Address by VASUNDHARA RAJE, Minister of State for External Affairs of India
Delivered to the General Debate at the Ministerial Meeting of the Non-Aligned Coordinating Bureau, Cartagena De Indias, Colombia, May 19, 1998
Mr. Chairman, it is my privilege to address you as the representative of the new government of India. My country, which is a founder member of this great movement, has been unwavering in its deep commitment to non-alignment and friendly relations with all. The new Indian Government will strengthen this time-tested tradition. I want to thank the Government of Colombia, and through them the people of Colombia and Cartagena, for their warm hospitality. The name "Cartagena de Indias" evokes memories of the country to which I belong. The early explorers believed they had discovered India. Today, your country is leading the non-aligned in a new quest.
Could I also congratulate you on your assumption of the post of Foreign Minister, and ask you to convey our good wishes to your predecessor, who assisted President Samper so ably in leading the Movement.
For much of history, international relations were determined by the interests of the powerful. The Non-Aligned Movement represented a departure from this paradigm. It gave political space to the developing countries to exercise independence and the freedom of choice they attained after long years of struggle. The international context in which the Movement grew has changed. There are increased pressures to conform to a dominant creed. The new-found drive towards globalisation is used to prescribe universal models of politics and economics. Advances in technology may have created new imperatives for integration, but the message is not entirely apolitical. It reinforces the existing political hierarchy.
NAM gives expression to the impulse for democratisation of an unequal world order. Whereas there are trends to diminish the role of the U.N., founded on the principle of sovereign equality, NAM is committed to the principle of multilateralism. The Movement must work to strengthen the role of the U.N. The problems of Africa, the Middle East Peace Process, Afghanistan, global nuclear disarmament, the problems of drugs and terrorism, development, debt, international trade, environment and volatile capital flows, as the crisis in South-East Asia has shown, are some of the important issues facing us. To address them meaningfully, the Movement must maintain its cohesiveness and unity. NAM has a distinctive world-view. This must be preserved. Diversion of the focus from international issues to bilateral differences will weaken the Movement and distort its priorities. The eleventh Summit in Colombia gave a new direction to the Movement at a critical point in its life. As we prepare for the next Summit at Durban, we must review the progress made so far and chart the course for the future.
Mr. Chairman, I had wanted to speak only on the issues that face the Movement between now and Durban, but I think that my fellow Ministers and others would want to know why my government took the enormously difficult decision last week to conduct nuclear tests, when for over forty years, India, with the other countries that founded this Movement, has taken the lead in appealing to the nuclear weapon states to abjure nuclear weapons, and to agree to eliminate them. Why then have we now carried out these tests? Does this mean that India advocates disarmament and pursues something different? I want to answer these questions.
I wish to recall, Mr. Chairman, that we were among the fast to propose, and continue to promote, the goal of general and complete disarmament, and the elimination of all nuclear weapons. To this end, we have made a series of concrete proposals for the consideration of the international community, and the nuclear weapon states in particular. Every one of these has been thwarted and distorted for their own purposes by the nuclear weapon states. It is often forgotten that India inscribed nonproliferation on the agenda of the United Nations, and then, with a few others, proposed a non-proliferation treaty; again, we had in mind a treaty that would …