Panchsheel was born in response to a world asking for a new set of principles for the conduct of international relations that would reflect the aspirations of all nations to co-exist and prosper together in peace and harmony.
Panchsheel, or the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence, were first formally enunciated in the Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between the Tibet region of China and India signed on April 29, 1954, which stated, in its preamble, that the two Governments “have resolved to enter into the present Agreement based on the following principles: -
Two months later, during the visit of Premier Zhou Enlai to India, he and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru issued a Joint Statement on June 28, 1954, that elaborated their vision of Panchsheel as the framework, not only for relations between the two countries but also for their relations with all other countries, so that a solid foundation could be laid for peace and security in the world. Panchsheel, as envisioned by its creators, gave substance to the voice of newly established countries who were seeking the space to consolidate their hard-won independence, as it provided an alternative ideology dedicated to peace and development of all as the basis for international interaction, whether bilateral or multilateral. At that time, the two Prime Ministers also expressed the hope in the Joint Statement that the adoption of Panchsheel “will also help in creating an area of peace which as circumstances permit can be enlarged thus lessening the chances of war and strengthening the cause of peace all over the world.”
This vision caught the imagination of the peoples of Asia and the world. Panchsheel was incorporated into the Ten Principles of International Peace and Cooperation enunciated in the Declaration issued by the April 1955 Bandung Conference of 29 Afro-Asian countries. The universal relevance of Panchsheel was emphasized when its tenets were incorporated in a resolution on peaceful co-existence presented by India, Yugoslavia, and Sweden, and unanimously adopted on December 11, 1957, by the United Nations General Assembly. In 1961, the Conference of Non-Aligned Nations in Belgrade accepted Panchsheel as the principled core of the Non-Aligned Movement. Down the years, the ethos of Panchsheel continued to be reflected in world events even if there was no conscious attribution, finding expression in the position of the developing countries in the North-South dialogue, and in other groupings.
The timeless relevance of Panchsheel is based on its firm roots in the cultural traditions of its originators, two of the world’s most ancient civilizations. The linkage that was established by the spread of Buddhism in China laid the historical basis for the formulation of the principles of Panchsheel by India and China.
Panchsheel was developed in the context of a post-colonial world where many were seeking an alternative ideology dedicated to peace and the development of all. Fifty years later, the world is now searching for an alternative to the adversarial constructs that dominated the Cold War era. Countries all over the world are focusing on creating extended and mutually supportive arrangements and attempting to define a new economic, social and political world order in the context of globalization, non-traditional security threats, and the quest for multi-polarisation.
Panchsheel can provide the ideological foundation for this developing paradigm of international interaction, allowing all nations to work towards peace and prosperity in cooperation while maintaining their national identity, spirit, and character. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru rightly said that “those who desire peace for the world must know once for all that there can be no equilibrium or stability for either the East or the West unless all aggression, all imperialist domination, all forced interference in other countries’ affairs end completely.” Today, Panchsheel can help the world move away from the traditional concepts of balance of power and competitive security, the consequent searching for an enemy, and the predicating of activities on conflicts rather than cooperation.
However, in today’s world, it is not enough that Panchsheel is promoted as an alternative ideology that empowers the less-developed. It should be made clear that Panchsheel is an ideology for the entire world, and is as relevant to the developed countries of the globe as it is to the less-developed. What should be stressed today is that the principles of Panchsheel are not just empowering principles, they are also guiding principles that enshrine a certain code of behavior. Their essence is the non-use of power, the approach of tolerance, “of living one’s life, learning from others but neither interfering nor being interfered with”, and the obligation to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It may not be out of place in a world searching for moral certainties to emphasize this message of Panchsheel.
Source: MEA, Govt. of India
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