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'NAM must work for confluence of civilisations'

By V S Chandrasekar in Havana
September 16, 2006 02:19 IST
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Warning that Non Aligned Movement cannot be ambiguous on the issue of terrorism if it wants to be relevant, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday told its leaders to unitedly fight the scourge and not allow the forces of extremism to distract the world's attention from developmental issues.

"If NAM is to be relevant in today's circumstances, it cannot afford to equivocate on the subject of terrorism. A message must emanate from us that we are united in our desire to fight and eliminate the scourge of terrorism," Dr Singh said in his address to the 14th summit of the 118-member grouping in Havana, Cuba.

The forces of intolerance and extremism could not be allowed to distract the world's attention from the vital concerns like poverty, ignorance and disease; he told the summit attended by 55 heads of state and government, including Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and South African President Thabo Mbeki, besides United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Rejecting the notion of a 'clash of civilisations,' he made a strong appeal to the Non Aligned Movement to be seen as being central to global efforts to deal with urgent trans-national issues including terrorism.

"Today, we again confront the danger of the world being split along an artificially created cultural and religious divide. The NAM, encompassing as it does, every religion professed by mankind, every ethnic group and ideological persuasion, is uniquely placed today, once again, to play the role of a bridge of understanding," Dr Singh said.

The prime minister proposed the establishment of a working group to frame an action plan to address future energy challenges. India would be prepared to coordinate such a group, he said.

He said if the member countries want to revitalize NAM, then the 'collective message' of the summit must focus on urgent trans-national issues like terrorism, pandemics, energy security and the environment.

"Our cooperative world view is in itself a rejection of the notion of 'clash of civlisations.' Rather, our message to the world should be that it is possible to work for a confluence of civilisations," he told the delegates.

"As a group we have rejected extremes. We must spread the message of Mahatma Gandhi, the apostle of peace. Our voice must then be one of moderation, harmony and reason. If such is the voice of more than half of the people of the world, it will prevail. And it will guide the destiny of our planet," he said.

Dr Singh said the world was again facing the danger of being split along an artificially created cultural and religious divide. The emerging faultlines of the new ideological divide were nowhere more apparent than in West Asia, which witnessed a tragic and pointless war in Lebanon. This sharpened the sense of alienation and resentment, brutalising a country that had just begun to reclaim its heritage of inter-ethnic and inter-religious harmony after years of conflict, he told leaders of the developing world.

The prime minister suggested the constitution of a NAM high-level group for West Asia that could undertake a sustained mission to promote understanding in the region and assist in implementing the agreed roadmap towards a comprehensive peace.

The international community must address more fully its responsibility to resolve this issue and bring to an end the long years of suffering of the Palestinian people, he said.

Dwelling on the role of NAM in the current global order, Dr Singh said in an increasingly inter-dependent world, the challenge was to promote balanced and equitable management of this inter-dependence of nations.

As globalisation progressed, national and regional boundaries were becoming less relevant. "Our problems are global, so must our solutions be," he said.

Reforming the UN and revitalising the General Assembly was imperative. The developing world must find its due representation among permanent members of the UN Security Council, he said, adding: "We must joint hands with other like-minded countries to promote democratisation of processes of global governance, ushering in a new global polity based on the rule of law, reason and equity."

"We must joint hands with other like-minded countries to promote democratisation of processes of global governance, ushering in a new global polity, based on the rule of law, reason and equity," Dr Singh said.

With more than half the members of UN belonging to NAM, the movement must unite behind a fundamentally new vision of 'inclusive globalisation.'

Dr Singh said globalisation must be accompanied by a more balanced and equitable distribution of its benefits or else, the global response to challenges will remain uneven. The non-aligned nations, he said, led the struggle against attempts to divide the world into ideologically irreconciliable blocks and espoused peaceful co-existence and the higher cause of humanity beyond racial divisions.

Recalling late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi's Action Plan for Nuclear Disarmament presented in the UN General Assembly in 1988, Dr Singh said the time had come for NAM to again assume a leading role in advocating nuclear disarmament.

India has prepared a working paper on nuclear disarmament that will be circulated at the UNGA this year, he said, inviting NAM members to join its efforts to achieve universal disarmament and a world free of nuclear weapons.

On environment, he said NAM should take the lead in articulating a 'new paradigm of energy security' that addressed the needs of all peoples and of the planet. Calling for a major initiative on Africa, to whose destiny the future of the world is inextricably linked, he said this would focus on human resource and agricultural development.

It would involve setting up a mechanism with the African Union to pool NAM assets for investment in the future of Africa. "We would be prepared to work together with other interested NAM countries on elaborating the NAM Initiative on Africa," he said.

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V S Chandrasekar in Havana
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