Bandung Conference (Asian-African Conference)

Bandung Conference (Asian-African Conference)
Bandung Conference (Asian-African Conference)

The Bandung Conference, or Asian-African Conference, attended by 29 primarily newly independent nations, was held in 1955. The Indonesian leader Ahmed Sukarno hosted the conference of so-called Third World nations, most of which had become independent after World War II and were generally poor, agricultural, and economically underdeveloped. They represented over half the world’s population.

India’s leader Jawaharlal Nehru played a key role in the conference that adopted his principles of opposing imperialism and focusing on the development of local economies rather than reliance on either the Western world led by the United States or the Soviet bloc dominated by the Soviet Union. Participants of the conference also raised issues of race, religion, and world peace. Most were, however, authoritarian in their political orientations.

The Chinese prime minister, Zhou Enlai (Chou En-lai), was another key spokesperson at the conference. Aware of the different political and economic approaches of the participants, Zhou wisely did not push an aggressive communist program and succeeded in establishing ties with other Asian and African leaders. Other leaders at the conference included Kwame Nkrumah, prime minister of the Gold Coast (Ghana); Ho Chi Minh, the North Vietnamese prime minister; and President Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt.

The nations of North Africa also attended and condemned French imperialism. Nasser spoke about the role of Pan-Arabism and Pan-Africanism as well as the cause of Palestinian self-determination. Nasser, Nehru, and President Tito of Yugoslavia subsequently became personal friends and exchanged state visits with one another.

gedung merdeka
gedung merdeka in Bandung

Many of the participants of the Bandung Conference became leaders of the Nonaligned Movement in the early 1960s. The Nonaligned Movement sought to steer a middle or neutral course between the United States and the Soviet Union in the cold war.

Neither superpower endorsed the Nonaligned Movement, although the United States tended to be more hostile to the neutralism of nations seeking to maximize their own benefits rather than adopting policies that mirrored that of either superpower. Many leaders of African and Asian nations attended a conference in both Bandung and Jakarta marking the 50th anniversary of the conference in 2005.