How the Global South Prevents Big Power Rivalries Via Non-Alignment

Date:

How the Global South Prevents Big Power Rivalries Via Non-Alignment

  • News by AUN News correspondent
  • Saturday, February 18, 2023
  • AUN News – ISSN: 2949-8090

Summary:

  • The Association of Southeast Asian Countries (ASEAN) has demonstrated that geography and strategy are both important factors in non-alignment.

  • “Declaratory non-alignment” has historically been supported by many ASEAN member states.

  • There is a pressing need for more powerful African voices in these non-alignment discussions.

  • For instance South Africa has promoted “strategic non-alignment” in the Ukraine conflict, calling for a UN-mediated resolution while refusing to censure its ally and fellow member of the BRICS, Russia.

  • But, the foreign military bases of the US, France, and China, as well as the Russian military presence, must be eliminated if a new non-alignment is to be reached in Africa.

According to an African saying, the grass beneath the elephants suffers when they fight. So, many nations in the developing world are trying to stay out of future conflicts between the US and China. They are advocating for the revival of the idea of non-alignment. This strategy was used by newly independent nations in the 1950s to strike a balance between the two ideological power blocs of the east and west during the Cold War era.

The rationale behind the new non-alignment position is the perception that it is necessary to uphold southern autonomy, seek socioeconomic growth, and get the support of strong external allies without having to take a side. Moreover, it stems from historical resentments from the eras of colonialism, slavery, and Cold War interventionism.

These complaints include the US and France’s support for autocracies in nations like Egypt, Morocco, Chad, and Saudi Arabia when it serves their interests, as well as the US’s unilateral military interventions in Grenada (1983), Panama (1989), and Iraq (2003).

The US Manichaean classification of the globe into “good” democracies and “evil” autocracies irritates many southern countries in particular. More recently, nations in the global south have emphasised how western stockpiling of COVID-19 vaccinations and disputes over north-south trade serve to maintain the unfair international system of “global apartheid.”

At the March 2022 UN General Assembly special session on Ukraine, non-alignment was clearly returning. 52 states from the global south disagreed with the sanctions imposed by the West on Russia. This is despite the fact that southern states have always denounced Russia’s obvious violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty.

82 southern governments turned down western requests to exclude Russia from the UN Human Rights Council a month later.

Powerful southern nations like India, Indonesia, South Africa, Ethiopia, Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico were among them.

The causes of misalignment

A conference to reclaim the sovereignty of Africa and Asia from western imperial dominance was held in the Indonesian city of Bandung in 1955. The meeting also aimed to combat ethnic dominance, advance economic and cultural cooperation, and promote world peace. Countries in attendance were urged to forgo collective defence agreements with powerful nations.

In 1961, six years later, the 120-member Non-Aligned Movement was born. Members were forbidden from joining military alliances like the Warsaw Pact and NATO, as well as bilateral security agreements with superpowers.

Non-alignment promoted “positive” neutrality rather than passive neutrality. Governments were urged to actively participate in bolstering and reforming organisations like the UN and the World Bank.

The patrician Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru is largely regarded as the “founder of non-alignment” in intellectual circles. He saw the idea as a safeguard against either the superpower bloc or China assuming global dominance. He supported nuclear disarmament as well.

Suharto, the military dictator of Indonesia, promoted non-alignment through fostering “regional resilience.” States in South-east Asia were exhorted to seek autonomy and stop outside forces from interfering in the area.

Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt’s charismatic prophet of Arab unification, firmly supported the use of force in waging liberation wars in Algeria and southern Africa, purchasing weapons and obtaining aid from both the east and the west.
The African High Command was proposed by Ghana’s prophet of African unification, Kwame Nkrumah, as a single army to deter foreign intrusion and aid in the freedom of Africa.

Yet, the difficulties of trying to maintain coherence among a sizable, diverse group affected the Non-Aligned Movement. Several nations were obviously allied with one or more power blocs.

The group had shifted its emphasis from east-west geopolitics to north-south geoeconomics by the early 1980s. Initiating its support for a “new international economic system,” the Non-Aligned Movement. In order to advance industrialization, this scenario envisioned the movement of resources and technology from the wealthy north to the developing south.

Yet the north flatly refused to back these initiatives.

South-east Asia and Latin America

South America and south-east Asia have been the regions where non-alignment has garnered the most recent thought and discussion.

The majority of Latin American nations have resisted joining forces with any large power. Also, they disregarded Washington’s recommendations to avoid doing business with China. Chinese infrastructure, 5G technology, and digital connectivity have all gained popularity.

Venezuela, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Cuba, and Cuba all declined to denounce Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Many of the states in the area rejected demands from the West to censure Moscow. The re-election of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as president of Brazil, the biggest and richest nation in the area, marks the “second coming” of a champion of solidarity for the developing world after his first term in office from 2003 to 2011.

The Association of Southeast Asian Countries (ASEAN) has demonstrated that geography and strategy are both important factors in non-alignment. Singapore penalised Russia for occupying Ukraine. Indonesia rejected sanctions but denounced the involvement. As Laos and Vietnam failed to denounce Moscow’s aggression, Burma supported the invasion.

“Declaratory non-alignment” has historically been supported by many ASEAN member states. They have mostly utilised the idea rhetorically while actually engaging in promiscuous “multi-alignment.” Close military relations were established between Singapore and the Philippines, Burma and India, Vietnam and Russia, Australia, and New Zealand, and Malaysia and Britain, Australia, and New Zealand.

Also, this is a zone where countries both welcome and dread Chinese military and economic cooperation. All of this while attempting to prevent any outside forces from holding a dominant position or forging exclusive military partnerships.

There is a pressing need for more powerful African voices in these non-alignment discussions.

African non-alignment as a goal

With 84% of all UN soldiers stationed there, Africa is the continent with the lowest level of security in the world. This emphasises the necessity of an organised southern bloc capable of creating a Pax Africana security system and fostering socioeconomic development.

When Uganda assumes the three-year rotating presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement in December 2023, it hopes to be a leader in this strategy. One of the main objectives of its term is to make the organisation stronger and more unified while promoting harmony among the global south.

Strong prospective allies exist for Uganda. For instance South Africa has promoted “strategic non-alignment” in the Ukraine conflict, calling for a UN-mediated resolution while refusing to censure its ally and fellow member of the BRICS, Russia. Additionally, it has been assiduously courting China, its largest bilateral trading partner, whose Belt and Road Initiative and BRICS bank are constructing infrastructure throughout the developing world.

China, which constructs a third of the continent’s infrastructure, is Africa’s greatest trading partner with annual trade of US$254 billion.

But, the foreign military bases of the US, France, and China, as well as the Russian military presence, must be eliminated if a new non-alignment is to be reached in Africa.

The continent should also keep up its support for the UN-run, law-based international system while denouncing unilateral operations in both Iraq and Ukraine. It is in Pax Africana’s best interests to:

enhancing regional integration; working closely with the UN to create local security capabilities; and securing the continent from meddling foreign powers, while continuing to welcome both east and west commerce and investment.

Professor Adekeye Adebajo is a senior research fellow at the University of Pretoria’s Center for the Promotion of Study.

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