Part 1 Introduction:

Asia – Pacific Region Forges Ahead

    Asia – Pacific Region is a vast area embracing the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf and 42 littoral states. One third of the world’s population lives in this “politically turbulent area.” Despite end of the bipolarity, and the super power rivalry, external interference has not ceased.

During the colonial period it was  a “ great game “ for the occupation of central Asia including Afghanistan between the Tsarist empire and the British  Empire with the latter occupying the Indian sub – continent . Although Tsarist Empire reached the border of Afghanistan but failed to occupy Afghanistan during the Soviet – times. British forces made three attempts on Afghanistan but had to retreat. After 9/11 NATO forces under U.S. command entered Afghanistan in 2002 and for the last ten years bogged down unable to extricate itself.

    On the onset of anti – colonial freedom struggle all over the world, the most significant was the India’s movement for independence. In the early stages of 1920s there was no coherent, coordinated struggle. No doubt the Indian National Congress which was a pioneer Organisation had been using available avenues within the British administrative system to achieve self – rule. In addition there were revolutionary and extreme groups who took up arms to overthrow the colonial rule. But these groups were not unified under single leadership and were confined to few pockets.

     With Mahatma Gandhi taking the leadership of the Indian National Congress after his arrival from South Africa, the situation took a rapid change Mahatma Gandhi’s method of struggle was “Ahimsa “(Non- Violence). Despite many obstacles and challenges, Non –violence movement caught up among the Indian people and it penetrated even to the remotest corner of India. After the end of Second World War, the British agreed to transfer power to the Indian leadership but with two countries – India and Pakistan. The partition created havoc but still the two Nations could not create stability which affects not only the two countries, but the whole of South Asia.

    On the other hand China which was the largest country in the world in terms of  population, although not a colony, but remained weak easily accessible to “ predators “ who carved out extra – territorial rights; Japanese ,  British , American and French ,all had their territorial carving from the Chinese mainland. In fact the Japanese imperialism occupied the whole of Manchuria and had long wars with China. French had already established its empire in the countries of Indo – China (Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos).

 British had cajoled to surrender Hongkong. Imperial Russia had its own hegemony in the northern parts. While French used Indo- China to reach China, British used Hong Kong for extra – territorial rights.

      By 1950’s many of the countries of the Asia Pacific Region achieved independence except the countries of Indo – China – Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos .With French withdrawal after the defeat in the “ Battle of Dien Bien Phu” the U.S. entered the Indo – China war in defense of South Vietnam and other territories from the “ expansion of      communism .” In South Vietnam an interim government was formed by the revolutionary forces to resist the intransigence of American atrocities in South Vietnam combined with the puppet – regime. During this period, the war in Korea ended in 1953 with an armistice. But a treaty was never signed thereby a leaving a tense situation in Korean peninsula up to now.

    Reconstruction and development was a heavy task for the new rulers of independent countries. They had to overcome enormous illiteracy, backwardness, poverty and absence of infra-structure. Priority had to be given to agricultural development for adequate food production, health and education. Some of these countries were not in a position to undertake these heavy tasks by themselves without outside assistance .A huge country like India was preparing for such a situation before the transfer of power. The interim leader of the Indian movement Shree Javharlal Nehru accordingly convened a conference in New Delhi known as Asian Relations Conference in 1947. The leaders of the newly liberated countries and others who were leading the freedom movement were invited for the Delhi Conference. The main purpose of the conference was to discuss ways and means to achieve independent economic development and international cooperation among the countries. This was considered the pioneer conference convened by the post – colonial leaders. In China, the revolutionary forces under the leadership of Mao Tsetung and the communist party of China gained power in 1949 and established the Peoples Republic China with Chow En-Lai as the Prime Minister. India was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relationship with China and becoming close friends. As a Charisthmatic leader, Chow –En-Lai exerted tremendous goodwill in the region.

    With the above background , the then Prime Minister of Ceylon (Srilanka) which became independent in 1948 ,convened a conference in Colombo with the five leaders in the region –Nehru (India) U. Nu ( Burma ); Ali Sastroamidjojo (Indonesia) Mohamed Ali ( Pakistan )and Sir John Kotalawala ( Ceylon ). The conference came to be known as Colombo powers. Under the patronage of Colombo powers, “Colombo Plan “was initiated for closer cooperation and development of the newly independent countries.

   In 1950 January 26, India declared a Republic within the British Commonwealth of Nations thereby exerting greater influence in the former colonies.

1- In 1954 September, Colombo powers held a two – day meeting at “Bogor”, holiday resort of Indonesia known as Little Geneva, 40 miles from Jakarta on the hills to discuss about the proposed Afro – Asian Conference. There were two Specific questions – the agenda for the Afro – Asian Conference and who should be the invitees. It has already been suggested that Afro –Asian conference should discuss three topics.

(1) Mutual Economic and Cultural Cooperation.
(2) Endeavour for World Peace and lessening of international tensions caused by the cold war between the American led Western camp and Russian led Communist camp.
(3) General deprecation of Colonialism, wherever it is found in the world today.

     One of the big questions facing the delegates is whether Communist China can be invited to an Afro – Asian Conference. On Indian initiative especially by the Prime Minister Sri Javharlal Nehru the Colombo Powers decided to convene a conference in Bandung in Indonesia to include African states to enhance their liberation movement and bring the two continents of Asia and Africa closer. In Asia the colonial war in Indo –China intensified and the liberation movement was gaining ground. In the Bandung Conference held in 1955, all the prominent leaders of both the continents were well represented .In addition Prime Minister Nehru persuaded to invite Chinese Premier Chow Enlai to the conference despite opposition from the Ceylon Premier SirJohn Kotalawala .

     The Bandung Conference of 1955 was a historical event. It heralded a new era of Afro – Asian Solidarity. The leaders unanimously decided to extend support to the liberation movements in Africa and Asia including material support such as arms and also education and health facilities. India had agreed to provide scholarship to Asian and Africans students to pursue higher studies in Indian universities. The Soviet Union which was very close to the African Liberation movements trained their cadres in the Soviet Union.

It provided arms to the liberation movements and also educational facilities Large number of African students were regularly flown to the Soviet Union and other socialist countries for their education. China’s participation had opened up the new Peoples Republic of China to the outside world. Special aid was provided to the Peoples Republic of Vietnam and also to the provisional Revolutionary government in South Vietnam. Both North Vietnam and the Provisional Revolutionary government were recognized as the only legitimate governments representing Vietnam and were invited to the Bandung Conference. One of the most important decisions was to set up a movement on the principles not aligning with any of the super power blocs and free from providing military bases. Accordingly in 1960 at the conference in Belgrade Non – Aligned Movement was formed.

The Bandung Conference of 1955 generated a new philosophy among the Afro – Asian countries both independent and colonies. The Civil Society movements took a special interest in popularizing this new concept came to be known as “Bandung Spirit.” It became a “clarion call” of the Afro – Asian people for close unity to resist the hegemony of the colonial powers. The newly independent Asian countries were in the leadership in carrying forward their doctrine. The civil Society in India formed two popular movements – “All India Peace Council” and Indian peoples’ Solidarity Organisation.”

   Subsequently these two movements forged together to be  known as All India Peace and Solidarity Organisation .The leadership of this Organisation was instrumented in contacting similar African movements for closer solidarity action.

     The President of the Indian Peace and Solidarity Movement Srimathi Ramesvari Nehru visited Egypt and met President Gamal Abdul Nasser and discussed about the need for a common civil society movement to support and strengthen the solidarity between Africa and Asia. President Nasser welcomed this idea and along with the Egyptian National Committee fully supported in setting up the centre of such a movement should be in Cairo and accordingly conference was called at the end of December 1957 in Cairo and in January 1958 and Afro – Asian Peoples’ Solidarity Organisation was officially inaugurated with the Permanent Secretariat in Cairo.