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Policy shift? Modi will skip NAM meet 2nd time in row

PM Modi will skip the 18th Non-Aligned Movement summit in Baku, Azerbaijan, second time in a row. VP Venkaiah Naidu will represent India in his place. This hints at India’s transformation from a non-aligned country to one which is multi-aligned.

Oct 23, 2019, 11.13 AM IST
(This story originally appeared in on Oct 23, 2019)
New Delhi: Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu will represent India at the 18th Non-Aligned Movement summit on October 25-26 in Azerbaijan's Baku, the government announced late Tuesday.

This is the second time in a row that PM Narendra Modi will skip the summit, marking India’s transformation from a non-aligned country to one which is supposedly multi-aligned. Modi became effectively the first Indian PM to skip the meeting of heads of states and governments of NAM nations in 2016 when he gave the 17th summit, in Venezuela that year, the go-by.

While this may be yet another sign of the winds of change sweeping India’s foreign policy, it’s significant that India’s neighbours like Nepal and Bangladesh have again reposed trust in NAM with their PMs, K P Oli and Sheikh Hasina, respectively, confirming their participation. The Maldives’ foreign minister Abdulla Shahid is also attending.

At the last summit, too, India was represented by its Vice-President, Hamid Ansari.

The theme for the Baku summit is ‘Upholding the Bandung Principles to ensure concerted and adequate response to the challenges of contemporary world’.

While NAM, of which India was one of the founding nations, in the past helped deal with challenges like apartheid and colonialism, it is now increasingly seen as having outlived its usefulness. Even as it acknowledges that NAM allows member-states to pursue an independent foreign policy, the Modi government clearly believes NAM will be of little use in furthering India’s case on important issues like the menace of terrorism and UNSC reforms.

The only other Indian PM to have skipped a NAM summit was Charan Singh in 1979 but, unlike Modi, he was no more than a caretaker PM. However, as S Jaishankar said while serving as foreign secretary in 2016, blocs and alliances are less relevant today and the world is moving towards a “loosely arranged order”.

The summit, where Iran President Hassan Rouhani will also be present, will likely see Naidu again forcefully underlining India’s concerns over terrorism. India wants NAM to actually go ahead and form a working group on terror, instead of just paying lip service to the idea. As then junior foreign minister M J Akbar had said in 2016, India wants the NAM summit to take a position on terrorism which is as unambiguous as it once was on apartheid and colonialism.

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