Sri Lanka and the chang­ing world or­der

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - NEWS -

TSUNDAY, SEPTEM­BER 17, 2017

he United Na­tions Gen­eral Assem­bly (UNGA) be­gins its an­nual ses­sions in New York to­mor­row over­shad­owed by the threat of one of its trig­ger-happy mem­ber-states, the Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Korea (North Korea) go­ing bal­lis­tic, threat­en­ing a nu­clear catas­tro­phe with global im­pli­ca­tions.

Pres­i­dent Maithri­pala Sirisena is billed to speak on day two – Tues­day, Septem­ber 19. He will get to shake hands and rub shoul­ders with world lead­ers and keep them briefed about the good work he is do­ing back home.

Un­for­tu­nately, his visit comes in the back­drop of a UN ex­pert’s re­port that has found that Sri Lanka, among oth­ers, has busted a UN eco­nomic sanc­tion on North Korea and done business on the sly with that coun­try. Who­dunit re­mains a mys­tery even to the Govern­ment here. It is un­likely how­ever, that this would cloud the Pres­i­dent’s visit to UNGA.

Sanc­tions as a weapon of war are a Western strat­egy to bring re­cal­ci­trant na­tions which don’t toe their line to or­der. This has been con­demned by BRICS, the emerg­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion of Brazil, Rus­sia, In­dia, China and South Africa, at its re­cent sum­mit in China. In a 70-page com­mu­nique, it at­tempts to steer the world back to the prin­ci­ples of the UN Char­ter, away from Western dom­i­na­tion “in­clud­ing sov­er­eign equal­ity and non-in­ter­fer­ence in other coun­tries’ af­fairs”.

Sri Lanka has long suf­fered due to sanc­tions un­der the cover of UN res­o­lu­tions, re­cent in­stances be­ing when sanc­tions were im­posed on Sad­dam Hus­sein’s Iraq, one of Sri Lanka’s big­gest tea buy­ers and then against Iran, one of the big­gest oil sup­pli­ers.

BRICS is fight­ing back against this Western-dom­i­nated UN agenda and has all the po­ten­tial of be­com­ing the New Non Aligned Move­ment. It is ex­pand­ing its reach with each sum­mit, this time invit­ing ‘non-aligned’ coun­tries like Egypt and Thai­land to its fold. At present, BRICS rep­re­sents al­most half the world’s pop­u­la­tion and con­trib­uted more than 50 per­cent of the world’s eco­nomic growth in the past 10 years. (See ST2 Page 6).

With the US mov­ing fur­ther and fur­ther away from the world stage, adopt­ing an iso­la­tion­ist pol­icy and con­sid­er­ing the UN a ‘waste of money, a waste of time and a waste of tongue’, BRICS is surg­ing ahead ea­ger to fill the void. US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is even phys­i­cally dis­play­ing this meta­phoric dis­tanc­ing by lord­ing it at his pri­vate New Jersey Golf Club dur­ing the UNGA ses­sions, forc­ing world dig­ni­taries who come to New York to jour­ney all the way if they want a pri­vate meet­ing with him.

In con­trast, the Chi­nese Pres­i­dent told the BRICS sum­mit, “our world to­day is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly multi-po­lar; the econ­omy has be­come glob­alised, there is grow­ing cul­tural di­ver­sity, and the so­ci­ety has been dig­i­talised. The law of the jun­gle where the strong prey on the weak and the zero-sum-game are re­jected, and peace, devel­op­ment and win-win co­op­er­a­tion have be­come the shared as­pi­ra­tion of all our peo­ple”. He might well have been quot­ing a US Pres­i­dent of yes­ter­year.

These sen­ti­ments though, do not sit too com­fort­ably when viewed with China’s state­craft to com­pro­mise na­tion-states with loans they can­not re­pay – like the case of Sri Lanka, and then throt­tle them by seek­ing eq­uity and a stake in their real estate for de­fault­ing; the most vul­ner­a­ble be­ing those coun­tries within its OBOR (One Belt; One Road ini­tia­tive) – the for­mer Silk Route map.

With China push­ing its quest for global dom­i­na­tion through the New Devel­op­ment Bank to chal­lenge the West-dom­i­nated IMF and World Bank by ser­vic­ing the fi­nan­cial needs of eco­nom­i­cally de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, a new world or­der is un­fold­ing as UNGA meets.

Pres­i­dent Sirisena will get an up-front and per­sonal view of these un­fold­ing de­vel­op­ments at the UNGA ses­sions and in its side­line. One would hope the visit will not be only for photo-ops with world lead­ers for do­mes­tic con­sump­tion, but one where he comes to speed with world de­vel­op­ments, not least cli­mate change, some­thing that is plain to see even in US cities these days, de­spite its lead­er­ship dis­miss­ing it as a hoax.

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