American Bellicosity and the NAM Summit in Teheran

The 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) has brought the group back into international spotlight because it was held successfully in Teheran in face of bitter bullying by the US-Israel combine. The US State Department condemned the choice of Teheran as “strange” and “inappropriate” even as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said in a blatant disregard of diplomatic decency that the presence of such a large number of leaders in Teheran “was a stain on humanity”. By contrast, the representative of China, which has an observer status in NAM, highlighted its relevance in his speech to the assembly while Russian President Putin sent in his warm greetings.

America and Israel even had the audacity to ask UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to break tradition by avoiding the Summit because they believed such a visit would spoil their efforts to isolate Iran from the international community by giving the country a “renewed international legitimacy.” The Secretary General found the request too embarrassing and chose to attend, but as expected, he mainly echoed the views of Iran’s enemies, ‘dutifully’ criticizing Teheran for its human rights record and its stand on Israel and on the issue of nuclear proliferation. On the other hand he had to hear Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei criticizing the UN Security Council as “unjust” and “undemocratic” and accusing the US for abusing it.

In his inaugural speech Khamenei also condemned the use of nuclear and chemical weapons as an “unforgivable sin”, and called for a “Middle East free from nuclear weapons”. He pointed out that it was ironic for the US to oppose nuclear proliferation even as it possessed the largest stockpile of nuclear weapons and had used them in the past. He also accused the US and its Western allies of providing Israel with nuclear weapons.

Washington also did all it could to persuade its allies to boycott the Teheran Summit or at least send a lower level delegation. But in vain. Even the pliant Prime Minister of India reckoned that it would not be advisable to antagonise Iran – one of the country’s main oil suppliers and trading partners – just to please the US. In the event, the summit saw the full presence of member nations, including many heads of states.

Following days of lively deliberations, the final declaration ratified on 31 August emphasised the right of all countries to develop and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, specifically mentioning Iran’s right to ownership of a full fuel cycle, which means the right to uranium enrichment. It also condemned unilateral sanctions, supported creation of a Palestinian state, advocated nuclear disarmament and promotion of human rights without political agendas and opposition to racism and “Islamophobia”. Iran tried to incorporate a paragraph on the Syrian situation decrying outside interference. But owing to strong objections from countries such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, there was no reference to that. On balance, Iran and all freedom-loving nations had more reason to be happy with the outcome than their powerful adversary.

Long ago, by refusing to align themselves with either of the two superpowers, the founders and other members of NAM had unfurled the banner of national sovereignty, noninterference and mutual cooperation. Gradually, particularly with the disintegration of one of its founders and the collapse of one superpower, the member countries lost much of their bargaining power and the movement much of its relevance. But as the latest summit showed, in today’s changed context too, there is ample scope for NAM to rediscover itself and uphold the independence and solidarity of underdeveloped nations. After all, it is the biggest international congregation after the United Nations, with as many as 120 countries (nearly two-thirds of UN members including the non-UN member state of Palestine) and covering 55% of the world’s population. Why should it not assert its independence in a more meaningful way and give a more fitting rebuff to imperialist machinations?

The next summit is scheduled to be held in 2015 in Venezuela, once again a country the US views as its sworn enemy. That means, following the three year tenure of the outspoken Ahmadinejad, it will be the turn of Hugo Chavez to continue and perhaps intensify, as NAM chairperson, the resistance against American domination. To be sure, the people of India would like to see New Delhi play a more positive role in this struggle, the role befitting a founder member of the movement.

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