The Russo-Ukraine war has altered the dynamics of international politics. It has increased the challenges such as disruption in the global supply chain, caused a food crisis, and reduced the globalization process. The majority of those affected by the war are from the southern part of the world, usually known as the “Global South” in general.
Global South is technically a geographically split area as some quote the Brandt Line, proposed by Willy Brandt, a German Chancellor in the 1980s.
However, realistically, it encompasses those countries that relatively lie in the northern hemisphere such as India, China, etc. Therefore, the line extends from North Mexico and covers Africa, and Asia including India and China but avoids Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.
The current political dynamics in the world add up the new dimensions which indicate the creation of a new multipolar world order, especially after the Ukraine Crisis. The ultimate suffering of the countries of Africa and Asia from this North-South divide particularly after the Ukraine Crisis, termed the concept ‘Global South’ irrelevant. They realized an “opportunity to chart its own future”. In the meantime, China and India are emerging as the leaders of the global south.
Their intensive economic growth and engagement with the developing world through multilateral platforms such as BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) provided them a formidable status. Moreover, the bid of Eastern countries to bring a multipolar world order and promote native currency also hints at an exciting twist. For a long Global South has been feeling “marginalized” and left out.
The Western countries including the US likely remained unable to identify the concerns of the developing world. This has triggered a potential change in the approach of policymakers in the Global South.
Therefore, what was the approach of the US towards the Global South since the end of the Cold War, and, how the US is changing that approach towards these countries? These are the questions, the answer to which is analyzed below.
Global South for America:
The policymakers in the US likely see the Foreign policy in pursuit of their national interest. It always sought its security cooperation and national interests in extension of its policy towards the global south. This has induced an impression among the masses of the developing countries. A survey result from Pew Research shows that the majority of the Global South including India, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa believes that the US does not consider the interests of other countries while pursuing policy abroad.
Similarly, the US always engaged regions as part of their broader strategy in the Global South than countries. Today, these countries adopted a ‘targeted strategy’ to achieve their national goals. These goals include those that have not been accomplished over time and the reason somehow was probably the West. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in January this year noted that “Most of the global challenges have not been created by the global south. But they affect us more”. Therefore, it has generated a sense of understanding in the countries Global South which proposed integration between them.
China and India as the Leaders of the Global South:
China proposed itself unconventional in its conduct with the developing countries. It considered itself as a member of the Global South and a developing country. This has not only created its influence but also increased the possibility of gathering these countries on a single agenda. Its bid to improve the status of the Global South also provided it a leadership position. Recently, China managed to break agreements between conflicting parties such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, proposed a peace plan for the Russia-Ukraine war, and showed commitment to settling the Palestinian issue. Also, in July this year, Beijing extended four proposals for the “Strengthening Cooperation Among Global South Countries”.
China not only engaged the countries south of the Brendt Line diplomatically but also incentivized through economic benefits.
Its remarkable growth of 10% annually over the 50 years provided it a base to envision its ambitions and wield its influence. It has a greater share of 60% among BRICS countries as they have surpassed the Group of Seven (G7) recently. Moreover, Chinese-led initiatives such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB), BRICS Bank or New Development Bank (NDB) are relatively generating less tough follow-up for the countries seeking loans.
Similarly, India which also belongs to the Global South and emerging as an economic power in the region, holds the status of emerging leader in the developing world. Although it needs to tackle the Chinese influence in the region, it is still participating in all multilateral forums. Recently, India balanced between the US and Russia. However, it became a strong voice for climate sustainability and the repercussions of it on developing countries.
Is the US Foreign Policy Changing?
After the Ukrainian crisis, the political dynamics have changed and the states in the south seem to be revising their approach. Instead of looking towards the West, Global South managed to integrate within the South-South cooperation. However, since last year, the Global North has also started realizing the diminishing influence of the developed world in the events of decision-making in Global South countries.
In the ministerial meeting of G7 countries, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi stressed the need for engagement with the Global South. “We will seek actions from other countries so that members of the entire international community, including the so-called Global South countries, will share the understanding that countries should follow the principles,” he said.
In the meantime, the West also started considering the engagement with the Global South. The debate in Washington started advocating the need for the US to engage the Global South. In her policy brief for the Stimson Centre Aude Darnal, a research fellow at the center noted the importance of “engagement with smaller and emerging powers”. “If the United States continues to cling to the obsolete post-Cold War unipolar mentality, it is likely to continue to lose its standing and influence in the international system,” she said.
Similarly, some key recent developments also indicated the changing American approach toward the Global South. The US which launched the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) initiative from the platform of G7, decided to bring the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) at the G20 summit earlier this month.
The exact reason for this was that G20 also contained the countries from the Global South and if the initiative successfully won a consensus, it would have fewer challenges, unlike PGII.
The corridor certainly holds importance for India and the Gulf countries as it connects them with Europe. But it was equally important for the United States as hailed by President Biden. “This is a big deal. This is a really big deal,” he said.
In addition to it, Biden is also actively engaging the Russian Backyard. The US is revitalizing the dead frameworks, utilizing them to spur against losing influence in the developing world. On the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly’s 78th session this year, the President of the United States met with his counterparts of the five Central Asian States under the C5+1 (United States) arrangement. The C5+1 arrangement was created by President Obama to check the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
During the course of history, the United States always sought to measure its relations with the Global South on the pawn of geopolitical interests. However, the current scenario demands from the US there can be a necessary alignment between the geopolitical and geo-economic relations with the developing nations.
The Russo-Ukraine Conflict has changed the geopolitical discourse in international relations. The United States has likely started realizing the losing influence in the developing countries.
The events like the launch of IMEC at the G20 summit and the timings at which it has been embarked indicate the re-engagement of the United States with the Global South. To sum up, what has been stated so far, the US is now likely recognizing the importance of engaging with these emerging powers and building partnerships to maintain its standing and influence in the evolving global landscape. This shift also seems to signify a departure from the post-Cold War unipolarity and acknowledges the changing dynamics of global politics.
The writer is a Communication and Research Assistant at the Centre for Strategic and Contemporary Research (CSCR). He can be reached at Usmanalee124@gamil.com and tweets under the username @Usman_Zulfiqar_.