Kanwal Sibal: This is a somewhat hurriedly organised briefing on the forthcoming NAM Summit. Hurriedly because I shall be leaving tonight to be in time for the senior officials meeting, which would be followed by the Foreign Ministers meeting, and then of course the Heads of Government and the Heads of State. If I did not do it today, I would not be able to do it at all.
I think you know what the dates are. So, I do not have to tell you the basic details. The last Summit, as you know, was held in August, 1998 in Durban. The Kuala Lumpur Summit takes place after four and a half years. The normal periodicity is three years, but the Summit was postponed due to the inability, first of Bangladesh and then of Jordan to host it. It is South Africa that has led the Movement in the intervening period
There is, of course, general introspection about NAM, its future, how it can continue to be relevant through the fundamental concerns of the international community today. So, in addition to the normal agenda on the review of the international political and economic situation, the theme of the Summit would be the revitalization of NAM. The Ministerial level segment of the meeting will see interactive sessions on the theme, which is also expected to be deliberated upon at the Summit level.
In this connection you are aware that South Africa had held two meetings on this whole subject of revitalization of the Movement and, therefore, determining new priorities of the Movement. The External Affairs Minister had played a key role in these two meetings, which are known as Zimbali process, in South Africa and the last one was in Cape Town in December. Many of the ideas that he had projected were accepted. These would totally form the subject matter of other discussions.
One broad theme would be the promotion of multilateralism, which in terms of its content would be a commitment to multilateralism, respect for an alternative perspective that promotes tolerance, democratization of the international institutions including the reform of the UN system, of the better modes financial system, and also its addressing the inequities of the multilateral trading system, as for example the WTO.
The second broad theme would be global security threats which will include terrorism, non-adherence to international law, the whole issue of intervention and unilateral action etc., etc.
The third broad theme would be development with focus on poverty alleviation, human resource development, capacity-building in the areas of health and education - in this regard the emphasis should be placed on achievements of the millennium development goals - and at the outcomes and commitments of the other major conferences such as the WSSD, FSD, WCAR should be used to the advantage of the developing countries.
Then the other issues which are currently on the economic agenda on which the developing countries are more at the receiving end of these ideas rather than themselves proactively contributing to the relevance of these ideas to the international community as a whole. These are issues like respect for human rights, good governance, transparency, democratic practices. It is increasingly felt that these are issues which NAM should internalize and promote and that these should be promoted, projected and used as a framework within which NAM operates.
Then there is the objective of globalisation and promotion of South-South cooperation, to look upon globalisation not only as a challenge but also as an opportunity with NAM countries pooling their resources and expertise gained over the years to assist member-countries and improve and forge closer cooperation, challenges that face developing countries as a result of technological advances, and the digital divide that further marginalizes developing countries. That cooperation should include concrete actions as outlined in the outcomes of the SAARC Summit and should result in a series of projects. Some of these areas can be that of human resources, health, food security, access to water, coordination amongst Government think tanks, Central Banks etc., to share knowledge and expertise.
The developing countries should be equipped with the necessary tools to manage the consequences of globalisation and develop a strategy to address the consequences of the unequal global trading system and financial system. The feeling is that special meetings of relevant Ministers involved should be convened. And focus on the imbalances within the international trading system, and promoting cooperation and acts of solidarity and support of countries affected by specific crises like food crisis, economic crisis, natural disasters.
The fifth broad theme is solidarity among Non-Aligned countries and member-states. Developing countries have been further marginalized as a result of advances in technology - only a few countries predominantly from Asia have the resources, skill and expertise to rise to the new challenges - and that resources should be pooled to assist those countries that do not as yet have the necessary skills, tools and expertise. In this regard the African countries are the most marginalized. Therefore, in terms of South-South cooperation NAM has a responsibility in particular to assist with the NEPAD programmes.
All of you are aware that the Summit will result in a Kuala Lumpur Declaration which is expected to focus primarily on the revitalization of NAM. There will be a standard communique with political, disarmament, economic and social sections. I need not mention that that is news part and the rest is all background. In the negotiations on the communique so far, issues relating to democracy, constitutional order, terrorism, religious tolerance etc., etc., are the ones that are attracting the most debate. Then, of course, there will be the usual reference to regional situations which would include Middle-East, Africa, DPRK and more surely Iraq given the fact that the Non-Aligned Movement is taking place at a time when the situation in Iraq is heading in a certain direction.
It is a fact that in a Movement with 115 countries, inevitably there are differences and even conflicts of view. India’s view is that NAM must focus essentially on global issues on which there is a commonality of interest. Any attempt to steer NAM away from the global agenda in which everybody has a stake to intra-NAM conflict resolution or ideas like that, cannot be to the good of the Movement.
On the issue of terrorism there is a very large international consensus. But there are some countries which risked assumption of their responsibility in dealing with this issue on the basis of what is now accepted as international commitments. Therefore, they tend to raise red herrings across the issue of terrorism by speaking about the root causes of terrorism. An attempt to bring in the concept of root causes of terrorism, is very clearly an attempt to justify terrorism. There are so many resolutions of the international community which clearly state that terrorism cannot be justified on any ground, political, religious, economic or ideological.
Once you have that position, you cannot seek to find some moral justification for terrorism by speaking about the root causes. If the root cause is poverty, then poverty is not going to go away, perhaps for another century. If the root cause is religious extremism, that is also not about to go away any time soon. If the root cause is territorial conflict, territorial conflicts will not disappear either. So, does this mean, therefore, until poverty is removed and territorial conflicts are ended and religious extremism is wiped out terrorism should continue because it will have root causes?
I did mention to you about the intra-NAM conflict resolution which, as I mentioned, would detract from the unity and cohesion of the Non-Aligned Movement and steer the Movement in the wrong direction whereas the common interest of everybody lies in dealing with the multiple international challenges that face the entire NAM community.
There is also the old debate going on whether NAM should have a secretariat or should not have a secretariat. We are also of the view that we should not try and go in for new institution building because that will only create more problems than solving them. Certainly there is need for better coordination and those mechanisms can be found under the Chairman.
Finally I would say that our focus at NAM would considerably be on the economic issues of the 21st century. I think that is the direction in which NAM should be steered. The opportunities and challenges of globalisation, common positions on crucial issues in organizations like WTO, democratization of the financial institutions, poverty alleviation, meeting the millennium development goals, the challenge of HIV AIDS, and the attention to the problems in Africa. We are supportive of concrete ideas and initiatives, the initiatives for economic and technical cooperation among NAM members.
This is by way of general introduction, more than a general introduction about what the NAM Summit in Kuala Lumpur is going to be about. If you have any questions, I will be happy to answer.
You referred to terrorism and regional issues. Is it the Kashmir issue that is bothering us as it has been raised even in the UN many times by countries like Pakistan? Secondly, how does this communique work? Is it adopted by a consensus sort of opinion or is it the opinion of the Chair with the sense of the House?
Kanwal Sibal: I do not think we need to be worried very much about this because you have seen also in the UN General Assembly that there is only one country that mentions Kashmir and that is the country whose name I will give you a million dollars to guess. Maybe another country here and there, but nobody else ever mentions the Kashmir issue. That particular country will also be there at Kuala Lumpur. I think they must act true to form and, I suppose, must refer to their pet theme. But as you know that is the only country.
There are other issues involving NAM countries. When there is talk about intra-NAM conflict resolution, it is not simply intended for India-Pakistan issues. The African countries, for example, Africa is currently facing a lot of conflict situations and you know that the African countries themselves have mechanisms to deal with some of these problems. So, the African countries, some of them, do look favourably upon some efforts within the Non-Aligned Movement to deal with the internal problems. So, our view is that while this experience may or may not be working happily in Africa. The current conflict situations in Africa including in Ivory Coast demonstrate this.
If there was no global agenda which you have to contend with, I can understand that you are looking for a role. But then there is some difficult and complex and vast agenda which is stacked against you. There is a lot that these Non-Aligned countries can and must do together because their only force is their collective strength. There is nothing else. Their force is their numbers. If they do not act in a united and coherent manner, even the force of numbers would not be effective.
Can you please answer my other question as to how the communique is worked out? Is it by consensus?
Kanwal Sibal: It is always by consensus. It has to be by consensus.
General Musharraf is also visiting Kuala Lumpur. Is there going to be a meeting between Prime Minister Vajpayee and General Musharraf?
Kanwal Sibal: No.
What will happen when they run into each other.
Kanwal Sibal: They are not going to meet. It is as simple as that. We do not have to do any choreography.
You also talked about the Cape Town meeting on revitalization of NAM and said that EAM’s suggestions were accepted by NAM. Can you share a few of those suggestions with us?
Kanwal Sibal: In fact all that I read out here were EAM’s ideas. This was a paper he had presented and that got incorporated lock, stock and barrel more or less. Everybody found that he had come with the best done homework and his were the best ideas on the table. Those have been incorporated. But mind you, these are simply recommendations. Zimbali process is not an integral part of the NAM process in the sense, because only a limited number of countries attended. Whatever it is, it is not binding. Other countries are not committed to anything that was developed during the Zimbali process. So, these recommendations are only recommendatory in nature. But they are good ideas. Surely, many countries would find them useful.
Is Iraq issue going to come up for discussion during the Summit? Is NAM going to take a position on Iraq at this Summit?
Kanwal Sibal: Inevitably NAM will be focused upon it. It will require a huge leap of imagination to forget Iraq.
How is the difference of opinion in NAM on Iraq going to affect NAM?
Kanwal Sibal: You know how much the issue of Iraq is divisive in any case, even in New York, pitting the members of the Security Council against each other, creating rifts, divisions in Europe, in NATO. Then beyond that, there are concerns that the regional countries have about the situation in Iraq and the consequences of military action there. There is the whole question of oil, and what happens to the price of oil and the security of oil supply which is a global concern, and the other questions about the integrity of Iraq as to how it impacts on the neighbourhood, what neighbouring countries may or may not do, how the situation in Iraq will be handled should there be military action. Then the whole debate that is taking place in the West, and of course the matter of concern to the international community about the role of the United Nations, unilateralism versus multilateralism. So, clearly NAM countries will not be able to escape addressing the Iraq issue and all that the Iraq issue implies in terms of the functioning of the international system.
Mine is a basic question. NAM came into being when the world was divided into two blocs. That is no longer the case now. What is the relevance of NAM now?
Kanwal Sibal: Well, I think one can pose a different question. NATO was born as a result of the cold war and conflict between the power blocs especially the United States and Russia. Now there is no cold war. Soviet Union is no more. In fact, communism is no more. Yet NATO is going from strength to strength. Its membership is getting enlarged, its area of operation is getting extended. In fact there is peace in Europe currently. So, what is the relevance of NATO? And if NATO was a product of the East-West divide and the bloc situation, and if Non-Aligned Movement was also a part of the same divide, then can one rationally argue that it is all right for NATO to exist and not for the Non-Aligned Movement to exist?
That is the fundamental question that has to be put. But other than that I think it has always been maintained by us at least, that we never looked upon the Non-Aligned Movement as simply a question of placing yourself in the middle of the two blocs. For us, it was essentially to maintain for ourselves, preserve for ourselves some independence of judgement and independence of action in terms of our own policies and our own interests rather than have our interests and our policies being determined by one or the other blocs. Our promotion of the Non-Aligned Movement was a direct product of our emergence as an independent nation. There was no point in us, after having struggled so hard for our independence and sacrificed so much for our independence, becoming, the day after we gained our independence, followers of one or the other bloc and mortgaging our independence to them. That was clear.
That motivation and that objective remains today that even if it is a globalising world, even if the margin for independence of any individual country globally is getting more and more reduced, yet there are broad areas in which countries must maintain their individual identity, their individual approach to international affairs to bring to bear their own ideas and their own conscience and then be counted for something. That is where the Non-Aligned Movement crux comes in. That is where it should come in for everybody else.
Is NAM an alliance of developing countries against the developed countries?
Kanwal Sibal: Well, aligning is a wrong word to use. If you were to say that there are issues which involved developed countries and developing countries, yes. The new sense of NAM is there that there are whole host of issues not simply on the economic front but also on the political front whether it is the crusade for the universalisation of democracy or certain set of values or the concepts of good governance which again are based on certain kind of political and social values or environmental debate and, of course, the economic issues. On that there is a clear conflict on many areas of interest between the developed and developing countries, though there are areas of convergence too.
Now how does the weaker partner in this debate protect its interests? That is only where they can do since they only have the power of numbers. So, if they are together they count for something. Therefore, in that sense the Non-Aligned Movement can be seen as a mechanism for the developing countries to be able to bargain better with the developed countries on issues on which there is hard bargaining going on in any case.
Do you foresee any serious attempt by Pakistan to give a new twist to the definition of terrorism?
Kanwal Sibal: I do not know what that new twist would be. One thing which General Musharraf has been saying is, ‘Let there be a definition of terrorism by the United Nations.’ The implicit message is that once the United Nations has defined what terrorism is, he will abide by that and then he will end that kind of terrorism which has been defined by the international community. This is not only the position that General Musharraf takes but some other countries also who do not want to commit themselves to the fight against international terrorism, and who make distinctions between terrorism and freedom struggle. They are the ones who promote this kind of logic. These are all escape clauses not to give up terrorism. There is nothing more than that.