From D. Arul Rajoo
BAKU, Oct 25 -- The 18th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit opened Friday in this capital city of Azerbaijan, gathering the leaders of more than 120 member countries at a time when the world faces new challenges including a trade war.
At this summit, Azerbaijan, helmed by President Ilham Aliyev, takes over the chairmanship of NAM for the next three years from Venezuela.
Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is among more than 20 top leaders attending the two-day summit being held at the Baku Congress Centre.
Upon arrival at the centre, Dr Mahathir exchanged greetings with Ilham and joined the other leaders at the opening ceremony.
The ceremony started with the observation of a minute’s silence in memory of the leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement who had died since the Caracas Ministerial Meeting. Then followed the report by Venezuela on the activities of NAM in the 2016-2019 period, after which Ilham gave his opening address.
The summit was preceded by the preparatory Senior Officials' Meeting (SOM) on Oct 21 and 22 and the preparatory Ministerial Meeting on Oct 23 and 24.
Dr Mahathir, who last attended a NAM summit when Malaysia hosted it in 2003, will participate in the general debate on the summit theme of Upholding the Bandung Principles to Ensure Concerted and Adequate Response to the Challenges of the Contemporary World.
He is expected to touch on the plight of the Palestinian people, trade wars and the need for NAM members to remain united.
The premier, who arrived in the Azerbaijan capital last night, is scheduled to meet several leaders attending the two-day summit, among them Pakistan President Arif Alvi and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.
Azerbaijan, which became a full-fledged member of NAM in May 2011, joins the list of countries which have hosted the NAM summit, namely Yugoslavia (1961), Egypt (1964), Zambia (1970), Algeria(1973), Sri Lanka (1976), Cuba (1979), India (1983), Zimbabwe (1986), Yugoslavia (1989), Indonesia (1992), Colombia (1995), South Africa (1998), Malaysia (2003), Cuba (2006), Egypt (2009), Iran (2012) and Venezuela (2016).
NAM, which had its first summit in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, in 1961, was formed at the height of the Cold War as an independent path in international politics for those countries wishing to be free from the influence of superpowers which were led by the then Soviet Union and the United States, and not becoming pawns in their ideological rivalry.
With the current 120 member countries, 17 observer countries and 10 observer organisations, NAM is the second-largest multilateral platform after the United Nations and provides a broad and inclusive platform for political consultations and practical cooperation.
The founding fathers of NAM are Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia, Jawaharlal Nehru (India), Gamal Abdel Nasser (Egypt), Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana) and Sukarno (Indonesia).
NAM has its basic concepts originating from the Asian-African Conference – also known as the Bandung Conference – held in Indonesia in 1955. It was the cornerstone for the movement’s formation later, which, among others, fought for respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations, recognition of the equality among all races and all nations and non-intervention or non-interference in the internal affairs of another country.