Non-Alignment Movement and Nepal – Telegraph Nepal

Professor Shreedhar Gautam

Nepal Council of World Affairs ( NCWA)


This paper examines the relevance and sustainability of the Non-Alignment Movement in the present context of the world where the hegemonic trends of colonial period are still lingering. The topic has been chosen with nostalgia of Bandung Conference held in the Indonesian city, Bandung, in 1955, which proved to be the prelude for the NAM foundation later in the then Yugoslavian capital city, Belgrade, with the initiatives of the leaders assembled in Bandung from Asia and Africa. Nepal happens to be one of the founding members of the NAM, so this paper will sum up why and how this organization is still a viable forum to enhance the image of the independent and sovereign countries .Nepal needs to play a balancing role for having been situated between two giant neighbors with their own distinct political systems. Also Nepal is perceived as a strategically important country for the countries geographically faraway, but having interest in this part too because of the lately emerging geo political realities. The paper aims to conclude that NAM has to be revived in spite of the setbacks it has confronted over the years, especially after the end of the cold war.

Key words: Sustainability, hegemony, neutral, co-operation, common interest, and survival.


The Bandung conference was composed of the countries either independent or near independent belonging to Asia and Africa, and they were invited not on the basis of ideology but geographically because of their common history of having been colonized or near colonialized at the hands of the western countries with the leading part played by Britain. The conference, also known as Asian-African conference, was opened by the then Indonesian President Ahmad Sukarno, who in his speech said:

“Let us not be bitter about the past, but let us keep our eyes firmly on the future. Let remember that no blessing of God is so Sweet as life and liberty. Let us remember that the stature of all Mankind is diminished so long as nations or parts of nations are Still unfree. Let us remember that the highest purpose of the man is The liberation of man from his bonds of fear, his bonds of poverty, he liberation of man from the physical, spiritual and intellectual Bonds which have for long stunted the development of humanity’s Majority. And let us remember, Sisters and Brothers, that for the sake of all
That, we Asians, and Africans must be united”.

The introductory speeches made in the plenary session of the conference underlined the diversities as well as the common outlook that prevailed then, and also projected the common purpose of the conference. The decisions of the conference proclaimed to the reaching out of Asian countries to one another and their determinations to profit by one another’s experience on the basis of mutual co-operation. The delegates termed the conference as the renaissance of Asia and Africa, and they expressed the belief that the Asian and African countries should develop cultural co-operation in the larger context of the world co-operation. The conference was unanimous in regard to the condemnation of the colonialism, with its attendant evils, and it voiced protest against the production of the weapons of mass destruction too. The countries assembled there set out the principles which should govern the relations between them and the world as a whole. The conference endorsed the five Principles known as Panchsheel, and registered its opposition to grouping of nations into rival camps detrimental to world peace. It opposed any kind of external pressure on nations, and rejected the concept of collective defence arrangements, fearing that they could serve the interests of Big Powers only.

Bandung conference has been referred to with a view to showing that it was in Bandung where the political emergence of the Asian-African countries became pronounced, and it served a clarion call to those still dependent then, and to the newly independent countries to sustain their courageous fight in their struggle for freedom and justice. The birth of NAM in 1961, in Belgrade, was the follow-up of the Asian-African countries ‘resolve to embark on new path as dictated by the history. The alignment of the Lain America started with the foundation of the NAM in 1961 and the tri-continental conference held in Havana in 1966, further strengthening the Bandung spirit.

The first NAM conference assumed significance as it was held amidst the cold war between the two super-powers then-USSR and the USA. Of the two powers, the latter considered the grouping of neutralist and communist countries as anti-American; therefore, it had tried hard to dissuade its ally nations from attending the Bandung conference, the prelude of the NAM. The emergence of the Asian-African block was not a welcome development in Washington which replaced the British Empire after the Second World War.

The pioneering countries of the NAM like India, Egypt, Ghana, then Yugoslavia, and Indonesia knew the dangers of aligning with a particular super power, but the NAM was not a neutral camp standing equidistant from either block. It was guided by the issue on merit in regard to the national interest of the individual countries. When the two nuclear power rival countries were endangering the future of the humanity by their war escalating views under the guise of spreading their influence, the voice of NAM countries could act as a deterrent to some extent in 1960s and 1970s. However, the relevance of the NAM came into question after the disintegration of the Soviet Union that culminated into the end of the cold war.

The first casualty of the disintegration of the USSR resulted into the invasion of the coalition countries on a non-aligned and UN member country, Iraq, under the leadership of the USA on the pretext of evicting Iraq out of Kuwait after having passed a resolution in favour of using force against a member country because by that time the USSR leadership had lost its dignity and authority to act independently to counter the unilateral move of its erstwhile rival in world affairs. Had there been the earlier USSR, the UN would not have gone against its own motto of preventing war, and becoming itself one of the participants in war. Mikhail Gorvachev, the last General Secretary of CPSU, after having been successful to thwart the coup attempt against him with the tacit blessing of the western powers headed by the USA, banned the communist party and ensured the end of socialistic system, which was in a fractured form after the 20th Congress of the party in which the new leader Khrushchev denounced the policies of his predecessor Joseph Stalin. Gorvachev’s action caused a great jolt in the NAM because in those days the USSR was considered to some extent a balancing power in the world affairs, though its image had been tarnished after its interference in then Chekoslavakia and later in Afghanistan.

In the initial days, NAM played a Progressive role with its focus on anti-imperialism, anti-colonialism and anti-racism without being part of the world socialist system. However, the organization has gone a tremendous transformation because of the political differentiation in it and also because of the geo-political changes in the world. For example, the NAM summit held in February in Malaysian capital in Kuala Lampur in 2003 could not take unified stand on the American invasion on Iraq, a member country, which could not hold the NAM summit in Bagdad due to its ongoing war with Iran. Earlier too, it had failed to stop American led war on Yugoslavia too. Nonetheless, it was a consolation in Kuala Lumpur summit when the former premier Mahathir Mohamad declared the war on Iraq unjust and termed a war on entire Muslim world in particular.

It is a sad development that the founding members of the NAM are not playing a bold role. For instance, in the 2003 Summit in Malaysia India was led by its prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee , but he could not be as assertive and categorical as his Malaysian counterpart while opposing invasion on Iraq and western powers’ interference in the internal affairs of the less developed countries. However, Vajpayee’s presence in that conference was a positive development. Lately, India has not shown the seriousness displayed by Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Vajpayee, and India has given up the practice of sending delegation to NAM summit under the leadership of prime minister.

It is true that the organization does not have leaders of Nehru, Sukarno, Nasser, and Castro’s stature, still it can be a relevant grouping if it acts independently without seeking guidance from any big power, and if it opposes all sorts of suppression and exploitation by the hegemonic and colonial powers. It should show courage to oppose all unilateral actions and war mongering policies from any quarter. No country of the group should surrender its national independence to court a favour of a particular power and ready ever to be a launching pad of military attack on a member country as seen during the gulf war.

NAM can be still relevant if it raises voices against foreign interferences, coercive and unilateral actions as seen in Venezuela where in the recent past a genuinely elected government was threatened by the outside forces to install an illegitimate government. It should be remembered that whole his life the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez had fought against the foreign forces bent-upon usurping the power of people by coercive methods. Such tendencies are still endangering the world peace. At a time when nuclear power forces are posing great threat to the survival of humanity, NAM can and should play a balancing role representing the common goal of the right thinking people.

Relevance for Nepal:

Due to its geographical location and the emerging geopolitics in the world, Nepal, as one of the founding members of the NAM, needs the continuity of such organization to assert its independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty in opposition to all kinds of external pressures and interference, still active in the world politics. Nepal needs to oppose all military groupings and power blocks that threaten the survival of countries like ours. Panchsheel or the Five Principles still remain valid measures to conduct internal affairs when hegemonic tendencies are still displayed by the big powers reminding the dark days of the colonial period, The Bandung Spirit and the NAM objectives have become indispensable for us when we are having serious border dispute with our next door neighbor which has encroached upon our land by ignoring all international laws and norms.

Nepal has strongly registered its opposition to the unilateral act of the neighbouring country by bringing out its own new map, but the response from India is so far disappointing, and if the issue is not resolved bilaterally and peacefully , Nepal will be compelled to take the case to international forums like the NAM. We hope India will heed to the call of the time remembering its own first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru who played a pivotal role in the Bandung Conference as well as in the first NAM conference to propound the five Principles. At present, we have the best option of pleading in favour of strengthening the NAM despite the severe set-backs it has suffered over the years.

International politics has seen tremendous changes since the inception of the NAM, but the core values of the movement are still relevant for countries like Nepal. The emerging new realities of World politics after the crisis generated by the conflict between the Russian Federation and Ukraine reminds the need of giving new life to the NAM. NAM has always opposed the unilateral tendency from any country irrespective of its size and ideology. NAM has voiced in favor of bilateralism and multilateralism to resolve the dispute between countries. In the present geo-political situation, no country should behave unilaterally and the independence and sovereignty of all countries should be respected. No single country can impose its will on other countries. To uphold the principles of NAM means to safeguard the future of humanity too. So, let us strengthen the Bandung spirit to make this world peaceful and prosperous.


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End text.

Text courtesy: Nepal Council of World Affairs ( NCWA) Annual Journal, 2022.
Journal received through the kind courtesy of Buddhi Narayan Shrestha-the Vice President of the NCWA.

# Thanks the distinguished author and regards to the entire NCWA executive team.
Our contact email address is: [email protected]

#About the author: Dr. Gautam is Professor of English, Patan Multiple Campus, Tribhuvan University, Nepal.

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