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Non-Aligned Movement: A Southern People's Front?

A Southern People

NON-ALIGNED MOVEMENT

A Southern People’s Front?

I
n the light of contemporary trends in world politics, the need to reconstruct an effective front of the peoples of the south has become an imperative. This must surely have been uppermost in Fidel Castro’s mind, even as he was recuperating after surgery and therefore could not chair the recent 14th summit of the non-aligned movement (NAM) in Havana. Fidel is to head the NAM over the next three years. This is the second time that he is assuming the presidency; the first was at the sixth summit in Havana in September 1979, remembered for the historic Havana declaration that defined the very purpose of NAM – to ensure “the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries” in their “struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, apartheid, racism, including Zionism and all forms of foreign aggression, occupation, domination, interference or hegemony as well as against great power and bloc politics”. Of course, the circumstances surrounding the origins, evolution and growth of NAM during 1955-75 were vastly different from those prevailing today. The task of renewal is far from easy. But, going merely by the expression of intent, the 2006 Havana declaration seems to have at least got NAM, which has been crying for renewal after the end of the cold war, off the ground once again.

Now as then, 15 years after the end of the cold war, NAM as an organisation is a house divided, lacking cohesion, with many of its members closely aligned with the sole superpower. Indeed, as before, even now important members of NAM have difficult relations with each other, for example, India and Pakistan. Despite the weakness stemming from a divided house, the 2006 Havana declaration of NAM has been quite forthright on such issues as terrorism, the recent Israeli aggression in Lebanon and Palestine, Iran’s nuclear programme, democratisation of the UN, and US violations of the right to national sovereignty in the name of spreading “democracy”. In an apparent reference to US occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Israeli occupation of Palestine, the declaration denounces the brutalisation of peoples under foreign occupation as the gravest form of terrorism. It deplores the association of terrorism with a particular religion, particular nationalities or ethnic groups, and reiterates the old NAM position that the struggle of peoples under colonial or alien domination should not be construed as terrorism.

It is a matter of double standards when the US mobilises international opinion against Iran’s nuclear ambitions whilst it guarantees India, which actually possesses nuclear weapons, access to nuclear technology. In any case, not all nations can be manipulated into believing that Iran is a threat to world peace. The declaration defends the rights of all countries to use atomic energy for peaceful purposes. It rightly considers even a threat of attack against peaceful nuclear installations as a “great danger to human beings and the environment”, and goes on to encourage Iran to “cooperate actively and fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to promote confidence and a peaceful resolution of the issue”. And importantly, it calls for a “nuclear-weapon-free zone in west Asia, including Israel”. It may be recalled that as the summit got underway, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez had threatened that there would be “oil for no one” if Iran is attacked.

In a situation where the US continues to unilaterally act on behalf of the “international community”, the declaration calls for increasing the size of the UN Security Council (SC), curtailing or eliminating the veto power of the five permanent members, and allowing SC vetoes to be overruled by a twothirds majority in the UN general assembly. The Havana communiqué indirectly counters the US moral high ground in international politics when it reiterates that there is no single model of democracy, and that the latter can only be based on the freely expressed will of people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems.

The reconstruction of a Southern people’s front in the new world order – if that is at all possible and if that can be accepted as the new vision for NAM – is not going to be an easy task. Havana’s leadership seems to have come at the right time – one hopes that a renewed NAM will contribute to hastening the passing of the “unipolar” moment in world politics. As it is, enormous revenues from oil and gas seem to have emboldened Russia to reassert its influence over central Asia and the northern Caucasus; China has emerged as an independent economic powerhouse beyond east Asia; Moscow and Beijing have invited Iran to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation; the left has strongly re-emerged in Latin America; and, in the tradition of Jose Marti and Simon Bolivar, Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez are trying to bring Latin America together in solidarity and humanism. Now, even as NAM gets off the ground, can she also be persuaded to take the path toward a Southern people’s front?

EPW

Economic and Political Weekly September 23, 2006

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