The Revival of the New-Asian African Strategic Partnership: A Significant NAM initiative

The Non –Aligned Movement since its inception has always stood for greater cooperation among its Member States, mostly comprising those of the developing worlds in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. One of the enduring spirits of the Bandung declaration at the Bandung Conference (1955) – a watershed event in the annals of the Non- Aligned Movement – pertains to the promotion of mutual interest and cooperation among the developing countries of the world and highlights that the core principles at work in this regards are solidarity, friendship and cooperation, which continues to be a solid, relevant and effective foundation for fostering better relations among Asian and African countries and resolving global issues of common concern. The 1955 Bandung Conference remains as a beacon in guiding the future progress of Asia and Africa.
In the last century, a realization dawned upon Asian and African leaders that the global situation and conditions in Asia and Africa necessitated the need to actively pursue a common view and collective action to ensure the equitable sharing of the benefits of globalization, and as such many such initiatives towards Afro-Asian cooperation were initiated. Prominent among these was the New Asian African Strategic Partnership (NAASP) that was founded on 22–23 April 2005 by Asian and African countries for the future cooperation between the two continents. New Asian-African Strategic Partnership (NAASP) was devised as a framework to build a bridge between Asia and Africa covering three broad areas of partnership, namely political solidarity, economic cooperation, and socio-cultural relations. NAASP emphasized the need to promote practical cooperation between the two continents in areas such as trade, industry, investment, finance, tourism, information and communication technology, energy, health, transportation, agriculture, water resources and fisheries. The NAASP expanded the form of Asia-Africa engagement from merely non-aligned and anti-colonial rhetoric to broader cooperation. Since then, there have been several projects and programs under the NAASP banner, from diplomatic training and technical cooperation to a business forum.
However, in the past decade (2005-2015), according to many analysts, NAASP remained a passive actor in institutionalizing interregional ties. In 2005 NAASP agreed to hold heads of state/government summits every four years and a foreign ministerial meeting every two years, but neither actually went ahead. There were some meetings under the Asian-African Sub-Regional Organization Conference (AASROC) framework. The Commitment to the development of the NAASP has also been shared by other NAASP countries. Just to mention a few, Malaysia conducted Training Course for Diplomats in 2007 and Training Course in Disaster Management in 2008 while China held the 5th Training Program for Staff from African Chambers in 2009 and the China-Zambia Trade and Investment Forum in 2010. In spite of these, the long-term vision of this forum remained unclear and gradually the organization became a formal entity only.
However, at the 60th commemorative anniversary of the Bandung conference attended by the Non –Aligned World, NAASP underwent a revival, due to the initiatives of the NAM Member States. The proposed dynamics of the African-Asian cooperation under NAASP also underwent a significant change taking into account the current problems faced by the developing world. The Bandung 2015 declaration on reinvigorating NAASP underlined the importance of practical and sustainable cooperation based on comparative advantage, equality of partnership, common ownership and vision, as well as a firm and a shared conviction to address common challenges.
The Declaration notes that participating states are committed to “implementing ambitious goals and practical initiatives,” and calls on Ministers and officials to take the necessary actions on the eight areas of cooperation recommended at a previous NAASP Senior Officials Meeting in Jakarta in 2009, namely: counterterrorism; combating transnational organized crimes; food security; energy security; small and medium enterprises; tourism; the Asian-African Development University Network; gender equality and women empowerment. Some of these are spelt out in greater detail in later parts of the Declaration. Other areas are also mentioned that deserve note. These include climate change, infrastructure development, democracy and good governance, and peacekeeping center cooperation, particularly since more than 87% of UN peacekeeping personnel in the field come from Asian-African countries. It is imperative that the NAM member countries of Asia and Africa reinvigorate their commitment to a more inclusive, and sustainable New Asian African Strategic Partnership. The Non-Aligned Movement realizes the significance of such co-operation and as evidenced by its active role at the 2015 Bandung commemorative conference in the revival of NAASP, the movement is striving for an effective partnership between the nations of Asia and Africa.

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