Statement by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh at Asian-African Conference

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    It is an honour to participate in the 50th anniversary of the Asian-African Conference. We salute President Yudhoyono and President Mbeki for piloting this great initiative. I also thank the government and people of Indonesia for their warm hospitality.

    Today we commemorate the internationalism of visionary leaders of Africa and Asia such as Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, President Sukarno, Premier Zhou Enlai, President Gamal Abdul Nasser, Prime Minister U-NU, Prince Sihanouk, and Prime Minister Pham Van Dong.

    These celebrations prove that the Bandung spirit remains a source of inspiration. Speaking for India, it is a particular pleasure to recall the mutually enriching encounters between our peoples over the millennia and to invoke the shared vision of these great leaders, committed to creating an Afro- Asian identity.

    The Bandung Conference inherited the mantle of the Asian Relations Conference of 1947 and the Conference of Asian and African Nations of 1949. Our first Prime Minister was closely associated with these events. The ten principles emerging from Bandung inspired the Non-Aligned movement, which is one of the greatest peace movements ever.

    Mr. Chairman and Excellencies, at the Asian Relations Conference in 1947 Nehru said that “ we stand at the end of an era and on the threshold of a new period in history”. Mr. Chairman, we too stand at a similar cusp of change. Barring the brave Palestinian people, most peoples on our two continents have achieved freedom or statehood. The world has changed dramatically these past decades. Colonialism and apartheid have been comprehensively defeated.

    Today, a new cooperative global structure is within our reach. The proliferation of regional associations promises considerable benefits through mutual cooperation. Rapid economic development and technological progress are generating unprecedented changes.
    Although mass poverty still afflicts millions in Africa and Asia, most countries experiencing growth in excess of 5% per annum are in these two continents. We live in a world of falling barriers to trade and rising living standards.

    Mr. Chairman Sir,

    Ours is a world of unprecedented connectivity. Thanks to the communication and information technology revolutions, distances has lost its old meaning. Fifty years after Bandung 1955, we meet in a smaller and more integrated world. Migration and more open economies are creating multi-cultural societies. Globalization enables instant availability of information and freer competition for opportunities.

    It is not coincidental that increasing openess, democracy and social awareness follow the process of globalization. Recent advances in science and technology provides us unparalleled instrumentalities to combat age-old problems of poverty, ignorance and disease. Properly managed, globalization can effect a significant improvement in the human condition in the span of a single generation.

    However, along with the opportunities, globalization brings with it new challenges. The globalization of disease and insecurity, and the management of scarce natural resources are challenges posed by HIV-AIDS and terrorism. All require a global approach and a global solution. A cooperative and consensual international security order eludes us, and its consequence is insecurity, not common security.

    Increased competition – internal and external – helps those who are strong enough to benefit from the new opportunities. However, it can hurt those who are ill-equipped to face the challenges of competition. We must adopt concerted measures, both at the national and the international level, for an equitable management of increased global interdependence of nations. At the national level, the state must be modernized to create an environment conducive to creativity and growth and also to ensure that the fruits of growth are fairly and equitably distributed.

    At the global level, we must devise instrumentalities to deal with imbalances built into the functioning of the international political and economic order. We should aim to expand the constituency that supports process of globalization.

    Mr. Chairman Sir, to meet these challenges and constraints, we must respond in a manner worthy of the Bandung spirit. Just as that historic meeting redefined the agenda for its times, we must do so once again here today. The declaration on a new Asian African Strategic Partnership outlines guiding principles for joint action to achieve our goals in a changed global environment.

    It must awaken a global conscience that recognizes the moral imperatives of social justice, poverty alleviation and the core elements of our millennium development goals. We must create new structures of mutual support, solidarity and cooperation to benefit from best practices and appropriate technologies amongst us. This is required as urgently today, as it was fifty years ago.

    Mr. Chairman Sir, in this spirit, let me outline the specific areas where such cooperation is vital.

    • We must strive to evolve formulae to phase out trade – distorting agricultural subsidies in developed countries and to remove barriers to our agricultural exports, while protecting the livelihood security of millions of farmers.
    • We need a lowering of tariff and non tariff barriers to our other exports. Rigid visa restrictions continue to obstruct the free movement of our people and services, depriving us full benefit form our own economic strength. We need greater protection for our bio-diversity resources and fair recompense for their exploitation by others.
    • We understand and appreciate the international concern for the protection of the environment, which we fully share. However this goal needs to be balanced with the development aspirations of the developing nations. We need assured access to environment–friendly technologies and the resources to induct them into our systems.
    • We also need urgent measures to generate additional financial resources for development, especially for the least developed countries and the highly indebted poor countries.
    • We must ensure that access to both new and appropriate technologies and to the cutting edge areas of science and technology are expanded greatly amongst us. Advances in biotechnology can promote revolutionary changes in agriculture and health care systems. While our continents include both major producer and consumers of energy, the framework within which we produce and consume energy is determined elsewhere.
    • We must address this anomaly. Similarly, new and renewable sources of energy can provide a more secure energy environment. Further more, in this information age, imaginative strategies of human resources development based on information and communication technology can greatly accelerate the pace of social and economic development. Afro- Asian nations can benefit from cooperative management of research and development in these areas.


    Our countries have our own distinct perspectives on measures to combat international terrorism which has emerged as a major global problem. We are well equipped to initiate and sustain meaningful “dialogue among civilizations”, instead of subscribing to the theory of the so-called clash of civilizations. Our voice must be heard in this regard.

    We account for over half of humanity and we represent a kaleidoscope of diverse cultures. Our continents bring together most of the great religions of the world. Yet we do not have commensurate voice in the International institutions of the world.

    Therefore, democratization of the United Nations and its specialized agencies must be a fundamental plank of our strategic partnership. The evolving global economy needs the guiding hand of a well managed global polity to bring about both an efficient and equitable management of global interdependence.

    Mr. Chairman Sir, to achieve these goals, our strategic partnership must be inspired by a common vision of globalization based on maximizing cooperative self reliance .It must benefit from the unique perspectives of Afro-Asian countries to our specific problems. We must ensure that in the transition from dependence to interdependence, there is a greater cohesion between the nations of Asia and Africa.

    Regrettably, South-South linkages have weakened when they are most required. India sees South–South cooperation as an effective cooperative approach to the challenges of development in this 21st century. We are committed to this objective.

    Mr. Chairman, Excellencies, Jawaharlal Nehru has said that when we march step in step with history, success will be ours. The breathtaking pace of change in our times gives us an opportunity and a responsibility to act decisively. We can transcend past rancours and take new initiatives to create new cooperative mechanisms and regional partnerships.

    In this spirit, in cooperation with our neighbour Pakistan, we have embarked upon a journey of peace and good neighbourly ties. I appreciate the positive sentiments expressed by President Pervez Musharraf yesterday which I fully reciprocate. We are sincere in our desire to resolve all issues in a mutually acceptable manner. This will surely bring benefit to our people and to our region.

    Mr. President.

    Excellencies, the Bandung Conference of 1955 followed the awakening of Asia and Africa. We meet today in similarly historic circumstances, at the threshold of change that place us centre-stage- globally.

    Let us work together to ensure that this conference will be remembered as that defining moment in world history when we establish the goal of a positive and enlightened ethic of globalization, built on democratic foundations and a genuine commitment to the cause of pluralism.

    Thank You.