Azerbaijan will be hosting the 18th NAM Summit next week at a time when the Non-Aligned Movement does not attract global attention that it once did. It is not that non-alignment has lost its relevance. The indifference towards it is due to the global shift in power that has given rise to a new constellation in international relations. The world is witnessing a new geo-political paradigm—the end of the Atlantic era and the advent of the Asian century. In fact, the 21st century has become what one expert calls “a G-Zero world” which has seen proliferation of regional and global organizations. The underlying message of the ‘G-Zero world’ is that no single country or grouping has the political, economic and strategic leverage to drive a truly international agenda.
A few years ago, India’s top strategic experts unveiled a document called ‘Non-Alignment 2.O’ which said that the adherence to the basic tenets of non-alignment would make India a leading player on world stage and preserve its strategic autonomy and value system. The post-Cold War is over and a new era—Cold War 2.O has begun. It is different in character but potentially as menacing and founded not just on competing interests but competing values. Non-alignment therefore needs to be re-invented. India’s Minister of External Affairs Dr. S Jaishankar has outlined India’s foreign policy which include issue-based alignment, managing great power relationship and increasing India’s global footprint. In essence it is an endorsement of non-alignment. India doesn’t have to align with anyone.
Expectations from NAM summits have never been high. This time it is taking place in the region which was never part of the non-aligned world, it will be because of other global platforms like G20 and BRICS have begun to set the global agenda where India has an important voice. NAM remains the largest grouping of nations. India is a founding member and it still sees virtues in NAM’s underlining principles. In the post-war world, India saw in non-alignment the fulfillment of Gandhiji’s hopes that freedom must be part of the struggle for emancipation of all peoples.
NAM remained for long a foreign policy doctrine and a specific foreign policy orientation. Newly independent countries joined NAM to protect their sovereign status from erosion through alliances with big powers. Some of the issues that NAM championed remain valid including an equitable world order. Others have taken new forms and shape. Several common challenges still exist. NAM doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel. However, in order to remain relevant, it would need to reshape the agendas and re-energise its functioning. India is committed to the goals of non-alignment. India is of the opinion that, “NAM continues to represent space for action in pursuance of the collective interests of the developing world…especially on subjects such as the reform of the global economic system and disarmament…”
The UN too is no more as effective as it once was. But can one think of leaving it? NAM is a powerful platform which India needs to mobilize in order to claim a permanent seat on the high table. There is another reason. Today, South-South cooperation has acquired traction. India has emerged as a major provider of assistance to developing countries. The South-South cooperation is inspired by the Bandung spirit– respect for national sovereignty, non-interference in internal affairs, equality, cultural diversity, identity and local content.
The forthcoming Baku summit is likely to emphasize the need for implementing 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change as also reform in the global economic and financial system. Terrorism too will figure prominently.
Azerbaijan looks forward to leading the movement. Its own foreign policy profile is quite instructive. It has built partnerships with both Russia and NATO, two rival parties. It has the credentials to lead NAM. The Baku summit will deliberate on how to deal with regional and global challenges, strengthen peace, stability and international security and promote greater collaboration among NAM members.
Script: Dr. Ash Narain Roy, Director, Institute of Social Sciences, Delhi