India does not see any contradiction in pursuing closer politico-military ties with the US on one hand and being the leading light of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) on the other.
Stopping in the German capital for the night on way to attend the 17th NAM summit in Venezuela, Vice President Hamid Ansari did not think India’s strategic dalliance with the US could have been an inhibitory factor for Prime Minister Narendra Modi opting out of the second largest gathering of nations after the UN General Assembly.
The Vice President seemed to indicate that solidarity with the developed world and growing closeness with Washington could go hand in hand. “Foreign policy is meant to attain a set of objectives that promote India’s interests. While the objective does not change, the methodology has to. I don’t think things should always be seen as black or white. There are always shades of grey,” he pointed out.
An Indian Prime Minister has excused himself from the NAM summit just once earlier when Charan Singh was leading an unstable government and could not afford the latitude of travelling to Cuba for the sixth NAM summit. “India is participating. NAM is not a conference of PMs. There have been occasions when Prime Ministers for a variety of reasons have been unable to go but India’s participation remains,’’ reasoned Ansari.
But he cautioned that any organisation that does not respond to the requirements of the day loses its relevance. “There is no other way out,’’ he said, while adding an important caveat that any evolution or change must be done on the basis of consensus by all the members.
The Vice President was speaking in the context of media queries about NAM losing its relevance over the years.
Ansari, however, provided a reality check to NAM’s critiques by pointing out that it has continuously adjusted to the changing world situation ever since its inception in 1961. It debuted with Nehru’s five principles called Panchsheel. After a decade, its additional aims were the peaceful resolution of disputes, abstention from super power military alliances and opposition to military bases in foreign countries. NAM has subsequently adjusted itself to the demands of the times.
“Why did a group of countries now numbering 120 come together?’’ the veteran diplomat counter-posed while going on to answer the question: “NAM is a different kind of an organisation. Countries that joined NAM wanted to safeguard their independence as also to ensure that they alone had the right to decide the trajectory of their development. Though NAM’s agenda has partly remained the same and partly evolved with the times, one aspect that has remained constant is giving the same priority to the concern of every member country.’’