Labelling India, China etc. as emerging nations does no justice to their history, he says
National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon caused a bit of consternation at the Munich Security Conference when he pointed out that the Western construct of labelling India, China and other developing countries as “emerging nations” did not do justice to their history.
Speaking at the first-ever special session on “rising powers and global governance,” an accommodation to the economic rise of India, China, Brazil and other countries at the Security Conference, Mr. Menon felt he was not sure if this label fitted the description.
Contrary to the western discourse of calling these nations emerging powers, he pointed out that several others felt these countries were in the process of restoring the historical norm in the international hierarchy and distribution of power. “Re-emerging powers would be less condescending,” he suggested.
Along with Chinese Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Song Tao, he sought to debunk the notion — largely inspired by Western history — that the re-emergence of these countries on the global stage would lead to conflict and dissonance in the global order. Such concepts were a result of the European experience since the Treaty of Westphalia — four out of five instances of reordering of the balance of power had involved conflicts of massive proportions. This led to the assumption that the rest of the world will follow a similar course.
Past experience and logic suggests that readjustment can be smooth. For instance, the redistribution of economic power over the past two decades had been peaceful.
“It is natural that those who worry about readjustment of power look to instruments of global governance to prevent it. The world suffers from a deficit of global governance. It is noticeable by its absence,” Mr. Menon said, while observing that though there were 300 multilateral instruments, their legitimacy had declined and effectiveness questionable. That is why military solutions were being implemented to check crises, whether it was in Libya or Syria.
“India realises that established powers were not going to willingly share power unless it became imperative in their self-interest due to unprecedented developments. This was human nature,” he reasoned, to keep such developments in abeyance as long as possible. As a result, no European power was laying down new rules of global governance nor were they projecting an alternative vision of a world order.
In the coming days, Mr. Menon suggested genuine global governance to face future challenges to security in areas such as cyberspace, outer space, food and energy.If Mr. Menon went against the flow, Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala too gave the organisers further food for thought by asking why Africa was not at the podium along with representatives from China, India, Singapore and Brazil. With one billion people, the African continent was as populous as China and India. While China would be facing an ageing problem, 60 per cent of Africa was under 30 years of age. Economic growth was five per cent annually and will continue to remain at that level in the years to come. Its countries were gradually becoming stable democracies and key topics at the Conference were about African countries — Mali and Egypt, she said.
“I support your view,” said Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen while Mr. Menon and Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio de Aguiar Patriota nodded approvingly.
Mr. Patriota felt “all have blind spots” and the Munich Security Conference’s focus on trans-Atlantic partnership was erroneous. All the participants were from North Atlantic, he pointed out while informing the audience about a recent meeting of trans-South Atlantic countries held in Montevideo, Uruguay, less than a month back in which 21 participants were from Africa.
“It is very fortunate some one raised her voice,” he said while urging sympathetic treatment to Africa which was still struggling to recover from the wounds of colonisation.