Absence of PM from NAM Summit
A summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) without the Indian Prime Minister is like Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark and that is what was enacted in Venezuela recently. The only other time when an Indian Prime Minister stayed home was in 1979, when the historic Havana summit took place. Prime Minister Charan Singh’s absence, however, had nothing to do with NAM; this time, the absence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a political message.

Criticism of NAM
One argument is that NAM did not have any binding principles and that it was a marriage of convenience among disparate countries.

Another argument being heard is that NAM countries did not come to our help on any of the critical occasions when India needed solidarity, such as the Chinese aggression in 1962 or the Bangladesh war in 1971. Even in the latest struggle against terror, NAM has not come to assist India in any way.

Strengths of NAM
Though the criteria for NAM membership are general, anti-colonialism, anti-imperialism and anti-racism were essential attributes of NAM countries. There was a consensus on nuclear disarmament also till India broke ranks by keeping out of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The diversity reflected in both Singapore and Cuba being NAM members has been its strength. Therefore, Egypt signing the Camp David Accords with Israel in 1978 or India signing the Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation with the Soviet Union in 1971 did not result in any disruption of membership.

Present Role of NAM
The question we need to ask is whether our continued involvement with NAM would stand in the way of our 21st century ambitions. The very informal nature of NAM permits members to operate individually. It also has the facility of members reserving their positions, as we did on the non-proliferation positions of NAM.

Our new nearness to the U.S. is not a red rag in NAM and our ability to be helpful in formulating U.S. policies gives us an advantage. No NAM country may agree to isolate Pakistan, but the NAM forum will be an effective instrument to project our anti-terrorist sentiments.

NAM is particularly important in elections at the UN, including the possible identification of new permanent members of the Security Council. The NAM position may not be decisive, but in the normal process of consultations, every grouping will get its own weightage and it is convenient to have a lobby behind us. NAM today, like the Commonwealth has always been, is a heritage we need not discard.

About NAM
The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is a group of states which are not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc. As of 2012, the movement has 120 members.

The organization was founded in Belgrade in 1961, and was largely conceived by India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru; Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno; Egypt’s second president, Gamal Abdel Nasser; Ghana’s first president Kwame Nkrumah; and Yugoslavia’s president, Josip Broz Tito. All five leaders were prominent advocates of a middle course for states in the AnchorDeveloping World between the Western and Eastern Blocs in the Cold War.