Journalist | Writer | Analyst
25 April 2005
Manmohan calls for horizontal globalisation
Asia, Africa should strive for democratisation of world bodies
by Siddharth Varadarajan
JAKARTA: Leaders from more than a hundred countries in Asia and Africa signed a declaration on the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership at an emotional function in Bandung on Sunday, bringing to a close a week-long process of consultation and discussion aimed at increasing the collective power of the two continents in world affairs.
In the meeting, which immediately preceded the signing ceremony, the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, said that Asia and Africa should direct their efforts towards the democratisation of global institutions such as the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
If globalisation tended to mean the forging of closer economic ties with North America and Europe alone, the Prime Minister emphasised that the need of the hour was “horizontal” globalisation. “We may well find that the solutions to [our basic] problems are available amongst ourselves,” he said in his remarks to the Golden Jubilee meeting of the 1955 Asia-Africa Conference at Bandung’s historic Gedung Merdeka (Freedom Building). He was speaking on behalf of all Asian countries present.
Before the meeting, Dr. Singh joined 40 other heads of state or government in a brief walk from Hotel Savoy Homann to Gedung Merdeka – a re-enactment of the historic walk taken by Sukarno, Nehru, Nasser and others 50 years ago.
Sukarno, one of the prime movers of the 1955 meeting, is believed to have first had the idea of such a meeting in 1928, just before the Dutch colonial authorities sent him to prison in Bandung. “If the liong-Sai [dragon] of China works together with the nandi [cow] of India, with the sphinx of Egypt and the peacock of Burma, with the white elephant of Siam, with the Hydra of Vietnam, with the tiger of the Philippines and with the banteng [bull] of Indonesia, then it is certain that international colonialism will be smashed into bits.”
The Bandung spirit was equally influenced by Nehru’s vision. “If all the world were to be divided up between these two big blocs what would be the result,” he asked delegates.
“The inevitable result would be war. Therefore, every step that takes place in reducing that area in the world which may be called the unaligned area is a dangerous step and leads to war.”
Non-alignment – which grew out of the 1955 conference to become an expression of the “independent voice” of countries that had been dominated by foreign powers – remains a “valid and effective instrument to ensure the creation of a just and fair global order,” Dr. Singh said. But if NAM played a central role in the struggle for political emancipation in the past, “we need to revitalise this movement to make it a vehicle for social and economic emancipation today.” he added.
Central to this task was the need to increase the level of cooperation between developing countries manifold.
“This will not only give us the benefits of solidarity, it will also force us to look within for suitable solutions and appropriate technologies,”he said. “But this will not happen if we ignore the importance of maintaining horizontal linkages between us in this age of globalisation.”
At the core of many of the proposals made by Dr. Singh over the past two days is the belief that the more developing nations build economic and political links with one another, the easier it will be for them to challenge the stranglehold of the West over the U.N. and international financial institutions.
The NAASP declaration, which commits Asian and African leaders to a summit every four years, envisages cooperation in a large number of areas and a separate plan of action has been drawn up to implement the partnership.
In an oblique reference to events leading up to the U.S. aggression against Iraq, the declaration emphasises the importance of “multilateral approaches to international relations and the need for countries to strictly abide by the principles of international law, in particular the Charter of the United Nations.”
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