Tuesday, Feb 25, 2003
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By P.S. Suryanarayana
The NAM leaders were exhorted to oppose what he saw as an imminent war against Iraq in the dual context of the U.S. campaigns against terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. Maintaining that the threat of war should not be allowed to hang over the NAM's head as the "Sword of Damocles,'' the new Chairman argued that the "enforcement'' of a ban on war, as suggested by him, must be left to "multilateral forces under the control of the United Nations.''
Delivering an impassioned speech during the inaugural session of the 13th NAM summit here, he did not address the magnitude of the agenda he sought to sensitise the NAM to. It was either an intended irony or an incidental episode that he called upon the NAM, which has in its fold both India and Pakistan as two member-States with nuclear arsenals, to take the initiative for banishing atomic weapons, according to some delegates. Most of them were struck by the sheer stridency of the Malaysian leader's anti-war case in the present context of a highly surcharged globalised campaign against terrorism. Also noticed was his strategy of equating the concerns of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) with those of the wider NAM itself.
Suggesting a creative NAM campaign for "a new world order,'' as different from his calls for constructive opposition to war and weapons, Dr. Mahathir urged the disarmament hawks of the non-aligned fold to join hands with the peace activists of the West. Noting that the NAM was aware of its weaknesses, he said "we have allies (too) in the (developed) North.'' These ``allies'' across the divide "may not agree with us (on) everything.''
However, "they are ready to oppose their warlike leaders'' and "we must work with them.'' Outlining a very expansive NAM agenda, he said: "We must work for a new world order, where democracy is not confined to the internal governance of states only but (also) to the governance of the world.''
Emphasised, too, were the goal of a "revival of the United Nations and multilateralism'' and the need to dismantle or "modify the powers of the victors of a war fought half a century ago.''
Picking up from where he had left off during Sunday's NAM Business Summit, he amplified the dangers of an evolving ``clash of civilisations.'' Blurring the definitive distinction between the NAM and the OIC, he said the ``blatant double standards'' of the West on issues concerning Israel and the Palestinians "infuriates Muslims, infuriates them to the extent of launching their own terror attacks.''
On a more contemporary issue, he said: "If Iraq is linked to the Al-Qaeda, is it not more logical to link the expropriation of Palestinian land and the persecution and oppression of the Palestinians with September 11 (terrorist attacks)? It is not religious differences which (had) angered the attackers of the World Trade Center in New York. It is simply sympathy and anger over ... the injustice and the oppression of the Palestinians and Muslims everywhere.''
``If the innocent people who died in the (post-September 11) attack on Afghanistan and those who have been dying for lack of food and medical care in Iraq are considered collaterals, are not the 3,000 who died in New York and the 200 in Bali (terrorist attack last October) are also just collaterals whose deaths are necessary for the operations to succeed'' in the campaign against those perceived to oppress the "Palestinians and Muslims everywhere,'' Dr. Mahathir asked.
While several NAM delegates noted the manner in which he chose to integrate the OIC's world-view with that of the NAM, it was also noticed that he did not mention Kashmir, an invariable subject on the OIC's table.
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