Regional Superpowers on the World Stage Part III

In 2005, India and the United States reached an agreement on a strategic partnership, and a new agreement on defense cooperation was signed. This includes US arms deliveries, joint military exercises, joint training programs, cooperation in the fight against terrorism, intelligence cooperation, peacekeeping and crisis management. When the United States occupied Iraq, the United States and India agreed that 17,000 Indian soldiers should take part in the occupation. Militarily, India is almost the perfect complement to the United States since India has one thing the United States lacks: a large number of low-wage troops. Indian opinion, however, was opposed to the US invasion of Iraq, and the country withdrew from participating in the occupation of Iraq.

In 1962, China surprisingly moved across the northern border into India. Since then, there have been disputes over the border, but in the 1980s, India and China began to approach each other again. The approach has continued ever since. In January 2006, China and India entered into an agreement on energy cooperation, and they are negotiating a border agreement. India’s interest in approaching China is not only due to the need for increased security, but also a desire to strengthen the rapidly growing economic trade between the two countries and learn from China’s growth experiences. About a third of India’s exports today go to China, a country located in Asia according to The bilateral approach between India and China is an important precondition for the cooperation that the two countries have developed with Brazil, South Africa and other developing countries in the WTO negotiations.

6: Brazil

Brazil has a relatively highly developed economy, with a strong emphasis on “agrobusiness”. The country is the world’s 10th largest industrial power and the world’s 5th largest arms exporter. While India for many years had consistently weak economic growth, the Brazilian economy has been characterized by fluctuations between growth and setbacks. Brazil has long been a heavily urbanized country, with many poor and very high crime rates. The social inequality is, as elsewhere in Latin America, enormous. Brazil is often referred to as a regional superpower without the country actually taking on any leadership role in South America. Political distance or opposition to several other countries in the region has made it difficult, and Brazil has not really made very active attempts to lead the region.

After 38 years of right-wing governments, Labor leader Lula da Silva was elected president in 2002, and since then several other Latin American countries (Argentina, Chile, Bolivia) have had left-wing leaders. Lula’s rise to power created hope among Brazil’s poor, but he chose to continue the liberal economic policies of his predecessors. Lately, corruption in its own ranks has undoubtedly weakened Lula and his party ahead of the October 2006 elections. There, Brazil has marked distance to the United States, while the country has tried to develop Latin American economic and political cooperation. Brazil played a key role in the creation of the South American common market MERCOSUR (1991, together with Argentina,

7: South Africa

While Asia is characterized by a few large countries, Africa is divided into as many as 53 states – none of them a real superpower. The strongest candidate for regional superpower status is South Africa, even though the country has no more than 45 million inhabitants. Nigeria has a much larger population (130 million) but suffers from political mismanagement. Egypt also has a larger population (75 million), but has a stronger political and cultural connection to the Arab Middle East than to the African continent – and also a weak economy.

South Africa bases its regional superpower status on the history of the ANC’s long struggle against apartheid, on the ANC’s ability to reconcile with the former white rulers, which allowed South Africa to maintain a modern industrial sector, a significant foreign economy, high quality educational institutions and on the enormous international prestige the country built up when Nelson Mandela was president (1994-99).

Mandela hosted several important international conferences. South Africa’s relations with India have always been close, and the country has established diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. Under Mandela’s successor, Tambo Mbeki, who has led South Africa since 1999, the ANC has maintained its dominant political position, although Mbeki does not have the same prestige as Mandela. South Africa has long played a significant role in trying to stop the civil wars in Congo, Burundi, Angola and Sudan. Pretoria has generally taken a conciliatory line towards conflicting parties and met with opposition, not least in the question of how the outside world should relate to the authoritarian Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe.

For a decade, South Africa has been actively promoting an Africa-friendly development policy in the UN and other fora. The country has established itself as a representative of Africa’s poor and has good relations both with the apartheid regime’s former supporters in the West and with the socialist and social democratic regimes that previously supported the ANC’s liberation struggle. This forms part of the background for the cooperation that has emerged between South Africa, Brazil, India and China in the WTO. A global political development alliance of emerging regional powers seems to be emerging.

South Africa

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