Indira Gandhi is India's prime minister, not president, as she was called yesterday.
For Indian President Indira Gandhi, the new chairwoman of the Nonaligned Movement, the closing of the group's seventh summit was an opportunity to bask in the glow of success.
India and its moderate allies had succeeded in pointing the movement on a more centrist course, reversing an effort over the past three years by outgoing chairman Fidel Castro of Cuba to give the group a pro-Soviet tilt. Gandhi's government, with just four months' notice, also had put together one of the best-organized and smoothest-running nonaligned conferences yet.
But Gandhi acknowledged that the traditionally fractious movement still had a long way to go to achieve its goals. Using mountaineering terminology in her closing speech, she said that the delegates had established a base camp but had a long climb ahead, adding that "like any expedition, ours needs comradeship and team spirit."
With four member nations under full or partial occupation by foreign troops and four engaged in shooting wars with each other, the necessary comradeship and team spirit could be said to be lacking.
Formally launched at its first summit in Belgrade in 1961, the Nonaligned Movement once was a like-minded group of brothers in the great victories over colonialism. To a degree, however, it today has lost its original cohesion by changes that have followed its own successes in the independence struggle.
That paradox, coupled with expansion from 25 to 101 members in a world of rapidly shifting centers of power, has left the movement not only contentious but somewhat uncertain of purpose.
This ambiguity was exacerbated at the sixth summit in Havana in 1979, when Castro sought to put a pro-Soviet stamp on the movement by floating the idea that the Soviet Union was a "natural ally" of the nonaligned nations.
Although the late Marshal Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia hammered out a compromise on that language, the movement for the last three years had been marked with the reputation of leaning toward Moscow.
Alarmed by what they viewed as an attempt by a cabal of revolutionary regimes to hijack the movement, moderate states led by India and prodded by Singapore organized a formidable bloc and, to a large degree, succeeded in steering the conference more toward genuine nonalignment.
Even though the plenary speeches by the 76 heads of state and government in attendance were laced with the usual anti-imperialist condemnations of the United States, the real tone of the meeting was taking shape behind the closed doors of the committee rooms.
What emerged from the regional issues committees, after a series of all-night marathon sessions, was a set of political and economic declarations that reveal the ideological distance between Havana and New Delhi.
While the United States is mentioned by name a dozen times in condemnatory phrases--far less than previous summits--the pro-Soviet tendency of the sixth summit was conspicuously missing from the new declarations.
Concentrating on a few substantive issues on which she felt the movement could have an impact, Gandhi successfully focused the attention of the delegates--and the observing developed world--on the danger of nuclear proliferation to all mankind and the need to redress the imbalance between the rich and the poor by overhauling 35-year-old international monetary systems.
The resulting joint statement of the delegates appeared to draw upon the report of the Brandt Commission issued on Feb. 9, which called for an emergency program to avert global economic collapse and warned that worsening economic conditions threaten the political stability of a large part of the world.
It is significant that the summit's joint declarations on the economy, which carried a reasoned and sober appeal for cooperation between the affluent and developing countries, were double in length the occasionally strident and anti-imperialist political declarations.
While the practicality of the summit's recommendations for world disarmament and a new international economic order remains to be tested, the broader global issues that were addressed did overwhelm the narrow regional grievances that have dominated other nonaligned conferences.
"We did succeed in getting them away from the Latin American revolutionary causes and talking about the possible end of the world," said one representative of a moderate Asian delegation.
The conference leadership also painlessly relegated to committee the perennial and contentious issue of seating a Cambodian delegation and deferred until 1985 a decision on whether to hold the next summit in Baghdad over Iran's objections. India had to put together this summit in a hurry after Iranian objections forced a change in venue from the originally planned site in Baghdad.
The conference welcomed Egypt back into the nonaligned fold with open arms and facilitated potentially important meetings between President Hosni Mubarak and leaders from Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar.
While making no discernible progress in resolving the seemingly interminable war between Iraq and Iran, the summit at least avoided a volatile confrontation between the two countries during the proceedings.