Pundits See Revival for Non-Aligned Movement
While scorned or ignored by U.S. commentators, the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Havana over the weekend made headlines in the international online media as a revived forum for nations that want to take an independent position in a one superpower world.
"The movement is reasserting itself as a forum for anti-Westerners of all stripes, from Islamists to Communists," said Macleans, the Canadian newsmagazine. The movement has achieved "maturity," claimed Raul Castro, acting Cuban president.
The NAM was founded in 1961 by Asian, African and Latin American countries seeking to distance themselves from the rivalry of the United States and the Soviet Union. With the cessation of the Cold War 15 years go, the NAM landed at "a low ebb," said the People's Daily Online. In Havana, said China's state-controlled news site, the movement "recast its historical status."
The gathering of 3,000 delegates from 116 countries made news on several fronts.
An unexpected handshake deal between India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani president Gen. Pervez Musharraf promises to bolster cooperation by the two countries on terrorism issues.
Venezuela announced the creation of a news agency to compete with Reuters and the Associated Press, according to Venezuela Analysis.
The conference's final declaration, issued Sunday, backed "Iran's right to nuclear energy and urged U.N. reform to give greater weight to poor countries," according to The Australian. (Read excerpts from the declaration here.)
Chavez in the Spotlight
The tone was set Saturday when two leading adversaries of the United States, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, embraced each other.
"Let us join forces to push the sun in this new dawn... because I believe that it is possible for us now to create a world where no one country rules, nor one world gendarme, nor war nor cannons nor bayonets, but in which a world of love, peace and solidarity reigns," Chavez said in a speech. Ahmadinejad called for "strengthening the movement and turning it into a more effective tool," according to the Islamic Republic News Agency.
Nicarargua's Nuevo Diario (in Spanish), a moderate left newspaper, said the radical politics of the governments most opposed to Washington collided with the positions of more moderate governments and U.S. allies. The conflict revealed "the difficulty of achieving unity for a group that wants to play a more decisive role in the international scene."
The Managua daily also noted that Cuban dissident Osvaldo Paya had circulated an open letter calling for recognition of the Cuban civic opposition, whose leaders have been subject to arrest.
In Venezuela, the conservative El Universal(in Spanish) suggested that Chavez, along with allies in Cuba and Bolivia, was seeking to transform the non-aligned nature of NAM (or NOAL as it known in Spanish) to create a "radical leftist bloc" aligned against the United States.
In Bolivia, Los Tiempos (in Spanish), a daily newspaper in the city of Cochamba, said the NAM was addressing the "dangerous situation caused by the only existing superpower." Los Tiempos also published a column by Cuban-American columnist Carlos Alberto Montaner contending that NAM's Latin American leaders -- Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia -- had taken a stand "against modernity."
India and the New NAM
While the Iranian online media emphasized NAM's support for Iran's position in nuclear negotiations with the West (with special attention to Chavez), the agreement between India and Pakistan was the biggest news in the Persian Gulf, home to tens of thousands of expatriate South Asian workers.
The Gulf News called it "a huge turnaround." The Khaleej Times said the Indian and Pakistani leaders had shown "that they are still committed to peaceful resolution of their problems, especially Kashmir," the disputed border region.
In India, one of the founding nations of the movement, commentators were reluctant to embrace anti-Americanism but still endorsed the impulse to stand independent of the United States.
"In a rapidly changing global situation there is no need for New Delhi to hang on to the coat-tails of Washington like Blair," said The Times of India. "It also needn't spew invective at the US like some NAM countries.
The editors of The Hindu chastised Prime Minister Singh for "not calling attention to the pernicious doctrine of 'pre-emption,' which is a big threat to international peace and stability. Nobody expected him to adopt the strong language of Cuba's Acting President Raul Castro or the Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez. But NAM is surely the forum for India to reiterate a principled and clear opposition to any form of neo-imperialism."
More World Reaction
The non-aligned countries, wrote former foreign secretary Tanvir Ahmad Khan in the Pakistani daily Dawn, "are beginning to create a counter-narrative" to the story of American global power. "NAM is providing space to erect a rival edifice that robs the imperial dome of its splendour," he said.
The Jamaica Observer suggested the summit justified NAM's existence in the face of global change. "The ethos of world politics has changed to more and more reflect an almost total American agenda ... Add to the mix the frightening speed of technological advances, especially in telecommunications, usually driven by the Americans and the condensation of the world into a technologically based global village and we can readily see and appreciate why the concept of non-alignment may now be redundant."
Still the NAM "acts as a buffer for the marginalised countries that need help to build their political systems, their national economies and for some the fight against HIV-AIDS, to have a voice and to share their unique situations with the rest of the world," the Observer said.
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