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LUSAKA- The Disintegration of Non-alignment

Prof. M.L. Sondhi

A decade ago, countries calling themselves “non-aligned” gathered at Belgrade in Yugoslavia, and many amongst them expressed hopes of transforming the existing international system by a new world order. This implausible confidence was reiterated in Cairo in 1964. The political and economic resources at the disposal of the non-aligned countries were not such as would gain them supremacy over the major members of the international cast. But these Governments could not fail to recognise that the status of the non-aligned countries would afford them opportunities for diplomacy on controversial issues through mobilisation of world opinion, if the general principles of solidarity of the non-aligned could be interpreted as clear directives for action. The declarations at Belgrade could not, however, mask the profound differences over the basic framework of international political relations. The most pertinent question for countries like India was whether to become associated with “extremist” doctrinal ideas of New Emerging Forces which the Communist Chinese were seeking to encourage through the persuasive rhetoric of President Sukarno. The Soviet Government’s resumption of nuclear testing while the non-aligned were starting their session did not make India’s task any easier and Nehru found himself commending the wisdom of nuclear restraint to the sic. unresponsive Soviets on his visit to Moscow as one of the Belgrade emissaries. India’s view at Belgrade showed an ambivalence which resulted from her efforts to simultaneously foster solidarity among the non-aligned and to hold back the aims and intentions of the discontented nations from flowing into channels which would undermine the basic structure of the world order which India accepted. One of the many problems considered by the Belgrade meeting which helped to take a step forward was the issue of Disarmament. Soviet-American gamesmanship discovered consonance of sentiment and interest in accepting the recommendation of the Conference that representatives of the non-aligned nations should participated in the Eighteen Nations Disarmament Committee. The Belgrade Conference showed India to be involved in a cruel dilemma forcing her to choose between “anti-imperialism” and the “convergence in Soviet and American statecraft” and it was this dilemma which was to make India the increasing target of Chinese criticism and hostility. In Belgrade the confrontations were still conducted in a simplistic manner and India could afford to ignore the deep seated conflict of interests on the basis of her prestige, but political observers could notice the substantial erosion of Indian diplomatic capabilities.

When the Non-aligned met again at Cairo in 1964, India had gone far in the progressive erosion of her strength after her humiliation at the hands of China in 1962. The Sino-Soviet rift had also intensified and China’s success in breaking the Super Power nuclear monopoly by her nuclear explosion in 1964 had clear implications which underlined the diplomatic disadvantages of the non-aligned. Looking back to the Cairo Conference one cannot see it as a realistic exercise. It is true that the United Arab Republic leader President Nasser still possessed the necessary elbow room for his non-aligned diplomacy and was able to enthuse some of the participants to visualise their common undertaking as a trust bequeathed by the founding fathers at Belgrade. The relevant responses did not maximise the opportunities for serious and independent initiatives by the countries which gathered. Direct challenges among the non-aligned were incompatible with their theoretical elaborations. During the years following the Cairo Conference the United Arab Republic, India and Yugoslavia, continued to make special efforts to influence their foreign policies to sustain the claim of chief ideological spokesmen of Non-alignment. During the same period Indonesia had to undergo domestic turmoil, and the culmination of the serious struggle brought about a radical change which had a far-reaching impact on Indonesian foreign policy, on Indonesia’s relations with China and the Soviet Union, and which dealt an irreparable blow to the Emerging Forces type of non-alignment which President Sukarno had fathered.

The Lusaka Conference of the non-aligned marks the final disintegration of the vision of Nehru, Tito and Nasser. India was offered the opportunity to hold the conference in New Delhi but the Indian zeal for Nonalignment was more dependent now on external sources and was no longer directly founded on home-grown political cohesion. The political shifts after the 6-day war altered the dimensions of Nonalignment for President Nasser and the UAR leader explicitly admitted before his death that the Middle East crisis had compelled his country to adopt a restricted horizon. The interest of the Egyptians in the Lusaka summit was no longer as far-reaching as it had been at Cairo and Nasser’s absence pointed to the reduction in Egyptian diplomatic capabilities. In its essentials, the Yugoslav view on the Non-aligned summit derived from Tito’s conviction that the Super Power détente had reduced the leverage of the Non-aligned and the Super Powers were now taking the smaller powers for granted. The manner in which Dubcek’s Czechoslovakia failed to cope with the Soviet demands leading to the undisguised Soviet action against that country made Tito increasingly aware that there were now reduced opportunities for his own tactical manoeuvring. The Lusaka summit promised some political returns and an escape from the uncomfortable stalemated line in East Europe. The aging Tito went personally to Lusaka and took the bit between his teeth. The final version of his speech records him:

“The policy of force, aggression, intervention and interference into the affairs of other countries is still constantly present in international relations. It represents a danger, not only for the non-aligned but also for all those countries which are guided by the principle of equal international cooperation in their foreign political orientation.”

The words actually spoken by Tito at Lusaka mounted a more severe attack than appears in the authorised version:

“This policy (the policy of force….etc.) constitutes a danger not only to the non-aligned but also to all other countries which are guided in their foreign policy by the principles of equitable international cooperation and which do not wish their independence, security and progress to depend on the benevolence or good will of any foreign power.”

The main Yugoslav thesis on Non-alignment in the context of the new Super Power diplomacy was elaborated before the Lusaka summit in an important article by the Yugoslav theoretician Leo Mates in Foreign Affairs, the prestigious American journal. A measure of Tito’s concern for the consequences of developments in Yugoslavia’s own geographic sphere is evident from his approach to European problems at Lusaka:

“For many years, Europe was a region rent by the aftermath of the war, tension, cold war and confrontation with far-reaching negative consequences for the entire world. Even today, problems in Europe are no less complicated than they are in other parts of the world. However when mutual contacts and talks were initiated, particularly of late, the first concrete results were quick to be achieved. This is also reflected in the recently concluded treaty between the Soviet Union and the Federal German Republic on non-recourse to force in mutual relations.

We attach great significance to present positive processes in Europe not only for relaxation on this continent but for their positive influence on the world situation generally. For this, they can be highly instrumental in facilitating the solution of unsettled international problems to which I have referred.”

The international outlook of Yugoslavia increasingly mirrors the fact that Yugoslavia is entering its post-Titoist phase and although this does not necessarily mean that Non-alignment has to be given up, it does mean that the more ambitious plans for restructuring international relations are being replaced by increasing concern with the security dilemma in Europe. Much of the Yugoslav hope is centred on the transformation of the original intentions of the Non-aligned through a higher level of consensus. This is, however, a hope which comes up against the insularity of most of the polities represented at the Lusaka meeting. From the Lusaka perspective, the Yugoslav role of preserving the uneasy equilibrium among the non-aligned with all their skilful diplomatic effort is faced with the handicap that many of the participants in the non-aligned conclave had to look over their shoulders all the time to one or other of the Super Powers or to China, who no longer hesitate to issue orders openly to their clients.

Lusaka saw the development in the foreign policies of some African states of a trend which draws more from the experience of the African environment than from global ideological theories, including the classical theory of non-alignment. President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia did not look on Non-alignment as a prestige project in the manner in which the Yugoslavs, the Egyptians and the Indians are often prone to look. The value of the Lusaka summit was in Kaunda’s view in the pragmatic unity which major initiatives could produce. Diplomatic observers were struck by the uninhibited style of the polemical utterances of Kaunda and other African representatives. In general the concept of Non-alignment with them took the form of intensive preparation for building up of a large body of support for backing the claims of the African people. Differences of views on the global détente or global confrontations were considered chiefly in the context of the African situation and not in accordance with any comprehensive survey of the changing balance of global power.

The Indonesians at Lusaka started from an advantage since they were under no compulsion to pose as the interpreters of the orthodoxy of non-alignment. There was a remarkable certainty of direction in Indonesian diplomacy and President Suharto’s speech was more precise about Indonesia’s contribution to “the objectives of peace” than any other speech made before the Conference. It was Suharto who reminded the delegates that the Cairo conference had formulated a “Programme for Peace and International Cooperation.” He explained the decisive steps taken by Indonesia in convening the Jakarta conference which preceded the Lusaka Conference and was held a few months earlier:

“The conference of Foreign Ministers in Djakarta in May of this year should be seen as a manifestation of Indonesia’s independent and active foreign policy, in line with the policy of non-alignment. Indonesia took the initiative for convening this Conference on the consideration that the development in Cambodia may lead to an expansion of the existing conflict and thus constitutes a direct threat to peace and security of the whole of South East Asia. Indonesia is quite aware that this problem cannot be solved so easily nor by merely convening a meeting. However, in the absence of any initiative by those who are expected to be alive to their responsibilities whose influence and competence are more extensive in scope. Indonesia is of the opinion that the countries of South East Asia should not sit back with folded arms nor merely await their fate. On the contrary they had to do something even if only to remind the countries and international bodies concerned of their obligations and responsibilities and to appeal to their conscience at least to initiate some action.”

President Suharto made specific mention of the problem of subversion as a threat to harmony of interests no less serious than aggression. He also defined Indonesia’s attitude with an explicit formulation of the negative aspects of interventionist policies in the international arena:

“It is only right if we express the hope that the Nixon doctrine, or what is known as the Brezhnev Doctrine, or the Lin Piao Manifesto and the like, should not be utilised as an excuse to justify interference in the internal affairs of a country.”

Finally, Suharto did not hesitate to declare publicly that it was only a new technique of interventionism to use the concept of war of liberation to subvert established regimes:

“It is in this context that I would like to explain Indonesia’s position as regards, what is called, national wars of liberation. In our view, a national war of liberation is a war of independence against the foreign oppressor. Yugoslavia, Algeria, Indonesia and other friendly countries have experienced and have waged such a war of national liberation to rid themselves of a foreign power from their national territory. However, if the concept of a war of liberation is used as a device to inflame a civil war in an independent and sovereign country and with the assistance of a foreign power, it then becomes a grave threat to world peace and security.

This we must obviously oppose. We must take a resolute stand in the matter in order to attune it to the ideals of the non-aligned countries to which we collectively subscribe, namely to reject any form of interference in the internal affairs of a country.”

(Italics added)

In the circumstances, the Indonesian President’s speech was a candid exegesis of the ideological fragmentation of Non-alignment. The Suharto doctrine is based on the alternative of accepting the pluralistic context of the multipolar world and advocating the unity of the non-aligned on the basis of tolerance, and in place of doctrinaire cohesion to recognise the moral force of an outlook which would eschew rigidity and encourage negotiations. At the regional level, Indonesian diplomacy and political analysis has become increasingly sophisticated and it has begun to look as if the Indonesians have succeeded in advancing propositions which are comprehensible in terms of security requirements and are a major contribution towards a realistic understanding of contemporary regional and international politics. Indonesia’s prime concerns voiced by Suharto at Lusaka suggest that she will seek to institutionalise on a regional basis her diplomatic relations, trade, peace-keeping and crisis-management. Indonesia is determined that orthodox non-alignment should not come in the way of her maximising the number of options for independence and efficiency in foreign policy making.

The serious depletion of India’s diplomatic resources was especially noticeable at Lusaka. India pursued a policy which did not even attempt to restore a measure of equilibrium to preserve her long-term interests. The more militant formulations in the Indian policy statement were unprecedented and were visible symptoms of closer correlation between Indian policy and improvised solutions pertaining mainly to peripheral interests. At Belgrade Nehru tried to extricate India from extravagant evaluations by withholding cooperation from those who indulged in unrestrained ideological attacks. At Lusaka on the other hand the Indians demonstratively abandoned the Nehru line by backing initiatives for several holy crusades. The key to this development is found in India’s isolation from the countries with whom a closer regional relationship would be to India’s diplomatic advantage. The weakening of India’s authority in the South East Asian region has not been compensated by strengthening of Indian influence in Africa. On the issues in which the Africans are interested, Indian conduct appears as a mixture of commitment and prudence. Indian promises do not meet the needs articulated by the ground-swell of African public opinion. In spite of polemical statements, India has not acceded to a more pragmatic policy which could give India a “hawkish” reality appropriate to the African scene and help to hold aloft the banner of the anti-colonialist struggle. Mrs. Gandhi did not set out at Lusaka to create a world-wide or even an African liberation movement. India’s political style underlined her resentment against the burdensome Super Power pressures but her policy makers could not present guidelines along which India would develop positions of strength. India’s orthodox non-alignment prevented her foreign Minister Swaran Singh from employing his diplomatic skill towards any decisive steps for achieving overall political arrangements by distinguishing the processes of interaction in regional and global politics.

There is a pervasive contrast between sober warnings of Indian spokesmen at Belgrade and the extensive preoccupation with ominous expectations by Mrs. Gandhi at Lusaka:

“The big powers have never accepted the validity of non-alignment. Neither colonialism, nor racialism has vanished. The old comes back in new guise. There are subtle intrigues to undermine our self-confidence and to sow dissensions and mutual distrust amongst us. Powerful vested interests, domestic and foreign, are combining to erect new structures of neo-colonialism. These dangers can be combated by our being united in our adherence to the basic tenets of non-alignment.”

The Indians at Lusaka played to the gallery by concentrating on political issues where tactical considerations would help secure a modicum of support even from competitors among the non-aligned and simultaneously provide opportunities to exploit world-wide sympathy for crusading prononcimentos.

Mrs. Gandhi’s comment on the Arab-Israeli dispute centred not on the unresolved problems of conflict resolution but on creating political acceptability for India in Arab eyes:

“I should like to take this opportunity to convey our admiration and best wishes to President Nasser for his statesmanship and courage in accepting the ceasefire. We disapprove of Israel’s intransigence. Israel should be prevailed upon to comply fully with the UN Security Council Resolution of November 1967. We cannot deny to the people of Palestine their inalienable right to the homelands from which they were exiled.”

The Indian view on Israel was opposed by 26 of the 62 nations gathered at Lusaka, and it was those nations chiefly from Africa who rejected the extravagant demands for sanctions against Israel. There was no intention on India’s part to take a ‘balanced view’ by raising the Aircraft Hijacking issue in which India’s interest should have been self-evident.

Through a series of compromises India helped to steer the conference on several controversial items. The grant of observer status to the PRG helped to sort out the difficult problem which otherwise would have made it difficult to preserve an image of unity. It has become increasingly fashionable for Indian policy makers to argue that India is the only country now in touch with all the parties concerned with the Indo-China crisis. It should, however, be pointed out that the price of the pro-PRG policy adopted by India may prove to be a high one, because not many countries in Asia may be prepared to regard our behaviour as appropriate to the standard expected from a power which has been called upon to play a mediating role and discharge the tasks of peace observation.

The denial of a seat at the conference to the Pnom Penh Government as well as to Sinhanouk’s representative was the only way to prevent the wrecking of the Conference and again India’s role was crucial. At the root of India’s political determination it is difficult, however, to discover prescriptions which can serve to bring the hostilities in Cambodia to an end. Mrs. Gandhi in her speech recalled India’s efforts as Chairman of the International Control Commission in Laos to bring the two sides together but omitted significantly to tell the Conference why India had remained passive in the Cambodian crisis.

Mrs. Gandhi’s claim that there was greater complimentarily between the economies of developing countries than between the developed countries, may well be the beginning of a realistic exercise if ideas of narrow economic nationalism are put aside by all the countries concerned. India herself could come forward with action in the direction of creating an Asian regional common market which could fortify India and other Asian countries in their commercial dealings with industrially advanced countries and regions. But it is hard to see how in the absence of fundamental changes in the structural organisation of agriculture, industry and transport and the development of realistic exchange rates, the reciprocal advantages to which Mrs. Gandhi referred could materialise.

The enhancement of the Russian naval presence in the Indian Ocean was playing on the minds of many of the countries at Lusaka. Mrs. Gandhi expressed the view that India “would like the Indian Ocean to be an area of peace and cooperation,” but she did not feel the necessity to refer to the intrusion of Soviet naval power in the Bay of Bengal in the form of survey ships, submarines, guided-missiles destroyers and other landing craft, which is threatening to become a permanent presence across the Indian coastline. Many thoughtful delegates including the Indonesians were inclined to question the wisdom of the Indian attitude. It would have been possible for India to understand this trend of thinking and secure a clearer expression of the legitimate anxieties of the powers around the Indian Ocean against the Russian manoeuvres. The view finally adopted showed that India had been more accommodating than determined in its efforts to check Russian naval hegemony in the Indian Ocean.

India’s misjudgement of the mood in South East Asia came out in relief when Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore rejected the plea on behalf of orthodox Non-aligners that security considerations could be ignored:

“….victory for one side may pose dangers of contagion and the spread of revolutionary guerrilla insurgencies in adjacent countries. If the Indo-Chinese peoples are to exercise their right to self-determination, then all interventionist forces must withdraw from South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.

There is need to redefine the needs and problems of new countries in search of security and development. We must find a new relevance for nonalignment, a new validity in altered circumstances.”

Regrettably India had not done her homework on regional security problems to enable it to react to the suggestion made by the Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister for the neutralisation of the entire South East Asian region.

The three important declarations of the Lusaka Conference – the Declaration on the Safeguarding and Strengthening of World Peace and Security in the Changing World Situation; strengthening of the Role and Effectiveness of the United Nations, the Declaration on Peace, Independence, Development, Cooperation and Democratisation of International Relations, and the Declaration on Non-alignment and Economic Progress – are the product of compromise between the divergent orientations discussed earlier. The declarations can of course by subjected to different interpretations. The support to the United Nations as a major factor for ensuring world peace and furthering economic and social development reaffirms the assertions made at various forums by the small nations of the world. The challenge to the monopolistic and dominating tendencies of the great powers is a prominent aspect of the plea for democratisation of international relations. The general aim is clear but what saps the strength of the declaration is the absence of any hint that the non-aligned countries have abandoned the propensity to be cowed down by one or the other Super Power when their narrow interests are under threat.

The major theme of economic cooperation between the advanced industrial and trading nations and the developing countries is affirmed vigorously and the different clauses underline the need for vigilance on the part of the developing countries. There is ambiguity, however, in the Policies and measures outlined. Attention is focussed on concerted measures by the developing countries for economic liberation from the developed countries, yet it is also explicitly stated that cooperation between the two sides is an indispensable element.

President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia’s mission will be undoubtedly a difficult one. His own policy and programme in Zambia have to be related to the divergent ideological positions of the participants in the Lusaka summit. The task of implementation of the Lusaka Declarations will be his major concern. It is difficult to forecast the future course of Nonalignment as an international movement. Kaunda and other African leaders have an opportunity of exercising increasing influence among those who call themselves non-aligned but they can be effective only within certain limits. It is unlikely that Zambia will make her influence felt in the world to the same extent Tito’s Yugoslavia was able to do when the bipolar world conditions justified the distinctive role of Titoism.

India’s evaluation of Non-alignment is likely to remain somewhat confusing. The reluctance to dismantle the system which at one time gave India a feeling of self-confidence is understandable. National interest is, however, more than likely to compel India ultimately to recognise that the signs in the world environment point to the direction of regional unity and cooperation, and the shift in Indian policy may well be towards more realistic attempts to draw closer to Indonesia, Japan and other countries of the South- East Asian region.

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