| Vajpayee in Kuala Lumpur. (Reuters)
Kuala Lumpur, Feb. 23: Do you know what the Prime Minister is doing in Kuala Lumpur'
He’s attending the Nam summit.
Do you know what Nam is'
No, it’s not the National Alliance of Malaysia, the NDA’s counterpart in that country.
Nam stands for the Non-Aligned Movement, a Cold War relic that lives on.
From Atal Bihari Vajpayee today there was near-admission that Nam had overstayed its welcome when, in so many words, he said “let’s talk business”.
Speaking at the first business summit of the grouping of 114 nations, Vajpayee sought to convey the message that, having lost its political relevance with the collapse of the Soviet Union, Nam would have to reinvent itself around economic issues if it were to be meaningful.
“Globalisation, which has arrived as the defining trend in contemporary world affairs, has provided a new context for redefining Nam. For all developing countries, globalisation has meant new challenges, as well as fresh opportunities,” Vajpayee said.
He asked the movement to engage with the West on a strong development agenda and to push the demand for “reform and reorientation” of globalisation. It could act as a collective bargaining body with the developed world in the interest of all member nations, Vajpayee added.
He said the end of the Cold War also meant the end of “statist models of economic growth” which led many Nam countries to lay their own road to economic reform, based on the virtues of private enterprise and competition, with the state playing “a promotive and facilitatory” role.
Even in India, economic liberalisation has yielded positive results and within the last decade, nearly 15 per cent of the people have been lifted above the poverty line. “Globalisation has created an objective basis for mutually beneficial relationships among reforming economies,” he said.
Vajpayee proposed a $300-billion Global Poverty Alleviation Fund to help the least developed countries in the developing world. He argued that even at a conservative estimate if the NAM members were to give “a token tax of a quarter per cent”, the fund could be set up.
“Economic cooperation has to be depoliticised and made immune to bilateral issues,” the Prime Minister said, citing the example of the Asean, where a large number of countries have been able to strengthen economic cooperation keeping aside other differences. He proposed a similar grouping for South Asia.
The reference to “bilateral issues” was made clearly with Pakistan in mind. One reason for the Saarc summit in Islamabad falling through was Pakistan’s refusal to implement the agreed agenda of South Asian nations to normalise trade relations. The Musharraf regime has made progress on the Kashmir dispute a condition for normalising trade with India.
Even NAM has not been without internal rivalry and differences, Vajpayee suggested, pointing out how because of these, the group had failed to take advantage of economic opportunities.
“The striking conclusion from the journey of NAM is that ours is a story of huge missed opportunities. The one positive lesson, however, is that now we know how not to miss the opportunity in the future,” Vajpayee said.
In other words, NAM may be dead. But long live NAM.