Driven by spectacular economic excellence and independence of countries, which for years remained subjugated under the domains of one or the other superpower — the US and the then Soviet Union and latter joined by China — with the US in the lead as an unchallenged global power having its way in world affairs, inclusive of positioning US dollar as the currency of the world, these are interesting times in global politics indeed. The emerging “Middle Powers” like India, Saudi Arabia, Turkiye, Indonesia and others from the G20 club have challenged the world dominance of the three. Added to it is the expansion of BRICS as a dominant group on the world map and the emergence of the G77, which represents 80 percent of the world’s underprivileged population and wants to be heard in global politics and management.
Reflecting the fact that the global politics and economy are moving towards a polarised scenario with the diminishing control of the superpowers, the holding of three major summits within a span of a few weeks says it all. The BRICS, G20 and G77 summits held in South Africa, India and Havana, respectively, in the months of August and September are indeed contrasting examples.
The BRICS and G77 events were dominated by the China factor which in March 2023 showcased the Chinese diplomacy in a highly meaningful manner after Beijing successfully brokered the historic Iran-Saudi Arabia rapprochement, whereas the G20 summit was dominated by the India factor, which showcased India’s diplomacy on spearheading a ‘breakthrough achievement’ at G20 on the ‘Consensus on Ukraine in the summit declaration’.
India, much to its advantage, focused on making the African Union a permanent member of G20 with the ambition of creating a “new spice route” which proposes establishment of a chain of railroad networks, ports and energy and data-sharing networks linking South Asia to Africa, the Middle East and Europe. The US is underwriting this initiative under the title ‘ Partnership for Global Infrastructure & Investment’, while the EU announced its own version calling it a ‘Global Gateway’. Both initiates are meant to counter Chinese infrastructure spending under its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative.
It is important to note that Saudi Arabia has announced its ambitious role as a ‘middle power’ to be reckoned with. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is reported to have stated: “I believe the Middle East will be the new Europe. In 5 years, Saudi Arabia will be a completely different country. This is the Saudi war. This is my war. I want to see the Middle East on top of the world before I die. The Arab countries will become bigger than Europe in the next five years and the Middle East including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE, Oman, Jordan and Lebanon, among others, will have a robust economy”.
This level of ambition is a remarkable turnaround from the time when the former Trump administration declared Saudi Arabia as a country which cannot survive for a week without his country’s support. The rapid transformation taking place in Saudi Arabia is simply spectacular and much bigger than mere survival. The country has achieved the fastest growth in gross domestic product among the G20 countries for two consecutive years, and it is nursing legitimate ambitions to join G7.
BRICS with Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa with the recent addition of Argentina, Ethiopia, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE becomes the largest producer and consumer of oil sitting around one table. To the delight of China, many member countries are opting to trade in their own currencies. Indonesia is the latest entrant to the list.
The G77+China summit in Havana is also a significant and far-reaching development which in years to come could challenge the supremacy of G20 countries in shaping global economy and politics. With the presence of China in the group this can happen faster than envisaged.
Leaders at G77 in their address at the summit were vocal, if not belligerent, in their message to the affluent world with public statements demanding: “ A change in rules of the game of the international order after centuries of dominance by wealthy western nations putting their own interests first, terming the developing countries as the main victims of a multidimensional crisis in the world today from abusive unequal trade to devastating climate change”. The leaders stated: “After all this time that the North has organised the world according to its interests, it is now up to the South to change the rules of the game”. Emerging countries represent 80 percent of the world’s population. The meeting comes at a time of growing frustration with the Western-led world order because of widening differences over the war in Ukraine, the fight against climate change and the global economic system.
The emergence of G20, BRICS and G77 as the effective power blocs in world politics and economy with divergent interests has widened the gap between China and the US-led West. Italy, part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, is considering parting ways from it. It is no secret that the West has been wary of China’s growing clout, particularly in the developing world, in the past few years. “It was not a direct factor but the West, especially the US, is conscious that China is effectively trying to create an alternate international order that is anti-Western,” says Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, South Asia practice head of Eurasia Group. What is also not a secret is that the West sees India as a counterweight to China.
China is not pleased by Indian attempts to bypass its BRI, nor is it oblivious of US attempts to use India to contain the Chinese influence. The conflict of interests between China and India is likely to escalate with consequences for South Asia in particular.
In the global politics of today, the emerging ‘middle power’ is the force to reckon with in shaping and balancing the new world order. A question arises: does Pakistan have the potential to emerge and be counted as a ‘middle power’? The answer is in the affirmative. Pakistan has the track record of having played a significant role in world politics. This country, for example, played a pivotal role in bringing China and the US closer in 1971. Pakistan, time and again, played a deciding role as a front line state in the wars in Afghanistan. Pakistan played for years a leading role in the Islamic bloc, which reached new heights when this South Asian country became the only Islamic country with nuclear capability for defence of its sovereignty.
Tragically, Pakistan is embroiled in self-inflicted political uncertainty, leading to an economic turmoil. It has denied itself a role in the emerging world order. The use of India as a proxy power may ultimately compel China to tighten its embrace of Pakistan to check India’s hegemonic ambitions in the region. The US may also once again look upon Pakistan as an asset and a balancing factor in the emerging conflict in the region. For all this to happen Pakistan has to put its act together to be counted as a relevant ‘middle power’.Farhat Ali, "The changing world order: a perspective," Business recorder. 2023-09-23.
Keywords: Economics , Economic turmoil , World politics , Economics system , Monetary fund , Pakistan , India , Saudi Arabia , Turkiye , South Asian , US , BRICS , UAE