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The NAM strike-back at the global NPT regime

Updated On: Jun 02, 2006

While Western countries (US and the EU-3, Britain, France and Germany) from the ‘North’ are creating waves with re-energising diplomacy to limit Iran’s nuclear programme and shaping the global Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) from the ‘South’ has rallied forward as a formidable undercurrent with counter-discursive agendas. 

The NAM Ministerial Meeting of the G-77 on May 29-30 has declared a hotly-debated separate statement – as earlier requested by Iran and subsequently approved by members of NAM – on the latter’s nuclear issues.

The joint statement offered implicit support for Iran’s nuclear programme by maintaining that all nations should have “basic and inalienable rights” to develop research, production and use atomic energy for peaceful purposes, and that any attacks or threat of attacks against peaceful nuclear facilities will pose a great danger to man and environment.

Thailand Foreign Minister Dr Kantathi Suphamongkhon reiterated the NAM sentiment at a sideline interview when he stated that all parties to the NPT – of whichIran is a member – must be allowed to produce nuclear energy.

NAM’s assertions should not be underestimated, as they are indicative of developments in the current face of energy geopolitics that bears the following three characteristics: “tectonic” shifts in diplomacies and in the world energy balance, emergence of new regional players, and embracing of nuclear power as an energy alternative. Such scenarios also undermine the North Atlantic hegemonic influence over the global NPT regime and US oil interests in the Middle East.

Growing from 25 states in 1961 to 116 today with recent memberships of Dominica and Antigua and Barbardos along with an expansion of issue coverage from human rights, terrorism to nuclear energy advancement, NAM accounts for two-thirds of the United Nations from Asia to Africa and Latin America, including all of US adversaries such as Iran and North Korea.

The Muslim-West divide is also apparent from the energy geopolitical tension. Malaysia’s Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, whose country holds the current NAMchairmanship (until Cuba takes over this September), also serves as the chairman of the Organisation of Islamic Conference, the main grouping of Muslim nations. On the same day the NAM Ministerial Meeting concluded, PM Badawi delivered a speech at a regional security conference in Kuala Lumpur, from which he warned of the West's double standards over Israel's nuclear weapons vis-à-vis Iran's.

Elsewhere, Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Indonesia on May 9 and the latter country’s hosting of the Fifth Developing Eight (D-8) Summit – a dominantly Muslim country grouping of Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey – on May 13, witnessed the endorsement of nuclear energy use for peaceful purposes.

New regional players are announcing plans to ‘go nuclear’, such as Indonesia (by 2015), Vietnam (by 2020), and more recently, Australia.  Efforts to embrace nuclear power as an energy alternative are in part due to rising global oil prices, the growing need to reduce carbon emissions, and cracks in the NPT regime as prompted by the US-India nuclear deal controversy. These developments also indicate that NAM’s counter-discursive assertions are by no means new but pave the way and offer impetus to them.

The stresses and strains of rapidly changing global (nuclear) energy geopolitics such as that brought about by NAM may have led the US to announce a major policy shift on May 31 to join EU-3 in direct nuclear talks with Iran if the latter suspends its uranium enrichment programme. US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will also visit Indonesia next week to discuss the Iranian nuclear dispute among other issues – a move that can be interpreted as US attempt to re-exert pressure on the region.

Sources:

Calculating the costs of nuclear energy (The Southeast Asian Times/VNS, 9 April 2006)

Energy crisis? Nuke it (The Straits Times, 29 April 2006)

RI to push for resolution on nuclear energy usage (Jakarta Post, 9 May 2006)

Balancing game for RI over Iran's nuclear program? (Jakarta Post, 11 May 2006)

D-8 OKs peaceful use of nuclear energy (Jakarta Post, 14 May 2006)

Jakarta revives N-power plan (The Straits Times, 19 May 2006)

PM says Australia may develop nuclear power (Reuters/ The Straits Times, 20 May 2006)

NPT Members Have Right To Produce Nuclear Energy, Says Thailand (Bernama, 29 May 2006)

Iran Wants Separate Statement On Nuke Issue (Bernama, 29 May 2006)

Non-aligned states support Iran nuke position (Reuters/ The Straits Times, 30 May 2006)

NAM ministerial meeting concludes in Malaysia (Indo Asian News Service, 30 May 2006)

Abdullah calls upon west and Muslims to bridge a widening gulf (South China Morning Post, 31 May 2006)

From KL To Havana -- Pushing The NAM People's Agenda (Bernama, 31 May 2006)

Rumsfeld to visit Indonesia next week (Jakarta Post, 31 May 2006)

US sets conditions for joining Iran talks (Reuters/The Straits Times, 1 June 2006)