The History of the Asian-African Conference

WORLD CONDITION PRIOR TO THE ASIAN-AFRICAN CONFERENCE

The end of the World War II (August 1945) did not mean the end of animosity between nations. In some parts of the world, old problems remained while the new ones also emerged.

Colonizations in our world, especially in Asian and African Continents, have become a crucial problem since 15th Century. Although there were many countries declared their independence in 1945, especially in Asia such as Indonesia (August, 17th 1945), then Republic Democratic of Vietnam (September, 2nd 1945), Philippines (July, 4th 1946), Pakistan (August, 14th 1947), India (August, 15th 1947), Burma (January, 4th 1948), Ceylon (February, 4th 1948), and People’s Republic of China (October, 1st 1949), there were many other countries who were still fighting for their independence such as Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Congo, and other African Countries. Some of the Asian African Countries who had their independence still faced problems caused by the colonization. Moreover, conflict between the peoples inside the countries grew wider as the effect of devide et impera.

The birth of the two powerful ideological Blocs; West Align led by the United State of America (Capitalist) and East Align led by the Soviet Union (Communist), were creating worse condition of the world. Cold War grew into an open conflict such as in the land of Korea and Indo-China. The competition and the development of nuclear weapon increased.

Even though the world organization that is the United Nations has a function to solve all world problems, this organization did not succeed in making the world condition more peaceful.

In the beginning of 1954, Prime Minister of Ceylon, Sir John Kotelawala, invited prime ministers of Burma (U Nu), India (Jawahrlal Nehru), Indonesia (Ali Sastroamidjojo), and Pakistan (Mohammed Ali) to hold an informal meeting. The meeting was well supported by all the state and government leaders of the invited countries.

At that time, President of Indonesia Soekarno asked Prime Minister of Indonesia, Ali Sastroamidjojo, to deliberate the idea holding of the Asian-African Conference during the Colombo Conference. He stated that the idea had been considered for 30 years and had been sounded in order to build the Asian African solidarity and it was proved through national movement against colonialism.

For the preparation, the Government of Indonesia held a meeting attended by the Indonesian Representative in Asia, Africa, and Pacific. It took place at Wisma Tugu, Puncak, West Java on 9 – 22 March 1954 to discuss the idea that would be brought by Prime Minister Ali Sastroamidjojo to the Colombo Conference, as the basic consideration of Indonesia in widening the cooperation of Asian African region.

On 28 April – 2 May 1954, the Colombo Conference was held. It discussed the problems that became Common Conference. At the conference, Prime Minister of Indonesia proposed to hold another similar conference, which was wider in scope for Asian and African Countries. The idea was supported by the whole members of the conference though some were still hesitated. The conference gave Indonesia a chance to explore the possibility of holding it and it was written in the last paragraph of the Final Communiqué of the Colombo Conference.

EFFORTS OF PREPARING THE CONFERENCE

The Government of Indonesia, through its diplomatic channel conveyed to 18 Asian African Countries to find out their views on the idea of holding the Asian- African Conference. The result was most of the countries supported the idea strongly and agreed that Indonesia would be the host of such conference, though some had different ideas concerning the times and the participants of the conference.

On 18 August 1954, Prime Minister India, Jawaharlal Nehru, sent his letter to Prime Minister of Indonesia to postpone the holding of the Asian-African Conference due to the unpredictable condition of the world. Prime Minister of India was in doubt whether the conference would be success or not. Seeing this matter, Prime Minister of Indonesia visited India on 25 September 1954 to convince him the importance of holding the Asian-African Conference. The commitment of both leaders to hold such conference was then written in the Joint Statement in the following:

“The prime ministers discussed the desirability of holding a conference of Asian African Nations, and favoured a proposal that the Prime Minister of Indonesia might explore the possibility of such a conference.”

The similar certainty was also stated by Prime Minister of Burma, U Nu, on 28 September 1954.

On 28 – 29 December 1954, invited by Prime Minister of Indonesia, Prime Ministers of the Colombo Conference (Burma, Ceylon, India, Indonesia, and Pakistan) held a meeting in Bogor to discuss the preparation of the Asian-African Conference. The conference succeeded in formulating the draft of agenda, purpose, and the invited countries of the Asian-African Conference.

Five participants of the Bogor Conference became the sponsors of the Asian-African Conference, and Indonesia was chosen as the host of the conference. The conference was decided to be held in the last week of April 1955 and President Soekarno chose Bandung as the venue of the conference.

PRIOR TO THE ASIAN-AFRICAN CONFERENCE

In the preparation of holding the Asian-African Conference, a Joint Secretariat was formed by the five sponsor countries. Indonesia was represented by Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Roeslan Abdulgani, who was also the Head of the Secretariat. Other four countries represented by their representatives in Jakarta were Charge d’Affaires U Mya Sein (Burma), Ambassador M. Saravanamuttu (Ceylon), Ambassador B.F.H.B. Tyabji (India), and Ambassador Choudri Khaliquzzaman (Pakistan).

The Government of Indonesia itself formed Interdepartmental Committee on 11 January 1955 led by the Secretary General of the Joint Secretariat and its members and advisors who came from many departments in order to prepare the conference.

A Local Committee was formed in Bandung on 3 January 1955 led by Sanusi Hardjadinata, the Governor of West Java. The Local Committee had a task to prepare the accommodation, logistic, transport, health, communication, security, entertainment and information for the conference.

Furthermore, Societeit Concordia and Pension Fund Building were prepared as the venue of the sessions in the conference. Homann Hotel, Preanger Hotel, and other 12 hotels, 31 bungalows along Cipaganti Street, Lembang, and Ciumbuleuit were also prepared for about 1.500 delegates. Besides, accommodation facility for 500 national and international reporters was prepared as well. For transportation, 143 cars, 30 taxis, 20 buses, with 230 drivers and 350 ton gasoline and 175 ton gasoline were prepared for supporting the conference

On the occasion of inspecting the final preparation in Bandung on 7 April 1955, President of Indonesia, Soekarno officially inaugurated the changing name of Societeit Concordia into Gedung Merdeka, Pension Fund Building became Gedung Dwiwarna, and part of Jalan Raya Timur became Jalan Asia Afrika. The changing of the name was made to suit the event of the conference.

On 15 January 1955, the invitations for attending the Asian-African Conference were sent to 25 Heads of Government of Asia and Africa. From all of the countries that were invited, there was only one country, Central African Federation, which refused it. They refused it because were still under colonization. Meanwhile, other 24 countries accepted the invitation though at the first time they were still in doubt.

The Participant Countries of the Asian-African Conference

  1. Afghanistan
  2. Burma
  3. Cambodia
  4. Ceylon
  5. People’s Republic of China
  6. Egypt
  7. Ethiopia
  8. Gold Coast
  9. India
  10. Indonesia
  11. Iran
  12. Iraq
  13. Japan
  14. Laos
  15. Lebanon
  16. Liberia
  17. Libya
  18. Nepal
  19. Pakistan
  20. Philippines
  21. Saudi Arabia
  22. Sudan
  23. Syria
  24. Thailand
  25. Turkey
  26. Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North)
  27. State of Vietnam (South)
  28. Jordan
  29. Yemen

ASIA-AFRICA ECHOES FROM BANDUNG

On Monday, 18 April 1955, since dawn the activities of convivial the Opening Session of the Asian-African Conference in Bandung City had been started. Since 7:00 am, both sides of the street along Preanger Hotel to the post office were filled by people welcoming all delegates from many countries. Meanwhile, the security officers consisted of army and police officers guarded the location to make sure the conference would run smoothly and peacefully.

Around 08:30 am, delegates from many countries walked from Homann Hotel and Preanger Hotel to Gedung Merdeka in order to attend the Opening Session of the Asian-African Conference. All of them who wore their national dresses were warmly welcomed by cheerful people along the Asian-African Street. Their walks from Homann Hotel and Preanger Hotel to Gedung Merdeka is known as “the Historical Walk” (The Bandung Walks). About 09:00 am, all delegates were ready inside the Gedung Merdeka for the Opening of the Conference. President and the Vice-President of Indonesia, Soekarno and Mohammad Hatta arrived in front of Gedung Merdeka. They were welcomed by people shouting “merdeka”. There, they were welcomed by five prime ministers from sponsor countries.

After singing the Indonesian national anthem, “Indonesia Raya”, President of Indonesia, Soekarno, deliberated his speech entitled Let a New Asia and a New Africa be Born” at 10:20 am. On that occasion, President Soekarno stated that we, members of the conference, were from different nations, different historical social and cultural background, different religion, different politics, and even different colour of skin, though it was so, we could be united, united by bitter experience of colonization and by the same wish and fight in promoting world peace. At the end of his speech, he said:

I hope that it will give evidence of the fact that we Asian and African Leaders understand that Asia and Africa can prosper only when they are united, and that even the safety of the world at large cannot be safeguarded without a united Asia-Africa. I hope that this conference will give guidance to mankind, will point out to mankind the way which it must take to attain safety and peace. I hope that it will give evidence that Asia and Africa have been reborn, nay, that a New Asia and a New Africa have been born!”

The speech was successful in attracting the attention of all participant countries and Prime Minister of India, Nehru, supported by all the members of the conference, suggested expressing their appreciations to President of Indonesia for his excellent speech.

At 10:45 am, President of Indonesia Soekarno, ended his speech and followed by the next session. The Indonesian Prime Minister Ali Sastroamidjojo was unanimously elected as the president of the conference. Furthermore, the Head of the Joint Secretary, Roeslan Abdulgani was chosen as the secretary general of the conference.

The successful of the conference was caused by the lobby conducted during the informal meeting attended by the leaders of the sponsor countries and invited countries prior to the conference that was on 17 April 1955. The meeting succeeded in outlining the agreement connected with the agenda, the election of the president of the conference, and other related matters. The conference was divided into two sessions, opening and closing sessions.

Three committees were formed: Political Committee, Economic Committee, and Cultural Committee. All agreements were then approved officially by the committee consisted of:

  • President of the Conference :  Ali Sastroamidjojo, Indonesian Prime Minister
  • Head of Political Committee :  Ali Sastroamidjojo, Indonesian Prime Minister
  • Head of Economic Committee :  Muhammad Yamin, Indonesian Minister of Education and Cultural
  • Secretary General of the Conference :  Roeslan Abdulgani, General Secretary of Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry.

During the meeting of the Political Committee, some differences on political views emerged among the Asian African Countries. These differences could finally be resolved by the president of the session.

After a week of very stressful and exhausting sessions, at 07:00 pm (late than it had been planned) on 24 April 1955, the Final General Session of the Asian-African Conference was officially opened. On the session, the secretary general read the statements of every committee as the result of the conference. Afterwards, the session was continued to speeches from heads of delegates. The president of the conference conveyed his closing speech and stated that the Asian-African Conference was officially closed.

The Final Communiqué of the conference contains:

  1. Economic cooperation;
  2. Cultural cooperation;
  3. Human rights and rights for self determination;
  4. Colonies problems;
  5. Declaration in promoting world peace and international cooperation; and
  6. Other related problems.

The declaration of the Final Communiqué is known as the Ten Principles of Bandung, a political statement contained fundamental principles in promoting world peace and international cooperation.

The Ten Principles of Bandung

  1. Respect for fundamental human rights and for the purpose and principles of the Charter of the United Nations;
  2. Respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries;
  3. Recognize the equality of all races and the equality of all nations,
  4. No-intervention in the internal affairs of other countries;
  5. Respect for the right of each nation to defend itself singly or collectively, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations.
  6. (a) Abstention from the use of arrangements of collective defence to serve any particular interests of the big powers.
    (b) Abstention by any countries from exerting, pressures on other countries.
  7. Refraining from acts or threats of aggression or the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any countries.
  8. Settlement of all international disputes by peaceful means, such as negotiation, conciliation, arbitration or judicial settlement as well as other peaceful means of the parties’ own choice, in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations.
  9. Promotion for mutual interest and cooperation.
  10. Respect for justice and international obligation.

THE IMPACT OF THE ASIAN-AFRICAN CONFERENCE

The Asian-African Conference in Bandung has invigorated the spirit and revived the moral of the Asian African heroes in fighting for their independence, so that many sovereign and independent countries merged in the continent of Asia and Africa.

The Asian-African Conference also succeeded in developing the spirit of solidarity among Asian African Countries in facing regional problems and international ones. After the Asian-African Conference, many conferences held by organizations in those countries such as Asian-African University Student Conference, Asian-African People Solidarity Conference, Asian-African Journalists Conference, and Africa-Asia Islamic Conference.

The spirit of Bandung and its Ten Principles had changed the view of the world on international relations. Bandung bore the third world or the Non-Aligned Countries. The spirit of Bandung has also changed the structure of the United Nation. The United Nation forum was no longer mainly as a forum for the West or for the East exclusively.

MEETINGS AND CONFERENCES HELD AFTER THE ASIAN AFRICAN CONFERENCE, GEDUNG MERDEKA BANDUNG

  • 1956, Asian Arrican Students Conference
  • 1961, Asian African People’s Solidarity Council
  • 1965, Afro Asian Islamic Conference
  • 1970, The First Congress of the Afro Asian Islamic Organization
  • 1980, The 25th Anniversary of the Asian African Conference, the Opening Session of the 21st Asian African Legal Consultative Commitee/AALCC and the inauguration of the Museum of the Asian African Conference
  • 1983, The Inauguration of the Study Centre of Research of the Asian African and Developing Countries Predicament
  • 1984, Visit of the participants of the Ministers of Information of Non-Aligned Countries Conference/COMINAC
  • 1985, The 300th Anniversary of The Asian African Conference and the Declaration of “Bandung Message”
  • 1990, The 35th Anniversary of the Asian African Conference
  • 1991, Visits of the participants of the Pasific Asian Tourism Association/PATA
  • 1992, Visit of the participants Countries of the X Non-Align Conference and commemoration of the Asian African 1955
  • 1995, Visit of the participants of the IX Organization Islamic Conference
  • 1995, The 40th the Anniversary of the Asian African Conference
  • 2000, The 45th the Anniversaty of the Asian African Conference by “Bandung Spirit”
  • 2005, The 50th the Anniversary the Asian African Conference and the signing of the Declaration of “Nawasila”, result of the Asian African summit
  • 2008, United Nations Special committee of 24 on Decolonization, Pasific Regional Seminar