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Statement by Minister of State for External Affairs, Smt. Meenakashi Lekhi at the High Level Commemorative Meeting to mark the 60th Anniversary of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)

October 11, 2021

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a pleasure to be here in Belgrade with some of India’s longest standing partners. For India, as one of the founding members of our Movement, this commemoration is all the more special. As I deliver today’s statement in my capacity as Special Envoy of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi.

2. At the outset, I thank our hosts, NAM Chair, H.E. Aliyev of Azerbaijan, and H.E. Alexsander Vučić, President of Serbia for the excellent arrangements for this event. My dear colleague Foreign Minister Nikola Selakovic of Serbia was with us in India just a few weeks ago. We value the discussions we had on our deepening traditionally close and friendly bilateral relations.

3. This moment is almost like déjà-vu moment personally for me. I can recall my own time as a young volunteer from my college during mid-80s for the NAM Youth Exchange Program in the Delhi University.

4. We are meeting during a period of many shared milestones for NAM. Last year, we also marked the 65th anniversary of the Bandung Conference’s adoption of the founding principles of our Movement.

5. Over the decades, these core NAM principles have provided potential and moral impetus for decolonization process, leading to independence of many of the countries represented in this room today. It brought to the fore an international culture of justice and peace, and an emphasis on promoting mutual interest, solidarity and respect for national sovereignty.

6. However, while we reflect on past achievements, this is equally a time for honest introspection about our Movement – what must we do to ensure the continuing relevance and influence of NAM on global outcomes?

7. Whether it is achieving 2030 developmental targets, countering the scourge of terror, combating climate change or defeating the pandemic – these are all issues which surpass our individual capacities. The way in which COVID19 pandemic has wreaked havoc across the globe has exposed the inadequacies of the multilateral system in effectively responding to perhaps the biggest challenge of contemporary times. NAM, with its diversity, shared developmental experience, and youthful and dynamic population, has the potential to take the lead and be a force for global good.

8. On our own part, we have been part of the solutions rather than the disruptions. India has supplied more than 70 million doses of vaccines to 93 countries and two UN entities including the UN Peacekeeping Force. As our own domestic requirements are going to come down by virtue of inoculating population with 940 million doses of vaccines, we will be expanding our cooperation in the field of COVID-19 vaccines, along with Cowin as an IT platform which has been made available to all or anyone seeking that support.

9. In recent past, while NAM has been effective in some areas where we have spoken in one voice to defend our interests and those of developing countries; we have increasingly become ineffective in certain other areas, particularly in tackling new and emerging challenges.

10. This is primarily due to the tendencies of some NAM members to deliberately take up divisive issues, or to use NAM platform for bilateral score-settling, thereby creating division among us. Such pursuance of partisan agenda rather than working towards strengthening our collective effort has resulted in an increasing number of Members having to disassociate themselves from NAM positions.

11. At another level, we are splitting ourselves into camps reflecting geo-political divides outside NAM rather than strengthening NAM itself to become independent pillar and influential voice in international forums. NAM was created to pursue the collective interest of developing countries. This has been our strength, but we risk becoming irrelevant if we do not check the divisive tendencies within our Movement. We also need to revisit and revitalise our methodology of discussion and decision making, following arbitrary and non-criteria based procedures will not hold us in good step.

Excellencies,

12. Whether we are willing to make compromises for the sake of our collective interests, and for the sake of effectively addressing new global challenges like the pandemic, terrorism and climate change, will finally determine whether or not NAM remains relevant in a fast challenging world.

13. Following recent developments in Afghanistan, it is absolutely imperative that the approach of the international community is guided by UN Security Council Resolution 2593, that was adopted under India’s August Presidency of the UNSC. It has clearly reaffirmed that Afghanistan soil cannot be and should not be used to mount terror attacks against any country.

14. Our founding leaders had envisaged the Non Aligned Movement as a way to carve out autonomous space on geo-political landscape for the developing countries. We need to ensure that we stay committed to that cause, so that we actually realise the aspirations of our people for socio-economic, scientific and technological development.

I thank you Mr. President.

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