Institut za noviju istoriju Srbije, Beograd


Second Belgrade or Second Bandung? Yugoslavia and the fight for supremacy in the Third World (1962–1965)


Abstract: This paper deals with a largely forgotten historical episode when, in the early 1960s, two groups of nations, one headed by Yugoslavia and India and the other by Indonesia and  China, bitterly fought for supremacy in the Third World. This intensive competition for leadership was most visible in numerous diplomatic activities directed at convening, at the earliest possible time, a non-aligned or an Afro-Asian conference, the so-called Second Belgrade or Second Bandung. Each in its own manner, these two conferences represented the ideological and political strivings of the countries embedded in these  two camps, i.e. embodied their respective visions of the role and future of the world standing between the two superpower blocs.


Key words: non-alignment, Afro-Asianism, Third World, Yugoslavia, Indonesia, China, India


Summary: The first half of the 1960s was marked by a fierce political struggle conducted within the ranks of non-aligned countries, primarily between the “moderate” and “radical” factions of this still informal group of non-bloc nations, which, at the time, constituted a far greater danger to its normal functioning than any outside superpower interference could ever wield. While one group of nations, the “moderates”, headed by Yugoslavia, India, Egypt and others, advocated a more moderate, realist and pragmatic foreign policy course of non-engagement with the great powers, pushing the agenda of peace, security, and economic development, the “radical”  group represented by countries like Indonesia, Ghana, Mali and others, en joying a strong external backing from China, pursued a militant policy of a continuous anti-imperialist and anti-colonial struggle against the Western powers, while also reserving its fair share of ideological criticism for the Soviet Union. During those years, these two dominant ideological and political currents, i.e. non-alignment and “Afro-Asianism”, turned into the main fault line of polarization, dividing the entire Third World into two distinctive camps. The first one was advocating a strict non-bloc foreign  policy of wider cooperation, irrespective of any regional considerations or political, racial, historical, cultural, social and other differences, while the other one was emphasizing regional adherence to the two continents, irrespective of any bloc adherence, underlining racial and social distinctions, as well as shared colonial sufferings, and using them as an inspiration for a violent showdown with the developed world. To achieve their goals, each group had charted a specific path of convening two separate conferences that would embody their respective agendas, the so-called Second Belgrade or Second Bandung, through which either “moderates”  or “radicals” could ultimately achieve political preeminence in the Third  World. This would eventually turn into an intensive diplomatic race to the very end that would split the entire non-aligned world in half, causing great harm to the common cause, depleting its vitality and enthusiasm, and plunging these nations into a profound crisis several years after a non-aligned summit, the Cairo Conference, was finally held in October  1964. As for the Afro-Asian conference, it was never held, finally losing out to its non-aligned competitor, thus becoming only a footnote to history, a failed project that never was.