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Russia -Ukraine conflict – where does the Global South Stand with a reference to  Asian continent & BRICS by Dhanuka Dickwella

Global South & North is not a geographic divide. Although technically the regions of Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Oceania are considered Global south the term refers to a whole lot of different realities. Global north is technically the countries of the northern hemisphere.  Yet a country such a Haiti that is situated  well with in the Global north is not part of the grouping. Same way the continent of Australia which is physically  in the global south is not part of the grouping. It is a member of the Global north grouping. 

In a nutshell Global north is the collection of countries  in North America, Europe & Australia which are developed economies who follow the rule based system. While the Global south are the countries who are low income ,developing , & culturally different to the collective west.

The conflict between Russia & Ukraine was one of its kind that had earth shattering ramifications on the entire political divide. While largely the whole world is against ongoing hostilities what is important to see is how the world is divided in terms of siding with either Russia or the West.

We will study few important regions & groupings.

BRICS

The grouping of emerging global economies is known as BRICS  comprising Brazil , Russia , China, India & South Africa. While Russia is the instigator of what is going on in the continental Europe where do the others stand & why do they matter as a global forum ? This grouping has such a  tremendous impact on the global economy . They have vast human capital amounting to billions, raw materials  that are essential to the very existence of other industrial nations , rare earth, food  production & a plethora of essential industries & militaries. The collective population of the BRICS is a staggering 3.21 billion people or rather 41.5 & of the entire global population. Their land mass amounts to to 26.7 % of the entire globe. The figures speak for themself. 

 China is a big power both economically & militarily  while India , Brazil & South Africa are undoubtedly regional powers with a huge clouts in their respective geographical domains.  The countries in their immediate  periphery have a tradition to follow BRICS  or at least to see their view as the basis of one’s respective foriegn policy. True to its very existence they have maintained an independent or an alternative worldview from the inception.  That  could be a way to understand why they deiced to side with the Russian Federation in the connflict. 

While Brazil did vote at the UN general assembly alongside the West, they have neither  criticized the Russian federation nor agreed to sanction it. The usual trade between the two will function on a Business as usual method. Brazilian leader made a visit to Moscow against heavy criticism from their western counterparts & decided to increase the trade volumes. Alongside the conflict they decided to increase their Yuan hold to substantial levels that is a sign of what is to come.

India the South Asian giant is a member of the USA led Asian grouping called QUAD which was formed as an anti Chinese front. However instead of siding with the West , India abstained from all anti-Russian votes. Going a step forward they have increased the commodity purchases from Russia & enabled a Rupee Ruble payment mechanism to circumvent the sanctions. Disappointed American administration tried many times to coerce them but to no avail. Not even a direct dialogue between President Biden & Prime minister Modi helped bridge the gap. India  largely depends on the Russian federation for their defense industry needs & the traditional friendship dates back to centuries. It wouldn’t be wrong to assume that the Indian public is largely pro Russian due to many reasons including the firm Soviet backing of them militarily during the conflict with Pakistan which was an existential threat to India during the time.

China signed a no limit friendship agreement with the Russian federation prior to the war & firmly stood behind the Russians. The trade in-between the two nations is growing at a speed. China functions as the world factory thus requires enormous amounts of  raw material & energy sources to sustain. Russia on the other hand  is the world’s largest producer in many of those resources. Whatever the west rejects to buy the Chinese will be more than happy to purchase at discounted rates. Chinese banks have offered the Union pay system to the Russian credit card market. The Chinese payment system is accepted in 180 countries and regions and are accepted by 55 million merchants. Russian banks have started to issue their MIR credit cards with Union Pay allowing them the much needed lifeline. Chinese media plays a completely pro Russian narrative of the events helping shape the image in the Chinese speaking population globally. 

South Africa not only refused to side with the west but also condemned the NATO alliance. South Africa is an emerging economy & has an important political clout in many African political bodies.But why South Africa make such  a stand will have to be looked through prism of history. During the Apertied , weh the West largely worked against the ANC the former Soviet Union backed then to such extents. Africans in general see the former colonial powers as a force that still work to undermine their sovereignty.

Other regions

South Asia. 

South Asian countries did not take the same stand as the west with regards to the conflict. They abstained from voting against the RF & avoided criticizing  them. The region has a traditionally friendly relationship with Russia. Besides Russian tourists bring substantial volumes for many of these countries. India’s stand would have played a crucial role in deciding their loyalties in a way. Pakistan’s now deposed leader Imran Khan was in Moscow on the day the conflict started . Instead of criticizing what was happening on the ground he concluded a few lucrative trade deals with the Russian federation despite the anger expressed by the west.

West Asia

Consecutive US administrations have invested billions of money , time & sweat their blood in this resource rich region. A natural loyalty was expected. Yet the reactions were surprising. UAE – Saudi led gulf block did not criticize nor sanctioned the Russian federation. Turkey refused to sanction the Russians & Iran overtly supported the Russians. These are the most notable powers in the West Asian region. Rest of the members did not side with the American moves anyways. They did not take progressive’s steps through OPEC to help curb the rising energy price. They decided to stick to the production cut & kept repeating the phrase ” Russian oil & Gas could not be replaced in the short term”. The climax of the showdown was the rejection of the UAE & House of Saud’s response to Biden administration’s phone calls. If you look carefully for this change of hearts what we could see is the below. The USA has withdrawn from the region’s military while Russia is playing a bigger role all over the region. Russians maintain a deterrent force holding the region’s security in their grp. My personal belief however  is that the OPEC plus grouping could very well explain the stand of the Middle Eastern political elites. End of the day money really talks. Besides most of the Arabs see the Amerians as a hostile force. 

East Asia 

Both Japan  & South Korea host US military bases. So there is hardly any reason for those nations to have second thoughts. They sided with the West as well as imposed sanctions on Russia. Taiwan has its own reason to worry & would depend on the West for its very survival in time to come . Singapore is to a very great extent a pro US country. Besides with neighbors with large militaries around them & the memory of the marching Japanese imperial armies would have been the core reason for the stand of  the  Singaporeans. They took the same path as Japan & South Korea. But none of the other nations such as Indonesia , Malaysia , Vietnam , Thailand, Philippines , Laos, Myanmar , Cambodia decided to follow suit. Most noticeable of all was the next host nation of the G20 summit – Indonesia. A popular demand was made to cancel the Russian federation & the authorities in Jakarta held fort & went ahead with inviting the Russians. 

Central Asia – 

It is no surprise that the Central Asians will naturally toe the lines of the Russians. Being part of the former Soviet Union & with a clear display of what the Russian federation is capable of in terms of rebellious nations in the Post Soviet space, they will not only side with Russia but also show solidarity with them. Kazakhstan , Tajikistan & Kyrgyzstan are already members of the CSTO military grouping led by the Russian federation. Azerbaijan which was a part of the GUAM grouping which functioned as a pro western political entity has very less choice given the fact that Russian peacekeepers are manning their borders. Uzbekistan & Turkmenistan has not been hostile to Russians in general & they simply have no such military , economic or political might to do so.

In a nutshell the Asian continent & the BRICS have taken either a completely different stance or shy away from the collective west’s position when it comes to the ongoing European conflict. The reasons vary from one’s own economic interests to military alignments to traditional friendships. What the Russians had to do in these regions is just to capitalize on the SOVIET diplomatic investments. It has largely worked. The effort of isolating the Russian federation & limiting its economic clout does not seem to take a noticeable effect in these capitals. What it means for the prolonging or a complete halt to the conflict is yet to be seen. What is clear however is that a Faultline  has emerged between the West & the East. Unless the conventional wisdom prevails & the West tries to bridge the gap through diplomatic means , no amount of threat of sanctions, bullying & economic blackmailing will  make the BRICS or the Asian nations align with the West. Russia managed to drive a wedge in between the collective west & the BRICS / Asians nations. None of these nations have any antipathy towards Ukraine. But all they could see is a weakened & isolated west that has lost its control over global politics to a very large degree & an emerging multipolar system where they could reap enormous benefits by just having an independent foreign policy.

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