Commentary: Bandung Spirit Lives in India’s Cooperation With Asia, Africa
India, Indonesia and the countries of Asia and Africa are getting together to mark the 60th anniversary of the landmark Bandung Conference of 1955.
We recall the close association of India and Indonesia to create the Bandung Spirit. India convened the Asian Relations Conference to pursue Asian solidarity in New Delhi in March 1947 with Indonesian Prime Minister Syahrir attending.
In January 1949, India mobilized international support for Indonesia by convening the conference on Indonesia. Attended by 18 countries it asked for the release of Indonesian nationalistic leaders and handing over power to Indonesia.
In January 1950, when India became a republic, President Sukarno was the chief guest and in the same year Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru visited Indonesia.
The two leaders frequently exchanged views on the future of Asia. With Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Myanmar they met in Colombo and Bogor to decide on the first Asian-African Conference in Bandung in 1955.
In his inaugural speech, Sukarno said “let a new Asia and a new Africa be born.”
Nehru, a major motivator of the conference, recognized the profound changes that were taking place in Asia and Africa. The Bandung Conference took the spirit of Asia’s political resurgence and the desire for world peace to assertiveness and promoted the Dasasila, the 10 principles of friendship and cooperation.
This led to the emergence Afro-Asian countries on the world stage. It gave them confidence despite immense efforts by countries who were apprehensive of their emergence as a regional group.
The Bandung Conference was the first major step by the group of Afro-Asian countries after the Asian Relations Conference to play a role in post-war politics.
The Bandung Spirit was the basis of a new architecture in Asia and though it was not reconvened in the same form, much of its good work went into the Non-Aligned Movement. Several countries which were present in Bandung, though, never joined the NAM process.
The Bandung principles had four main components: avoid war; resolve conflicts and disputes peacefully; resist domination and hegemony; and promote development cooperation.
Today, 60 years after the Bandung Conference, we remain committed to similar ideas:
- Seek concerted domestic and regional action in governance, democracy and economic development.
- Redress imbalance in the global distribution of power and democratize the United Nations and other multilateral organizations.
- Strengthen multilateralism to address global issues and collective action for equitable sharing of the benefits of globalization.
- Mutual help and learning among Asian and African countries through bilateral, sub-regional and multilateral cooperation.
India’s engagement with Asia and Africa has been widespread. The Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) program launched in 1964 was our effort for South-South cooperation.
A large number of trainees from more than 150 countries join these programs annually, where India can modestly share its experience of development.
This is elaborated in our close engagement with Asian countries, particularly in South Asia and Southeast Asia, including through the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
India has a robust development cooperation program with Asean countries.
It emphasizes the narrowing of development gaps by focusing on the CLMV — Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam.
With Africa, India’s cooperation has been based on a shared set of values including the joint struggle against the problems of poverty, development and political emancipation.
India raised its cooperation with Africa by the India Africa Forum Summit in 2008 and 2011, and this process continues. The IAFS 3 will be held this year.
The Pan African E-network project is a manifestation of India-Africa linkages through tele-medicine and tele-education. India offers 22,000 scholarships to Africa and is setting up 80 training institutions there.
India, Brazil and South Africa under the IBSA rubric have contributed to projects in various developing countries, including in Asia and Africa.
India contributes through the mechanisms of the Indian Ocean Rim Organization (IORA), which Indonesia will chair from later this year.
Through its renewed Africa policy and the Act East Policy, India’s vigorous engagement with Asia and Africa continues.
Today we are jointly struggling against the problems of poverty, disease, illiteracy and for ensuring sustainable development and political and civil rights for our people. This is reflected in our multi-dimensional, bilateral and multilateral cooperation.
However, in this path of development, India, Africa and Asia are facing common security challenges.
As we develop, energy and food security become more important.
The rise of extremist violence and terrorism has been one of the most disturbing security phenomena of our time.
India, Africa and several Asean countries are young countries that need more attention to human resource development and capacity building.
The upkeep of maritime security: Though piracy is on the decline in the western Indian Ocean, there is always a threat. The Indian Ocean’s importance as an active trade route will grow in the future.
As we embark upon the concept of the ocean economy as a new pillar of development, it becomes even more important to secure our seas.
Climate change is likely to remain an issue of concern in the foreseeable future. The fine balance between the demands of development and the “greater common good” will call for deft maneuvering and cooperation among developing nations.
Epidemics are also a common challenge that can deepen the suffering of our peoples and have the potential to pose security challenges, as we saw during the Ebola crisis.
The Bandung Spirit for a just and equitable order continues. Asia and Africa are both in consonance to reorder international institutions and reform the UN and its Security Council where our voices are not being heard. We need more cohesive Asia- Africa action on this.
We need to evolve a new strategic vision and build new mechanisms to re-energize our partnership to address the new challenges to security, development and peace.
In order to meet the challenges we need to strengthen our efforts of cooperation by enhancing people-to-people contact, promoting greater interaction between institutions, sharing of knowledge and technology, improving business environment for the private sector to take advantage of the growing opportunities in Asia and Africa.
A more participative relationship can be both the gauge as well as the result of cooperation in the issues of peace, security and development. Thus the Bandung Conference in 1955 had thought.
Gurjit Singh is the ambassador of India to Indonesia. He is a committed developmental diplomat. The views expressed are his own.
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