BALI, Indonesia - As the West debates the perceived Iranian nuclear threat,
leaders of the world's eight largest Muslim countries, collectively known as
the D8, met on this resort island over the weekend where they asserted the right
of Islamic countries to peaceful nuclear energy.
"It is simply a statement in support of peaceful nuclear energy, which
is a universal right. It has no other meaning," Indria Samego, senior analyst
at the Indonesia Institute of Science, told IPS, referring to a D8 (short for
Developing Eight) resolution..
Virtually unknown in the West, the D8 is the brainchild of Necmettin Erbakan,
Turkey's first Islamist prime minister, who was forced to step down in 1997.
The group which includes Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia,
Nigeria, Pakistan, and Turkey was established with the Istanbul Declaration
on June 15, 1997, and has since met roughly every two years. The Bali summit
was the fifth in the series and was preceded by meetings in Tehran, Cairo, and
Dhaka, besides the first meeting in Istanbul.
The D8 is an offshoot of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC). However,
while the 57-country strong OIC is dominated by the Middle Eastern countries,
the D8 represents the voice of almost 900 million people, who, with the exception
of Iran, follow a moderate Sunni version of Islam and have adopted Western values
The group's focus is trade and welfare. As a matter of fact, the organization's
stated aims are "to improve developing countries' position in the world
economy, diversify and create new opportunities in trade relations, enhance
participation in decision-making at international level, and provide better
standards of living for its citizens."
Yet, the group also aims to counterbalance the influence the G8, the mighty
eight among the industrialized countries in the world, including the United
States, Britain, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, and Russia.
Regarding alternative energy, the Bali Declaration as the final document
is called reads: "We reaffirm our commitment to enhance cooperation
in the field of energy, to develop alternative and renewable energy sources,
among others bio-fuel, biomass, hydro, solar, wind, and the use of nuclear energy
for peaceful purposes."
The document was quickly pounced on by Iran, which is currently looking for
international support in its ongoing tussle with the Washington-led group that
accuses it of secretly trying to build up a nuclear weapons capability. Tehran
claims that it is purely interested in clean nuclear energy.
"We thank D8's member countries for their initiative to defend the development
and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes," Iran's President Mahmoud
Ahmadinejad said at a separate press conference following the release of the
Commenting on the matter, Samego admitted that "from Tehran's perspective,"
the resolution could be seen as a sign of support. "But only from their viewpoint.
Indonesia has signed an internationally binding treaty against nuclear weapons."
Indonesia recently announced plans to build a nuclear plant, which should be
operative by 2015.
It is significant that in their speeches, none of the heads of delegations
representing the D8 members mentioned Iran's nuclear program.
In the recent past, Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Malaysian
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to mention two have stated support
for Tehran's right to pursue nuclear technology for peaceful means. At the same
time, the two leaders have urged Ahmadinejad to be more transparent and have
reiterated their opposition to nuclear weapons.
At least one D8 country, Pakistan, has nuclear weapons and is a non-signatory
to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Despite being a close ally, Washington
has refused to cooperate with Pakistan in a civilian nuclear energy program
on the grounds that it had proliferated nuclear technology to Iran, Libya, and
According to Alexander C. Chandra, foreign policy analyst at the Jakarta-based
Institute for Global Justice, far from endorsing Iran's belligerent nuclear
program, Muslim countries are actually worried by it.
"The members of the D8 and of the OIC are concerned with what is happening
in Iran, but Iran is not listening, it does what it wants," he told IPS
in a telephone interview.
The crisis threatens to get worse and UN sanctions loom large after Ahmadinejad
turned down a proposal drafted by European countries.
"Iran will not accept any proposal asking for the suspension [of uranium
enrichment]. The Europeans can keep their incentives," he said on Wednesday
during a visit to the town of Arak, where a reactor to produce plutonium is
On Monday, in an attempt to find a diplomatic solution, European representative
for a common foreign and security policy Javier Solana had promised to make
Iran a "bold" offer of nuclear, economic, and possibly security guarantees,
if it agrees to bow to UN pressure and halt uranium enrichment on its soil.
However, the D8 was about more than just Iran and nuclear energy. Issues such
as trade figured high on the leaders' agenda, and two agreements were signed
to lower import tariffs on a range of products and help each other in customs
According to officials present at the summit, the two agreements would serve
as milestones for future economic cooperation among the member countries, and
are aimed at boosting trade among members, which, despite a positive trend,
remains abysmally low. Between 1999 and 2004, D8 intra-trade increased nearly
127 percent reaching, $33 billion in total worth. The sum is, however, still
only 4 percent of the D8 countries' total foreign trade.
"The agreements are good, but the problem is always the implementation.
We have to wait and see if they will have any impact," Chandra said.
(Inter Press Service)