Meeting in Baku, the salubrious seaside capital of Azerbaijan, the two-day 18th summit meeting of the Non-aligned Movement (NAM) concluded as a reminder to observers around the world that NAM is still alive and thriving. Right from NAM’s inception more than six decades ago, there has been no dearth of commentators in the West who were only too ready to write its obituary. But, they have repeatedly been proven wrong. The very fact that the eighteenth summit was hosted by Azerbaijan, which itself is a relatively recent entrant to the Group having joined the NAM as late as 2011, bears testimony to the fact that the movement still means something to its member-nations and its continuing relevance in a fast-changing world. There still are enough people around the world who continue to bear faith in NAM as a platform for countries of the Third World to stand and speak up in a single voice. That is their chance to make their voice heard in a world largely driven by considerations of big power politics.
As one of the founders of the Non-aligned Movement, India has historically played a significant role in its advancement. As India’s Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu, who led the Indian delegation, told the summit participants, India’s commitment to its principles and objectives is well established, and hardly needs any reiteration.
As might have been anticipated, Pakistan did not forget to use the forum for repeating its favourite rant on Kashmir. Responding to Pakistan President Arif Alvi’s tirade against India on the subject, Vice- President Venkaiah Naidu described Pakistan as the “epicentre of terror” and urged it to stop its policy of using the Kashmir rhetoric to justify its “long-standing policy of conducting cross-border terrorism.” If Pakistan were to shun its policy of promoting terror, the Indian Vice-President counselled, India’s western neighbour, it would be doing a lot of good to itself as also the rest of the world.
The Indian position was vindicated as the summit declaration expressed its resolve to make efforts to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations in accordance with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, international law and relevant international conventions.
Of course, the world has much changed since the birth of the Non-aligned Movement and days of the Cold War that had split the world into two rival ideological camps. With the
changing alignments in international politics, the role of the Non-aligned Movement too has had to change. Accordingly, the NAM countries too have had to make adjustments in keeping with the dynamics of regional and international politics. But, even so, the fact remains that NAM still is the world’s single largest grouping of countries outside the United Nations. With some 120-member nations, it represents about two-thirds of the world’s population. That should count for something even in a world largely driven by political and military power.
It is significant that rather than setting out with its own separate agenda, the summit did far-sightedly spell out its role in alignment with the United Nations. The Baku Declaration called for promoting multilateralism and strengthening the United Nations General Assembly. In fact, democratizing the UN system—especially the General Assembly—has been a long-standing demand for implementation as part of the reform of the UN system. For one, countries represented by the Non-aligned Movement do speak for the overwhelming majority of the world’s population. And to that extent, they have already voted. Now, it should be for the world body to sit up and take note.
Considering the fact that the UN Secretary-General in his own message to the summit had drawn attention to such issues as a growing trust deficit, decline in people’s faith in globalization, rise in global and international violence and need for collective action, it may be hoped that time for the world’s two largest representative bodies to act in sync with each other may be finally here.