NAM Summit, the dead horse and diplomatic hypocrisy….

Iran has played a master-stroke for coming out of its international isolation through hosting the Summit of NAM member countries. The world is looking at this latest development in shock and awe, as revival of NAM, which always stood for disassociation from the Cold War and super powers, heralds an era of a new world order. The overwhelming response of the world signifies one interesting development; the NAM members, though symbolically, reject the hegemonic great power.

According to reports, the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement kicked off in the Iranian capital of Tehran on August 25 and the heads of state and government of the 120-member organization will meet on August 30 and 31 to discuss the most important international developments ranging from the violence and crisis in Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to Iran’s nuclear program. Non-Aligned Movement is the second largest international organization and its members are said to be politically independent of the world’s great powers, namely the United States and its European allies. The Summit has caused a great heartburn in the Western capitals and the United States and Israel have been intensively trying to dissuade the world leaders and politicians from attending the summit through running an all-out media campaign aimed at derailing and undermining the largest diplomatic gathering in Iran’s contemporary history.

As claimed by Iran, more than 100 countries will be sending delegations to the summit of which 51 countries will take part in the level of president, Prime Minister and vice president. The UN Secretary General will also attend the Summit.

The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was never established as a formal organization, but became the name to refer to the participants of the Conference of Heads of State or Government of Non-Aligned Countries first held in 1961. The movement is driven by five basic principles called the basic pillars of the organization: (a) mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, (b) mutual non-aggression, (c) mutual non-interference in domestic affairs, (d) equality and mutual benefit, and (e) peaceful co-existence. A significant milestone in the development of the Non-Aligned Movement was the 1955 Bandung Conference, a conference of Asian and African states hosted by Indonesian president Sukarno, who gave a significant contribution to promote this movement. The attending nations declared their desire not to become involved in the Cold War and adopted a “declaration on promotion of world peace and cooperation”. Six years after Bandung, an initiative of Yugoslav president Josip Broz Tito led to the first Conference of Heads of State or Government of Non-Aligned Countries, which was held in September 1961 in Belgrade.

The term non-aligned movement appears first in the fifth conference in 1976, where participating countries are denoted as members of the movement. At the Lusaka Conference in September 1970, the member nations added as aims of the movement the peaceful resolution of disputes and the abstention from the big power military alliances and pacts. Another added aim was opposition to stationing of military bases in foreign countries.

Emboldened by overwhelming world response, the Iranian authorities have announced a tour of scientific and technical sites designed to simultaneously demonstrate Iran’s scientific prowess and its peaceful intentions. According to Foreign Policy, the (mullah) regime will have a largely sympathetic audience. Most states in the NAM are skeptical of what they see as a double standard that permits only certain powers to maintain nuclear arsenals. This year, the issues on the agenda will likely include equitable economic development, the reform of major international organizations, and the Israel-Palestine conflict — a perennial topic at NAM meetings. It’s also certain that the assembled leaders will discuss Syria, whose regime Tehran strongly backs. Russia’s envoy to the NAM reportedly expressed hope that summit decisions “will lead to the development of a political solution to the Syrian crisis.”

The major challenge the movement will face in the Summit will be the question of Syria on which the members are badly divided. There are certain hostile countries like Bahrain attending the Summit who are known for their clear tilt towards the US. But these countries are attending the meeting in defying the US pressure. The attendance of the chief world diplomat, the UN Secretary General, symbolically establishes that the US and its allies are on the retreat on diplomatic front.

There are some other interesting realities; the NAM has often claimed to speak for the world’s weak and marginalized and has had an anti-global-establishment posture. But with India having become a member of the Club of Oppressor Nations with a very poor human rights record and a notable member of the global establishment, the Five Pillars have lost their meanings. The movement was a dead horse based on diplomatic hypocricy and it will remain a dead horse. However, it will accrue great dividends for Iran who has achieved this great diplomatic feat by managing to defy Western pressure on the attending states.

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