Afro-Asian Conference Considers Nonalignment Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

In an attempt to break free of the pervasive influence of the Cold War superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, representatives of African and Asian nations met in Bandung, Indonesia, to consider adopting formal positions of nonalignment. The Bandung Conference marked the birth of the “Third World” as a political entity and was a forum for developing nations seeking a greater voice in political, economic, and social affairs.

Summary of Event

By the mid-1950’s, the two Cold War superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, had virtually forced most nations, including the poorer nations of the Third World, to align themselves politically, economically, and often militarily with one or the other. The existence of the Warsaw Pact Warsaw Pact bloc, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) proved the attractiveness of aligning one’s government with one of the superpowers. At the same time, however, the disbanding of the European colonial systems of Britain, France, the Netherlands, and Belgium saw the birth of numerous new countries, most of which were highly nationalistic, poor, and fiercely independent. These nations often felt that neither the United States nor the Soviet Union showed sufficient concern for their interests. They felt that the same attitude was displayed by the European powers, which were only now beginning to divest themselves of their colonial empires. Largely at the insistence of the “Colombo Group” Colombo Group (a group of Third World countries that had recently won independence), as well as the urging of Indonesia, Ceylon, Egypt, India, Pakistan, and Burma, the Asian-African, or Bandung, Conference was organized by Indonesian foreign minister Ruslan Abdulgani, with the backing of Indonesian president Sukarno. Bandung Conference (1955) Nonaligned Movement Cold War;nonaligned nations Asian-African Conference (1955)[Asian-African Conference] Afro-Asian Conference (1955)[AfroAsian Conference] Developing nations [kw]Afro-Asian Conference Considers Nonalignment (Apr. 18-24, 1955)[AfroAsian Conference Considers Nonalignment] [kw]Conference Considers Nonalignment, Afro-Asian (Apr. 18-24, 1955) [kw]Nonalignment, Afro-Asian Conference Considers (Apr. 18-24, 1955)[Nonalignment, AfroAsian Conference Considers] Bandung Conference (1955) Nonaligned Movement Cold War;nonaligned nations Asian-African Conference (1955)[Asian-African Conference] Afro-Asian Conference (1955)[AfroAsian Conference] Developing nations [g]Southeast Asia;Apr. 18-24, 1955: Afro-Asian Conference Considers Nonalignment[04820] [g]Indonesia;Apr. 18-24, 1955: Afro-Asian Conference Considers Nonalignment[04820] [c]Cold War;Apr. 18-24, 1955: Afro-Asian Conference Considers Nonalignment[04820] [c]Diplomacy and international relations;Apr. 18-24, 1955: Afro-Asian Conference Considers Nonalignment[04820] [c]United Nations;Apr. 18-24, 1955: Afro-Asian Conference Considers Nonalignment[04820] Sukarno Abdulgani, Ruslan Zhou Enlai Nehru, Jawaharlal Nasser, Gamal Abdel [p]Nasser, Gamal Abdel;Cold War Thant,U [p]Thant, U;Nonaligned Movement Sihanouk, Norodom

From April 18 to 24, 1955, representatives of twenty-nine countries from Asia and Africa met in Bandung, Indonesia, to discuss their intentions to form a nonaligned movement of closely bonded member states, in the style of the Warsaw Pact and NATO. These newly developing nations expressed their desire to work with other nations in peace and to reject direct alignment with either the United States or the Soviet Union. Many of the most important political leaders of the twentieth century attended the Bandung Conference, including Indonesian president Sukarno, Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Chinese premier Zhou Enlai, future secretary-general of the United Nations U Thant of Burma, Prince Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia, and Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Among the most memorable discourses pronounced at the conference were those of President Sukarno, who first addressed the delegates, and the closing speech given by Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, which many believe to be his finest. Nehru sought to build on diplomatic advances that had already been achieved at a meeting in New Delhi in 1954 between representatives of India and the People’s Republic in China, in which both countries had agreed to the “Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence,” Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence which included:

mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty

nonaggression

noninterference in each other’s internal affairs

equality and mutual benefit

peaceful coexistence and peaceful settlement of disputes

Prime Minister Zhou Enlai of the People’s Republic of China China;Nonaligned Movement (so-called Communist China)—who had narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in Hong Kong on his way to Bandung—represented his nation in this, its first foray into international diplomacy. Zhou spoke so eloquently and performed so brilliantly that, as a result of this one gathering, Communist China made significant inroads into the political landscape of the Third World. Zhou—for the first time meeting President Nasser and potentially hostile representatives from pro-Western nations such as India, Japan, Pakistan, and Thailand—adroitly persuaded them of the intention of the People’s Republic of China’s to apply the Five Principles in affairs with all foreign governments, particularly with its Asian neighbors. Within two years of the conference, Egypt Egypt;Nonaligned Movement had established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. President Nasser, a committed socialist, was so affected by his meeting with Zhou and the events at Bandung that he allowed the Chinese to use his nation as a base for their diplomatic and cultural operations on the African continent.

While attempting not to favor or antagonize either the United States or the Soviet Union, the nations assembled declared that “colonialism in all its manifestations is an evil which should be speedily brought to an end” and unanimously adopted a ten-point “Declaration on Promotion of World Peace and Cooperation,” based on the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence and on the provisions of the United Nations United Nations;Nonaligned Movement Charter. The final communiqué of the attending nations expressed their desire to work for closer cultural, technical, and political cooperation and declared their intention to establish regional training and research facilities. The members proclaimed that membership in the United Nations should be universal, as should be nuclear disarmament. They also expressed their support for human rights and self-determination, and they resolved to meet again, as a group, in the near future.

Significance

The Bandung Conference was the first international meeting in which the poor developing nations gathered together as a political entity. Henceforth, all the world powers would have to consider the “Third World” when making international decisions. The Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence established at New Delhi were expanded into the Ten Principles Ten Principles of Peaceful Coexistence of the final Bandung communiqué and served into the twenty-first century as the basis of the foreign policies of many Asian and African countries.

As a direct result of the Bandung meeting, the gathered nations went on to establish the Nonaligned Movement in 1961. From the perspective of the Cold War, the People’s Republic of China gained enormous international stature by playing a leading role in the formation of the Five Principles and then the Ten Principles. By distancing itself from the United States and the Soviet Union, and by defining itself as a “developing nation,” the People’s Republic of China positioned itself as an alternative leader for Third World countries seeking to extract themselves from the competition between the two superpowers for world hegemony. At the same time, the Chinese gained enormous influence in Asia and, especially, in Africa. The gathered nations spoke of following the “Bandung spirit,” a policy of peaceful cooperation based on the Ten Principles. The People’s Republic of China would continue to pursue a foreign policy known as the “Bandung Line,” Bandung Line which sought to garner international favor through conciliation, understanding, and cooperation. Bandung Conference (1955) Nonaligned Movement Cold War;nonaligned nations Asian-African Conference (1955)[Asian-African Conference] Afro-Asian Conference (1955)[AfroAsian Conference] Developing nations

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Ampiah, Kweku. The Political and Moral Imperatives of the Bandung Conference of 1955: The Reactions of the U.S., U.K. and Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2007. Making use of the primary sources available fifty years after the conference, Ampiah reevaluates the meetings, with particular attention paid to external geopolitical influences as seen through three case studies involving the United States, the United Kingdom, and Japan.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Brzezinski, Zbigniew. Africa and the Communist World. Stanford, Calif.: Hoover Institution/Stanford University Press, 1963. Incisive scholarly study of the great importance of the Bandung Conference to Third World diplomacy, showing how the Bandung agreements shaped the foreign policies of various nations. Thorough subject index with comprehensive notes.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Macfarquhar, Roderick, and John K. Fairbank, eds. The People’s Republic, Part I: Emergence of Revolutionary China, 1949-1965. Vol. 14 in The Cambridge History of China. 1987. Reprint. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995. Brief but complete study of the Asian-African meeting, with particular emphasis on its significance for Chinese international relations. Excellent bibliography and notes.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Mackie, J. A. C. Bandung 1955: Non-alignment and Afro-Asian Solidarity. Singapore: Éditions Didier Millet, 2005. A specialist in Indonesian politics and history describes the 1955 conference. Maps, bibliographical references, index.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Mullen, Bill V. Afro-Orientalism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004. A study of the influence of the Asian-African meeting and the thought of various American scholars such as W. E. B. Du Bois, Robert F. Williams, Richard Wright, and Fred Ho. Thorough subject index and an ample bibliography.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Wright, Richard, et al. The Color Curtain: A Report on the Bandung Conference. 1956. Reprint. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 1995. An early scholarly examination of the work of the Bandung meeting, with insightful analysis of the relevance of race to Third World government and policy.

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