Saturday, April 25, 2015

Bandung Asian-Africa Conference

The Asian-African conference held in April 1955 was an important milestone on the road to the formation of the non-aligned movement six years later. Asian-African leaders met in Indonesia this week to mark the 60th anniversary of this landmark event.

Pre-Bandung Era

The new spirit of anti-colonialism and co-operation between newly emerging states received a boost at the Asian Relations Conference of 1947 held in India. The future prime minister of Ceylon, Mr. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike spoke of the conference being the “beginning of something much greater-a federation of free and equal Asiatic countries, working not merely for our own advantage but for the progress and peace of all mankind”. This was the common aspiration of the main participants of this conference.

Ceylon played a vital role in organizing the conference of the Colombo Powers in 1954, where the holding of an Asian-African conference of emergent countries were discussed for the first time. Indonesian Prime Minister Dr. Sastromidjojo was the chief exponent of this idea. “Where do we stand now? We, the people of Asia, in this world of ours today?” was the question he posed at the gathering. At this time, the principals of mutual co-operation and non alignment with the two power blocs were popular policies in many newly emerged nations. But a more cohesive agreement between these states was envisioned by the exponents of these ideas.

On December 28-29, 1954, another conference was held at Bogor, Indonesia, as a prelude to the larger conference to be held the following year. This was to decide upon whom to invite for the Bandung conference and to agree on an agenda. The conference was to be held on April 18-24, 1955.


Most of the then independent nations in Asia-numbering 23-took part in the conference, including Indonesia, India, Ceylon, Burma, Peoples Republic of China (PRC) and Pakistan. Both the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and State of Vietnam were represented but Republic of China (Taiwan) was not. The two Koreas were not represented either. Meanwhile, there were 6 African nations including Egypt, Sudan, Ghana and Ethiopia. These nations were not a cohesive group with similar agendas. They included allies of both power blocs and also nations advocating non alignment.
Chinese Premier Zhou En-lai at Bandung (Photo: CCTV)

The participation of the PRC was vital because of several factors. PRC was hostile towards the West and clearly was an ally of the Soviet Union. But she was the most populous country in the world and had traditional ties with many Asian nations. Premier Zhou En-lai had survived an assassination attempt on his way to the conference by the sheer chance of changing his plans and visiting Burma at the last moment to meet Burmese, Indian and Egyptian leaders, thus missing the plane he intended to travel. Despite the fact that there were several pro-Western nations at Bandung, the Chinese were quite conciliatory in their attitude, may be intending to bolster their international image by being so. To a large extent they succeeded and it contributed to lessen the diplomatic isolation of the PRC over the next few years.

Main Points of Discussion

There were three committees appointed to discuss the political, economic and cultural affairs. The discussions focused on important matters such as economic and cultural cooperation, human rights and right to self-determination, promotion of world peace and international cooperation. The promotion of a foreign policy based on the Panchaseela Principles agreed upon by China and India was an important development in the conference.

At the end of the conference, despite the differences, all countries agreed upon a 10 point declaration <> on promotion of world peace and cooperation. Incorporating the principals of the United Nations Charter, it focused on respect to fundamental human rights, territorial integrity and equality of all nations, the right of the nations to defend themselves, non involvement in power blocs, settlement of international disputes through peaceful means and mutual cooperation among nations.

After Bandung

Even though some participants remained allied to the power blocs, the non-aligned policy in foreign affairs enjoyed widespread support among the newly emerging nations. This ultimately led to the birth of the non-aligned movement (NAM) in 1961.

In 2005, a second Bandung conference was held to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first conference.

No comments:

Post a Comment