Spotlight on bilateral ties at Bandung meet

GLOBAL AGENDA
April 18-24

SOUTH-EAST ASIA

WHAT IT IS

SOME 60 heads of state will converge on Bandung in West Java, Indonesia, on Thursday and Friday for an Asia-Africa summit.

It will mark the 50th anniversary of the 1955 conference that led to the founding of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

Those who joined NAM, set up as an independent bloc, sought to distance themselves from the then major powers – the United States and the Soviet Union.

Heavyweights of that era, among them Indonesia’s Sukarno, China’s Zhou Enlai, Yugoslavia’s Josip Broz Tito, India’s Jawaharlal Nehru and Egypt’s Gamel Abdel Nasser, graced that occasion in Bandung five decades ago.

For this week’s summit, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Japanese Premier Junichiro Koizumi, Chinese President Hu Jintao, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and South African President Thabo Mbeki, among others, will be present.

WHY IT MATTERS

The summit will seek to forge stronger ties between Asia and Africa, but the spotlight could well be on some of the individual leaders and some of the bilateral meetings expected to take place.

Japanese media reports say that Mr Koizumi plans to seek support for Japan’s bid for permanent membership in the UN Security Council by highlighting Tokyo’s efforts to promote development in Asia and Africa.

A meeting between him and Mr Hu could take place if Beijing agrees. This would be significant given the widening gulf between the two of late.

Mr Hu, who will arrive from Brunei, will hold bilateral discussions in Indonesia as well and will head to the Philippines after the summit.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is slated to attend and has asked for a special forum to explain UN reforms.

Myanmar’s top military leader, General Than Shwe, is also likely to attend.

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