Monday, October 18, 2004

No for Natwar, N for NAM

Soon after the new government took over, this newspaper had predicted Natwar Singh would not breathe easy till he resurrects Non-Aligned Movement or NAM.

This movement was launched in 1955 by the countries who did not openly side with either of the two blocs of the Cold War era -- one led by Soviet Union and the other by the United States. It never actually took off because most members were affiliated with, though covertly, with either of the two. India, one of the founding members, was tilted in favour Russia.

The Cold War ended long time ago. The NAM is not being allowed to. Not many even know what it stands for. Except Mr Natwar Singh, who often remembers not only what it stands for but also that he stands for it.

He just needs a reminder. For example, what's your name? Oh NAM, yes... it has to be rejuvenated. Or a visit to Vietnam. "Welcome to Vietnam!" Oh NAM... yes it has to be resurrected.

Yes, Singh is in Hanoi doing his bit for NAM. Non-aligned to what? "The international agenda has changed. Earlier there were issues like apartheid, decolonisation. But today the issues are terrorism, drugs, and environment. The NAM has to be reinvented to face these issues, to address the problems of the first decade of the 21st century," our external affairs minister told journalists there.

Singh is on a three-day official visit to Hanoi to attend the 50th anniversary celebrations of the historic meeting between Nehru and Ho Chi Minh.

His Vietnamese counterpart came forward in his support: "After the Cold War many people thought NAM won't have a role to play anymore, but we later realised that non-alignment can play an important role," he said.

NAM continues to meet every three years. This year in August we saw a big-time meeting in South Africa. The next will happen in Cuba. NAM has an interesting name. Three leaders were at the forefront of the formation: (Jawahar Lal) Nehru of India, (Gamal) Abdel-Nasser of Egypt and Marshall (Josip) Tito. Their initials shared those of the movement.

In the reinvented NAM, we already have N for Natwar. We need two with names
starting with A and M. And then NAM will become relevant all over again!

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