[Sansad TV] Perspective: The Voice of Global South

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Context

  • The PM recently hosted a virtual event, “Voice of the Global South Summit”. 125 countries participated in the virtual summit.
  • Respond, Recognise, Respect & Reform to re-energise the world…That was the four-point mantra PM emphasised at the event.

The first use of this Global South in a contemporary political sense was in 1969 by Carl Oglesby, writing in Catholic journal Commonwealth in a special issue on the Vietnam War.

What is Global South?

global south
  • ‘Global North’ refers loosely to countries like the US, Canada, Europe, Russia, Australia and New Zealand, while ‘Global South’ includes countries in Asia, Africa and South America.  
  • The term has been used multiple times, such as when EAM Jaishankar said of ongoing global conflicts, “polarisation may occur elsewhere, the people who suffer most are the Global South”.

Features of Global South

  • Lower-income countries: The Global South is a term often used to identify lower-income countries on one side of the so-called global North–South divide, the other side being the countries of the Global North.
  • Beyond geographical south: As such the term does not inherently refer to a geographical south; for example, most of the Global South is actually within the Northern Hemisphere.
  • Third World radicalism: The term, as used by governmental and development organizations, was first introduced as a more open and value free alternative to “Third World” and similar potentially “valuing” terms like developing countries.
  • Newly industrialized: Countries of the Global South have been described as newly industrialized or in the process of industrializing and frequently have a history of colonialism by Northern, often European, states.
  • Major countries: The countries of Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, and Mexico have the largest populations and economies among Southern states. The overwhelming majority of these are located near the tropics.

Need for such classification

  • Economic term: The concepts of ‘East’ and ‘West’ is one example of this, with the Western countries generally signifying greater levels of economic development and prosperity among their people, and Eastern countries considered as being in the process of that transition.
  • Geopolitical alignment: Another similar categorisation is of First World, Second World and Third World countries, referring to countries associated with the Cold war-era alliances of the US, the USSR, and non-aligned countries, respectively.
  • Broader classification: The East/West binary was seen as often perpetuating stereotypical thinking about African and Asian countries. Categorising incredibly diverse countries into a monolith was felt to be too simplistic.
  • Shared history: Major commonality between the South countries is that most have a history of colonisation, largely at the hands of European powers. Now they are arguably more accurate in grouping countries together, measuring similarly in terms of wealth, indicators of education and healthcare, etc.
  • Common requirements:  The concept is being reiterated now because of the economic emergence of some of these South countries, such as India and China, in the last few decades. Many consider the world to now be multipolar rather than one where the US alone dominates international affairs.
  • Indian context to the Global South
  • Collective representation: As India assumed the presidency of the G20 group of countries for 2022 to 2023, EAM S Jaishankar said that India would be the “voice of the Global South that is otherwise under-represented in such forums”.
  • Reform in multilateral institutions: When leaders such as Jaishankar mention it, they are also pointing to the region’s historical exclusion from prominent international organisations – such as from the permanent membership of the UNSC, the UN and the IMF.

How has this term materialized with Ukrainian War?

Ans. South-South’ Cooperation

  • Interestingly, when Jaishankar criticised the expectation from India to take a stance on the Ukraine war and rebuke Russia, China’s heaped praises.
  • This is where the idea of ‘South-South’ cooperation comes in.

What is South-South Cooperation?

  • Economically emergent countries: Why the concept is being reiterated now is partly because of the economic emergence of some of these South countries, such as India and China, in the last few decades.
  • Shift in geopolitical poles: Many consider the world to now be multipolar rather than one where the US alone dominates international affairs.
  • Challenging the US led global order: The progress achieved by many Asian countries is also seen as challenging the idea that the North is the ideal.

Criticism of the classification

  • Vague classification: Some of the earlier terms’ criticisms apply here, too, such as the argument that the term is too broad.  There is also the question of whether the South simply aims to replace the North and the positions it occupies, again continuing a cycle in which a few countries accumulate crucial resources.
  • Triggered by crony-capitalism: Much controversy currently surrounds the question of whether elites of the global South and ‘rising powers’ genuinely have the intention to challenge the dominant structures of global capitalist development.
  • Beneficial only to India and China: In the rise of Asia, the continued neglect of Africa has been questioned as well.

Significance of the Global South

  • Podium for India: India, with its enormous population and enormous economic capabilities, is working to unite the nations of the Global South into a powerful front so that an action-oriented approach can be adopted for the countries of the global south.
  • Untapped potential: There is enormous untapped potential in the growing economies of the Global South.  The countries will witness significant progress if they cooperate in areas like technical exchanges, ideas exchanges, exchanging best practices in manufacturing, and other areas.
  • Common concerns: India is committed  to utilise the G20 presidency to give resonance to the voice of the global south and to highlight the common concerns of energy security, energy justice, sustainable energy transition so that all developing countries can gain reliable and clean energy.

Challenges for consolidation

  • Row over climate reparations: In the ongoing debate about North countries paying for funding green energy, having historically contributed to higher carbon emissions, many in the Global North have objected to China and India’s exclusion from this, given their increasing industrialization.
  • Russia-Ukraine War: This ongoing war severely affected the least developed countries (LDCs) aggravating the concerns related to food, energy and finance, thereby, threatening the development prospects of LDCs.
  • China’s unprecedented rise: This prompted them to get more allied towards China. China is increasingly making inroads in the Global South through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) for developing infrastructure.
  • US domination: The world is now considered to be multipolar by many but still, it is the US alone who dominates international affairs. Even today, US is still dominating the Ukrainian War.
  • Dependence over North: Global North-South divergences have been historically characterised by major gaps in the access to resources required for crucial developmental outcomes. Industrialisation has been always skewed in the favour of global North.

Way forward

  • Active engagement: Championing the Global South today would demand more active Indian engagement with the messy regional politics within the developing world.
  • Need for Policy vision: India must also come to terms with the fact that the Global South is not a coherent group and does not have a single shared agenda. There is much differentiation within the South today in terms of wealth and power, needs and capabilities.

Conclusion

  • If the Global South and India worked together, they could make significant advancements in the fight against terrorism, maritime policy, and other fields.
  • In its development partnerships, India’s approach has always been consultative, outcome-oriented, demand-driven, people-centric and respectful of the sovereignty of partner countries.
  • The Indian side has made an effort to set its development programs in the Global South apart from those of China, which can result in debt traps and financially unsound undertakings.

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