Relevance of the Asian-African Summit
Domination by the powerful in the world order persists, wars continue to threaten humanity and mass hunger, diseases and poverty still characterise many parts of the world
Addressing the Asian-African Summit, 2015 in Jakarta, Advisor to the Prime Minister (PM) Sartaj Aziz said that it was tragic and unacceptable that the people of Palestine and Kashmir were still awaiting for the fulfillment of their inalienable right to self-determination. The adviser recalled that a major focus of the 1955 Bandung Conference was respect for fundamental human rights including the right to self-determination. He emphasised the need for Asian and African countries to strengthen cooperation and collective efforts to overcome the continuing challenges of peace and development. The Asian-African Summit, 2015 was held in Jakarta in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Asian-African Conference (Bandung Conference) in 1955, of which Pakistan was one of the co-sponsors with Egypt, Indonesia, Burma, Sri Lanka and India.
On April 24, 1955, a 10-point declaration on the promotion of world peace and cooperation, incorporating the principles of the UN Charter was adopted unanimously by the Afro-Asian countries conference, popularly known as the Bandung Conference. In the 1950s, the progressive leaders of Asian and African countries decided to create a forum to promote cultural cooperation and to oppose colonialism and neocolonialism by the US, the Soviet Union or any other imperialist nation. Delegates from 29 countries representing over half the world population had participated. The conference reflected what they regarded as reluctance by the western powers to consult with them on decisions affecting Asia and their concern over tension between China and the US. The conference proved a forerunner to the establishment of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in 1961.
In later years, conflicts between the nonaligned nations eroded the solidarity expressed at Bandung and the NAM became ineffective. After end of the Cold War era, the concept of the NAM became redundant but the Bandung spirit lives on. Its core principles are: a) peaceful coexistence between nations, b) liberation of the world from the hegemony of any superpower or domination of one country by another, c) building solidarity towards the poor, the colonised, the exploited and the weak, and d) emancipation. After short and long hiatuses, Bandung Conference Day is observed in some countries, especially in Indonesia. After 60 years of the Bandung Conference, colonisation has officially disappeared, the Cold War has ended and the NAM has almost lost its raison d’être.
Domination by the powerful in the world order persists, wars continue to threaten humanity and mass hunger, diseases and poverty still characterise many parts of the world. Injustice has appeared in more sophisticated forms and larger dimensions. In August 2009, at Putrajaya Malaysia, the 114 members of the NAM upheld the principle of right to self-determination, drawing a clear line between terrorism and the movements for right to self-determination. The meeting also observed that no religion and culture can be equated with terrorism, hence no particular religion should be targeted. Of course, extremist strands in the Muslim community are to blame in equal measure. The 9/11 terrorist holocaust definitely brought no victory but the outright hostility and animus of the world community to the still dominantly moderate Muslim fraternity.
After imperialist countries realised that it was no longer possible for them to rule the colonies directly because of the pressure of the movements for independence in the colonies, they withdrew. However, while retreating they purposely created divisions and the breakup of colonies at the time of their independence. They cleverly manipulated that certain territorial and border area disputes remain unresolved, which would enable them to keep neighbouring countries in a state of war amongst themselves. Old Arab states were crushed and new ones created by the colonial powers. Israel was created in place of Palestine. The Congo was divided into Brazzaville and Leopoldville. Vietnam and Korea were both divided into North and South. China was divided into the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. The Kashmir dispute was created as a thorn in the relationship between India and Pakistan.
The regions of Asia, Africa and Latin-America contain the bulk of the world’s mineral wealth, economic resources and manpower, yet most of these countries are poor, as imperialism controls them politically and economically. The aims and objectives of the US, the sole super power, were not hidden. Former President Nixon confessed in his book, The Real War: “It is naïve to say that another world war may take place to defend the free world when in fact the war is actually going on...If the US were to abandon its allies or strategic military areas around the world, or those areas, which are rich in mineral resources, or lose control over the flow of oil and sea routes, then the free world would not only have lost the war, but its very existence would be at stake.”
The experience of most of the newly independent countries, except for those that brought about a social revolution, indicates that mere, formal independence is meaningless without economic independence and that democracy and peace are only possible when these countries are economically independent. Principles of peaceful coexistence should be the basis of state relations between developing countries, which ensures the right of each country to determine its own socio-economic and political system without any interference from any other country. If the developing countries resolved their disputes they would spend less on defence and the funds can then be diverted towards providing free health and education to the impoverished masses. They can of course allocate for the capital budget to industrialise their countries.