Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari brushed aside the issue of Prime Minister Narendra Modi not attending the 17th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Venezuela saying India was participating.
To a question on what message was India giving out with the prime minister not attending the NAM summit, he said, “NAM is not a conference of prime ministers . Thy have been going but there have been occasions when prime ministers, for a variety of reasons have not been able to go. But India’s participation remains”.
Modi will be the first Indian prime minister to not attend the NAM summit after 1979, when the then caretaker Prime Minister Charan Singh had stayed away from it. India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru was one of the founding leaders of NAM in 1961, in the cold war era, and this is one of the reasons being cited as Modi distancing himself from it.
Addressing mediapersons on Thursday ahead of the summit, Ansari said that the priorities of the conference were “peace, sovereignty and solidarity for development”. Stressing on the fact that the basic objectives of NAM have remained the same, he said that, “development is not according to somebody else’s perception or diktat, but development as per its (the country’s) own perceptions”
To a question on the shift in India’s foreign policy given its strategic partnership with the US and therefore NAM was not priority on its agenda, Ansari who is also a former diplomat, said that foreign policy was always to attain a set of objectives and to put India’s interests as the “representatives of the Indian public sees it”.
“I don’t think it (foreign policy) has to be seen as black or white, it is always shades of grey”, said Ansari who will represent India along with 120 developing countries at the summit to be held in Margarita, the largest of the three island group in the Venezuelan state of Nueva Esparta.
It is about 332 kilometres from the capital , Caracas. Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has been facing a stiff attack for the ongoing economic crisis that has led to shortage of food and essentials and a high crime rate.
Local reports say the Venezuelan government has deployed 14,000 National Bolivarian Armed Forces troops, police and intelligence personnel to the island and has restricted flights, port access, and closed beaches, restaurants and sea food shops.
Venezuela is to take over the chair of the NAM summit from Iran.
To a question on what would be India’s point on the irony that the host country was going through a crisis, Ansari said, “India does not have a point on what is happening within Venezuela or any other country. It has always been an article of faith with us that we do not interfere in the affairs of other countries. But as long as the policies of the state of Venezuela is subscribing to the basic objectives of NAM we are with them and they are with us”.
The 17th NAM summit takes place immediately before the high level segment of the 71st segment of the UN General assembly that will begin September 19 in New York. This is also the first NAM summit since the adoption of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development, the Paris agreement on climate change and the Addis Ababa agenda on financing for development, said an MEA statement.