of NAM but rather its reorientation to meet contemporary challenges. Being the second largest international grouping in the world after the United Nations, NAM, truly a representative of the international community, is in a position to provide an alternative perspective on many global issues of concern. It can, thus, oppose hegemonistic tendencies in the world while standing up for what it deems right. It is for NAM, therefore, to define a new leadership role for itself, and for India to participate in this process. It is in India’s national interest to do so, and the first step is to make Tehran a success.
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