NAM’s Relevance And Nepal's Stance


With the end of the 19th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Uganda on Friday, many have raised questions about the movement's significance in today's multi-polar world. According to observers, while the NAM was founded to promote non-interference, respect for sovereignty, and peaceful coexistence, some of its founding members have strayed from its core doctrine. Many of the organisation's member states, the second biggest after the United Nations, have drifted towards the arcs of certain powers or military blocs, sparking controversy about the organisation's relevancy.

The idea of the movement took shape in April 1955 when the leaders of 25 African-Asian countries met in the city of Bangdung, Indonesia, and it formally began in 1961 with the first summit in Belgrade, with the goal of establishing a common platform of developing countries that believe in mutual respect and cooperation. Key world leaders of that period — Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India; Gamal Abdel Nasser, President of Egypt; Joseph Broz Tito, President of Yugoslavia; Indonesian PM Sukarno; Ghana’s President Kwame Wrumah and then-King Mahendra of Nepal — all played important roles in the movement's formation.


These leaders sought to keep their nations neutral and desired to live in peace in the face of escalating enmity between the two superpowers of the time — the United States and the Soviet Union — both of whom were involved in the Cold War following the end of World War II. They founded NAM and avoided aligning with either of these two powers. Countries that supported either of these two countries took part in the NATO and Warsaw Pact blocs.

Political analysts describe NAM as a non-violent pressure organisation that adheres to the Panchsheel Principle of non-interference, respect for sovereignty, openness, mutual collaboration, and peaceful coexistence. However, many member nations, mostly poor, undeveloped, or developing at the time of its creation, have turned a new leaf as many have achieved growth and economic well-being, forcing them to reconsider their global standing in light of the changing international order. Some of them felt compelled to side with specific blocs.

For example, India, a crucial founding member, has emerged as an economic and military force, attracting attention to the Western force arc. Because of geopolitics and its conflict with China, the world's second-greatest economic and military superpower, India has felt a compulsion to align itself with the Western bloc in order to preserve a power balance. In the South Asian area, however, India is criticised for playing a big brother’s role. It has fought multiple wars against Pakistan, even after the foundation of NAM. However, the world has come a long way since the organisation's inaugural summit in 1961. The Soviet Union dissolved in 1989, and some communist republics in Europe that survived under the Soviet Union have since joined NATO, headed by the USA and Western Europe. 

China has emerged as an economic and military giant, holding sway throughout the world as a result of its economic might. The country's economic prowess and footprint can be seen in numerous nations across Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Europe. Despite the fact that NAM meetings are conducted every year with the goal of fostering peace and prosperity, wars continue to break out in various regions of the world. The current confrontations between Russia and Ukraine, as well as Israel and Hamas, have rendered the Panchasheel concept difficult to follow. Frictions of many types between and among nations have become an embarrassment for NAM doctrines.

Amid skepticism about the NAM's relevance, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, who addressed the NAM Summit, emphasised sovereign equality, mutual respect, and peaceful dispute resolution. The PM's speech focused on world peace, climate change, and the crippling effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. He stated that Nepal would stay dedicated to the NAM's ideals and aspirations since his country’s constitution favours the Movement's principles as well as the United Nations charter, conforms to international law, and recognises global peace. He claimed that the movement has the potential to play a critical role in restructuring the global financial architecture and called on rich nations to fulfil their financial commitments to assist countries in unfavourable situations in achieving their development goals.

Despite being marred by internal conflicts and pressures from powerful nations, Nepal, as a founding member, has actively participated in all NAM forums, demonstrating its dedication to the cause and its unwavering efforts to achieve world peace, global economic success, and national freedom. In the meantime, it is heartening to note that Nepal's foreign policy is consistent with the NAM's values, stressing non-alignment, neutrality, and universal equality as critical aspects of a nation's geopolitical concerns. Nepal's commitment to the movement remains strong, providing the country with a diplomatic strategy for navigating the complexity of world politics. 

Viable platform 

The small South Asian nation continues to contribute to NAM's goals, which include addressing current issues and promoting a global order based on peace, collaboration, and mutual respect. While some may question the NAM's importance, non-alignment remains a cornerstone of Nepal's foreign policy, allowing the country to establish its independence and pursue a significant presence in the global arena. The NAM, which was originally intended to contribute to economic growth and international peace, has in recent years grown into a platform for advocating for poor nations' independence and development, which is beneficial for nations like Nepal and others. 

Although the movement's key success lies in the fact that it has the potential to be a major platform after the United Nations, with participation from governments all around the world, it often confronts difficulties in remaining relevancy in today's world as the global power hierarchy is shifting. Meanwhile, Nepal's geopolitics have been a source of worry in terms of maintaining a neutral posture, as various economic powers have competed for a bigger foothold in this tiny Himalayan nation. The function and relevance of the NAM, together with the United Nations, are, therefore, advantageous to Nepal and other countries dealing with powerful neighbours and nations.

(The author is former managing editor of this daily.)

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