Global Crisis and Global South: India’s Role and Response

Speaking on the occasion of United Nations (UN) Day on Oct. 24, India’s External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar said that India will always stand with the Global South and seek to strengthen the United Nations’ effectiveness. He reiterated India’s focus on reformed multilateralism, rule of law and a fair and equitable international system aimed at ensuring UN’s continued relevance. Dr. Jaishankar also highlighted India’s ongoing tenure as a member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has reflected its principled approach to promoting dialogue and diplomacy to meet contemporary challenges. 

While India has been a consistent and prominent voice of the Global South the crisis resulting from the Russia-Ukraine war has only intensified India’s efforts to work towards equitable representation to the Global South. 

Nour Dados and Raewyn Connell, from the Faculty of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney, define Global South as the regions of Latin America, Asia, Africa and Oceania and denote regions outside Europe and North America. Political analysts Lina Benabdallah, Carlos Murillo-Zamora and Victor Adetula, in their jointly authored article “Global South Perspectives on International Theory”, write about the overarching Euro-centrism and absence of perspectives on and under-theorisation of Global South in the mainstream scholarship. 

Support to the countries categorized as Global South has been the cornerstone of India’s foreign policy. India’s commitment to the cause of the Global South stems from its own experiences as a colonized nation. Even after gaining independence in 1947, India consistently voiced its support to the independence of the colonized nations of Asia and Africa. 

The end of the Second World War witnessed the formation of the United Nations as an international institution but at the same time there emerged a bi-polar world order led by the United States and the Soviet Union that looked to expand their influence through propagating capitalist and communist systems respectively. India, while welcoming the institutional mechanism of the United Nations, steered clear from the power politics of the two blocs. Further, India strongly supported the initiative of Non-Alignment particularly for the newly independent nations. The reason behind such an initiative was protection of national interests of economically weaker countries by not becoming a subordinate of major powers.

India’s role in the present context

Since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war, India has been calling for cessation of hostilities and dialogue and diplomacy as the way forward to resolve the conflict. India also called for respecting sovereignty and territorial integrity of all the parties concerned. 

India’s stand on the Russia-Ukraine war is backed by its reiteration for the role of a strong institutional mechanism to avoid and resolve conflict situations. In the past few months, India has been vocal about the reforms necessary for effective functioning of the United Nations. While speaking at the Lowy Institute during his visit to Australia in October, India’s External Affairs Minister Dr. Jaishankar stated that the United Nations could become irrelevant if essential reforms are not undertaken. He said that the countries from the Global South feel isolated at the global forum implying countries from Africa, Latin America and the Pacific Island nations. Dr. Jaishankar also stressed that there are continents perceiving that the United Nations Security Council does not take into account their problems. 

For its part, India has been an active collaborator with the United Nations in South-South Cooperation, a broad framework for collaboration among countries of the South in political, economic, social, cultural, environmental and technical domains involving two or more developing countries. Speaking on the occasion of 5th anniversary commemoration of the India-UN Development Partnership in New York in October, India’s Minister of State for External Affairs V. Muraleedharan highlighted India’s role in the South-South cooperation. He said that India’s Neighbourhood First Policy and Vaccine Diplomacy are testimony to India’s commitment to the spirit of South-South cooperation. 

India as a connecting link between North and South

In September, India became the fifth largest economy in the world as per projections by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Only the United States, China, Japan and Germany are ahead of India. However, despite taking rapid strides in becoming one of the major economies in the world, India continued with its commitment towards the Global South. While the Russia-Ukraine war has impacted the global economy, the United States and Europe continue to receive major focus as regards to economic crisis. 

India, on the other hand, while calling for the UN to be inclusive has raised the concerns of the Global South since Africa and Latin America are gearing up for economic crisis as well. In this sense, India is a link between the North and the South. For their part, Africa and Latin America are also keen to strengthen their engagements with India and benefit from India’s economic rise. 

The balance in India’s foreign policy in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine war has been considered only from the perspective of India’s maintaining close relations with the West as well as Russia. However, India has also balanced its engagements with the developed countries on one hand and the Global South on the other.

[Representational image. Credit: U.S. Department of State, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons]

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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