Friday 24 April 2015

1955 Bandung meet with Africa 'inspired struggles for nationhood': PM Lee

Africa contributed to Singapore's fight for independence
By Zakir Hussain, Deputy Political Editor In Jakarta, The Straits Times, 23 Apr 2015

SINGAPORE'S relations with countries in Africa date back to before independence.

They can be traced to the 1955 Asian-African Conference in Bandung, which Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday described as a "landmark" that inspired the struggles for nationhood by many new countries.

In a speech at the second Asian-African Summit marking the 60th anniversary of the Bandung conference, PM Lee said the meeting "connected Asian and African countries together, under common values of non-alignment and self-determination".

Had a full day at the Asian-African Summit yesterday. Africa seems far away from us, yet in a globalised world we...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Africa, he added, also contributed to Singapore's independence struggle. In January 1964, then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew began a month-long mission to 17 African capitals to explain the concept of Malaysia, of which Singapore had then just become a part.

"The solidarity we got from our African friends at the United Nations and in international fora played an important role in securing support for Malaysia. Many of the friends Mr Lee made more than half a century ago are still our friends today," PM Lee said.

He also thanked many of the leaders who had conveyed their condolences on the death of Mr Lee Kuan Yew last month.

PM Lee noted that after becoming independent in 1965, Singapore sent missions to Africa to explore trade and business links.

But these were slow to take off. "Perhaps we were ahead of our time," he added.

Sixty years on, relations between both sides are picking up.

"Asian countries are realising the many bright spots and vibrant development centres of growth which exist and are taking off in Africa," he said.

A third Africa-Singapore business forum was held last year.

But he felt more could be done. "Speaking from an East Asian perspective, we still don't understand Africa enough, so we need to work hard to appreciate this diverse, enormous and tremendously vibrant continent better."

He noted that the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership, chaired by Indonesia and South Africa, was seeing greater cooperation between the two continents. Both have become interdependent and can tackle common challenges like terrorism, pandemics and climate change together.

They can also exchange ideas on meeting sustainable development goals ahead of a UN meeting this year, he added.

PM Lee also spoke about the Singapore Cooperation Programme through which Singapore shares its experience with friends.

"We had benefited from such partnerships earlier in our economic development, when many other countries provided technical assistance and helped to train Singaporeans," he said.

"So we are glad that now... we are able to do likewise for other countries." In the past two decades, it has led to the training of 8,000 African officials.

Singapore Cooperation Programme (SCP) African Video
Leaders from Asia and Africa are assembled in Jakarta, Indonesia for the Asian-African Conference Commemoration 2015. Together, they will celebrate the “Spirit of Bandung”, which commemorates the gathering of leaders from several newly independent states in 1955. This current meeting aims to strengthen South-South cooperation and inter-regional dialogue between Asian and African countries. Here in Singapore, we are also happy to conduct a course from 20 to 24 April 2015 on “Technical and Vocational Education and Training for Principals and Leaders” for African officials, under our technical assistance package to the African Union. Watch our latest Singapore Cooperation Programme (SCP) publicity video on our outreach to Africa here.
Posted by SCP Friends on Tuesday, April 21, 2015

He later told Singapore media that 60 years after Bandung, countries are talking about opportunities for cooperation and sharing experiences on dealing with globalisation and uncertainties.

In his meetings with various leaders, issues such as education, sovereign wealth funds and the Singapore model came up.

"While the specific issues change, the need for us to engage one another remains the same. So in that broad sense, what started at Bandung continues," he added.

PM Lee attended a gala dinner for visiting leaders last night, before leaving for Singapore.

S'pore 'happy to encourage investment in Indonesia'
By Zakir Hussain, The Straits Times, 23 Apr 2015

JAKARTA - Singapore is happy to encourage investments in Indonesia, but Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said much would depend on the specifics of the projects, among other things.

Speaking to the Singapore media about his talks with President Joko Widodo, he said the Indonesian leader was focused on developing infrastructure and would like Singapore to encourage investors to come to Indonesia.

"I said yes, we have good relations with Indonesia, we are happy to have our investments grow. But it will depend on the specifics of each project and investors will have to be convinced that these are projects which will make good sense to them," Mr Lee said.

He also met other leaders, including Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Rwandan Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi, South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, Angolan Deputy President Manuel Vicente, South Korean Deputy Prime Minister Hwang Woo Yea and Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

At talks with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, Mr Lee invited him to Singapore and said he hoped President Mahmoud Abbas would also consider a visit.

Mr Lee said Singapore remains committed to supporting the Palestinian National Authority's efforts to build capacity, and welcomed more officials to visit.

"PM noted the positive bilateral relations and that it was a two-way learning process," his press secretary Chang Li Lin said.

He also met Egyptian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahleb and welcomed ongoing cooperation between the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore and Al-Azhar University, expressing hope that its Grand Imam, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, would visit Singapore.

Mr Lee recalled the good discussions he previously had with the muftis, Ms Chang said, adding that "both Singapore and Egypt have a common interest in combating extremism".

Mr Lee told reporters that extremism was also on the minds of leaders: "We all know that this is a problem and each of us has to do our part within our countries to tackle it. But it will be with us for quite some time to come."

Why Bandung mattered
By Zakir Hussain, The Straits Times, 22 Apr 2015

GATHERING in the Indonesian city of Bandung, leaders of 29 countries in Asia and Africa, many newly independent, were keen to find ways to work closer together and make a statement of solidarity against colonialism.

The year was 1955.

The meeting subsequently led to the formation in 1961 of the Non-Aligned Movement in Belgrade, capital of the former Yugoslavia and now, of Serbia.

This is a grouping of countries that did not want to take sides in the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Its prominence, however, has waned since the end of the Cold War 25 years ago.

But for many leaders and representatives of the 100 nations or so that have gathered in Jakarta this week, the "Bandung spirit" remains just as relevant despite the tensions from territorial disputes and extremist terrorism.

Sukarno, Indonesia's first president, told the delegates in 1955: "We can mobilise all the spiritual, all the moral, and all the political strength of Asia and Africa on the side of peace."

It is a call that resonated with Dr Rizal Sukma, executive director of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta.

This week, he wrote in a commentary in Indonesia's Tempo news magazine that, without peace and security, implementing the Bandung spirit to tackle the challenges of the 21st century will remain a pipe dream.

These challenges are to create prosperity and improve the welfare of people on both continents.

The countries that got the Bandung conference off the ground in 1955 were Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Burma (now Myanmar) and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).

But more importantly, it was the first major meeting that communist China as well as former occupying power Japan attended alongside their neighbours.

The conference was widely reported globally and fuelled the independence struggles of other colonies, like Malaya and Singapore.

Many sent observers to Bandung. The People's Action Party sent founder member and journalist Samad Ismail, while chief minister David Marshall's Labour Front sent lawyer and party founder C.H. Koh.

The key principles adopted at the meeting included the right of people to rule themselves, respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries, and respect for non-interference in others' internal affairs.

But conflicts and political upheavals in several key players, including Indonesia, meant both regions never quite lived up to the close cooperation that Bandung's founders had hoped for.

However, Associate Professor Tan See Seng of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies told The Straits Times: "Its influence can be found, at least where international order in Asia is concerned, in the way Asian countries subsequently structured their relations with one another, and the conventions they developed in support of that."

Dr Tan co-wrote the 2008 book Bandung Revisited with Professor Amitav Acharya, in which they say that these norms include non-alignment, coexistence and dialogue, which "are of considerable relevance for Asia" in coping with the current rivalry between the United States and China.

But some hope this week's meetings will make greater headway in drawing Asia and Africa closer in more concrete ways.

Said Dr Rizal: "As initiator and host of the 1955 Bandung Conference, we cannot let the achievement we reached 60 years ago remain just a footnote in the history books of international relations."

Reviving the Bandung Spirit
By Luhut B. Pandjaitan, Published The Straits Times, 23 Apr 2015

INDONESIA brought the post-colonial world together when it hosted the first Asia-Africa conference in the town of Bandung in April 1955.

Sixty years later this week, it is marking that historic occasion by gathering nations, both to commemorate the "Bandung Spirit" and to look at the prospects of the developing world.

The Bandung Spirit, which emerged from the 1955 conference, was embodied in what was known as Bandung's Ten Principles. Among these were political self-determination, mutual respect for sovereignty, non-aggression, non-interference in internal affairs, and equality.

These principles might sound like platitudes today, so deeply have they become entrenched in the norms, if not always the practice, of international relations. They were anything but definitive six decades ago.

In the 1950s, a large part of humanity was divided between colonial powers which believed that they were the arbiters of international destiny, and post- colonial states which believed and behaved otherwise. The latter, and other new states, wanted their sovereignty to be recognised as genuine, and their freedom of choice and action to be respected by all.

Twenty-nine of these states were represented by their leaders at the Bandung Conference. The stellar cast included Sukarno of Indonesia, Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Zhou Enlai of China, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia and U Nu of Burma (now Myanmar). They spoke on behalf of their own countries as well as colonised nations yet to become independent.

The Bandung Spirit flowered as the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). NAM was a defiant declaration against the international divisions spawned by the Cold War between the United States, the leader of the capitalist world, and the Soviet Union, the leader of the communist world. This ideological East-West divide coincided roughly with a hemispheric divide between the North, home to the colonial or capitalist powers, and the South, the refuge of history's dispossessed whose other name was the Third World.

NAM announced the possibilities of solidarity between the nations of the Third World in the economic, political and cultural spheres. The Bandung Conference had nurtured some of the first stirrings of post-colonial nationalism that took institutional form in NAM, which came into being in Belgrade in 1961. Sukarno, Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia, Nasser, Nehru and Kwame Nkrumah from Ghana were instrumental in establishing this movement.

Looking ahead

ALL that occurred then. Why is the Bandung Spirit relevant today? The Cold War is over, the Soviet Union is no more, the East-West conflict has passed into history, and globalisation has erased the sharp contours of the North-South divide. The centre of global economic activity is passing to Asia. Today, Indonesia is a confident member of the Group of 20 sunrise economies, not a newly decolonised nation. Why, then, invoke the spirit of past times? What purpose will this month's gathering serve?

One important purpose is to get countries taking more seriously the divisions that globalisation is creating in the global South. The success stories of China, India or Indonesia are real, but even they do not obscure the wide disparities of wealth and life chances that are created and exacerbated by globalisation. Indeed, the First and Third worlds now exist within nations, if not between them.

At the same time, not all nations can benefit from globalisation equally. There are losers and winners. Unlike the stock or property market, where losing and winning are two sides of the same coin, countries are political and civic entities, not merely markets.

Asia and Africa are witness to the diversity of globalisation. The interaction of leaders from those continents, and elsewhere, would give them an opportunity to begin a conversation on sharing their experience of encountering the global movement of capital, investment, goods and ideas.

South-South cooperation, one of the central themes of the commemorative event this week, is not a fashionable slogan. It is a real attempt to ensure the benefits of globalisation can be shared more equitably among the teeming masses that make up the majority of the world's population.

That effort resonates with the Bandung Spirit.

The well-being of the global South has strategic significance as well. Although a new Cold War is not in the offing - at least, not yet - the contours of great-power rivalry are getting clearer.

Here in Asia, the rise of China has placed its relationship with the United States in clearer perspective. Asians do not want a repeat of US-Soviet rivalry or, later, Sino-Soviet rivalry in the form of having to choose sides between Beijing and Washington today.

This is true of Africa as well. China has extended its economic sphere of influence to the continent, setting the stage for an eventual contest with the West in general and the US in particular. Africans are intensely aware of how great-power rivalry can pull a continent apart, to the detriment of millions.

Here, again, Asians and Africans should engage in a conversation to protect their interests from being overshadowed by great-power rivalry.

This would be in keeping with the Bandung Spirit.

Actually, this is not a new effort. Indonesia hosted a commemorative gathering on the 50th anniversary of the Bandung Conference 10 years ago. It invoked the Bandung Spirit in charting plans for concrete cooperation between Asia and Africa as part of global collaborative efforts. The parleys led to the creation of the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership.

This week's conference must build on that initiative.

One overlapping area of interest between Asia and Africa is the Middle East. The violent upheavals there - including the depredations of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria - are not rooted in Islam but in systemic instability that has twisted religious thinking for political ends. Indonesia has first-hand experience of preventing terrorism from capturing the political agenda while keeping open channels of religious interaction and harmony.

Democracy is key to striking that balance. Indonesia could share its experience with its international partners in the context of an Asian-African dialogue, which would also be a dialogue among world civilisations.

Finally, Indonesia's decision to host the latest conference attests to its free and active foreign policy. That policy remains a centrepiece of its self-perception today, as it was in 1955.

Indonesians hope that their friends from Asia and Africa will join them in celebrating a benchmark gathering in the 1950s that has become synonymous with the desire of the decolonised world to take charge of its own destiny.

Taking charge of one's destiny - now, that is a work always in progress.

The writer is Indonesian President Joko Widodo's Chief of Staff and the overall chairman of the Asian-African Conference 60th Commemoration national committee.

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