A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The First NAM Summit, Bandung 1955: Nasser Takes the World Stage

India's Nehru, Ghana's Nkrumah, Nasser, 
Indonesia's Sukarno, Yugoslavia's Tito in Bandung 1955
In his speech at the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran, Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi (who, as a Muslim Brotherhood member, is no admirer of Gamal Abdel Nasser), acknowledged Egypt's role in the founding of the Non-Aligned Movement, which also marked Nasser's emergence onto the world stage as a vocal opponent of colonialism.

At the founding summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Bandung, Indonesia in 1955, Nasser joined with leadrrs of the "Non-Aligned" states — what we would come to call the Third World — to create a supposed middle ground between the West and the Communist Bloc (though the presence of Communist Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai led the West to suspect it as a Communist front). Nasser, who had only fully supplanted Muhammad Naguib the year before, had not played a major role in the international limelight before, though in the next few years he would emerge as the leader of the Arab world. With the host, Indonesia's Sukarno,  Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Yugoslavia's Tito, and Zhou, Nasser became a spokesman for the non-European states emerging from colonial rule. The following year, he would nationalize the Suez Canal and face Britain, France and Israel in the Suez War.
Nasser at Bandung
The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) may seem rather outdated so long after the collapse of the Soviet Bloc, and the end of conventional colonialism. But in 1955 the idea was a popular one in the countries that had recently emerged as independent states. It helped propel Nasser to popularity not merely in the Arab sworld but among the other Non-Aligned leaders.

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