Opinion by Zulfiqar Shah
International politics of middle path
What possible role Australia, Japan, Sweden and the rest emerging powers can play in the gradually multipolarizing world?
Geographical irritants like highly distant location from the rest of the countries, value based interests and historical setbacks are the factors behind the re-writing and re-defining the international relations, and thereby diplomacy of Japan, Australia and Sweden. They have their peculiar perspectives of not only protecting their interests but also the foreign policy exceptions like containing values of maximum restrain by Japan; extensive and exhaustive but accommodative engagement with the international community by Australia on the basis of bilateral and multilateral interests; an century long attempt to maintain neutrality by disassociating from the military alliances by Sweden.
Besides, the three countries have also played a significant role in development and rights regime support in Asia and Africa. There is also criticism however regarding the other aspects of their foreign policies, but the overall outlook and policy framework of these three countries is highly peculiar. Can these peculiarities offer more to the world? What benefits the nations and the citizens around the world can take if their roles become more comprehensive? We need to look briefly in the context.
Policy of Middle Path: If we appropriately name the foreign policy peculiarities and exceptionalism by Australia, Japan and Sweden we would justifiably name it the foreign policy of middle path, although the demanding ‘national interests’ have always created rough sailing for these countries to choose between interests niche and the historical matrix of their international relations.
Unlike Sweden and Japan, Australia is a NATO ally but its overall performance in the recent Afghan war was lesser prone to the criticism. Besides, the Australian support in the international development directly or through the United Nations mechanisms is an integral part of its softer engagements.
Japan, meanwhile facing security threats in the Asia-pacific, had been facing highly rudderless journey. Despite several upside-downs in its journey towards appropriation for its international engagements, Japan has corrected its course in recent years. The results of which are highly visible under Abe regime.
Sweden, unlike both have a long foreign policy history of maintaining neutrality although at various stages it has been in the hard waters in selecting neutrality over the partiality in the international engagements but its overall policy framework again has remained a real mid-path due to its continuous attempts for sticking to the neutrality.
Realism behind the ‘Middle Path Exceptionalism’ : The middle path policy realism behind these countries’ international relations and foreign policies has some geo-political contexts and historical aspects.
Japan is a smaller geography located between the giants like China and USA. It has waged war with both in past, got defeat from China and was nuked by USA. It is an ally of USA today, but it has a conflict of interests and geo-strategic security standoffs with the North Korea and China. It has continuously tried to reassert itself in the Asia particularly in the Asia-Pacific. These geographical peculiarities combined with the historical context of the Second World War if seen in the perspective of the contemporary economic development in association with the cultural ethos of Zain Buddhism, Japan has potential to adopt a new kind of foreign policy matrix in steadily multipolarizing world.
Sweden among the European nations has a classical history of cultural neutralism based on its geopolitical location near the gateway of Eurasia. It has vociferously refused to be part of international war alliances and has at least tried to exhibit neutrality, although it has been compelled at various times to withdraw its policy of neutrality. In the recent context of Crimean and Ukrainian conflict, Sweden was at the verge of weaponization due to security concerns.
Australian history is similar to the past of USA but has extremely different geo-political realities. It is situated in the one corner of the word; encircled with the largest rim of islands; and has always been amid geo-political issues related to maritime security. Over last one decade, like Japan, Australia has also tried to attain maximum space in Asia pacific. The trio of Australia, Japan and Sweden has played a considerable role in the international development through AUSAID, JAICA , and Sida.
Middle Powers and Culture of Old Guards: Australia and Japan have been trying to develop themselves as middle powers, in which they have been successful. They are the part of G20. They have got unexpected pace of economic development. Although Australia is a power of Australian continent, it is considered in broader perspective an Asiatic economy. Sweden is a sizeable economy but have significant role in the world politics due to its policy of neutralism. There are possibilities that these countries tomorrow may develop as middle power and may ally with the countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. A similar position in the west is held by Germany, which is already a recognized world power.
There is also criticism by many corners over the roles of these three countries concerning their non-vocalism for the under-developed and developing nations as well as countries. There are also issues in some parts of the world that when these countries serve their economic interests in Asia-Pacific, South Asia, Middle East and Africa, they do not care much about the interests of indigenous people in the employment, royalties and Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR). Besides, the attitude of these countries in wider terms is replica of the G5+1 regarding the overall legitimate secessionist movements in the world. These three countries are highly non-sensitive to the legitimate freedom movements like the freedom movement of Kurdistan in Iraq and Sindh and Balochistan in Pakistan. This rigidity among their policy framework is an outcome of their replicating the already recognized world powers. Besides, being a mediatory force they prefer to help support the developing counties and their statuesque despite becoming the supporters of change within their obsolete state-structures.
Growing Others: New powers are growing in almost every continent of the world. Germany, India, Brazil and South Africa are towards the path of middle power. What matters more that how these powers become reformative in bid to change the course of world politics statuesque since the global politics is changing very steadily. Canada may also play a similar role. And, the club could also have been joined by the powerful others like Israel and Iran who due to certain reasons are not part of it. For example Israel was and is potential enough to play a significant role. Had Israel and Iran not drained their energies in the decades’ long conflicts, they would have been promising countries in the overall global development.
All of them, if engaged with the traditional as well existing world powers like USA, UK, Russia, France and China for the course changing politics, global economy transformation, reforms in the trade regimes like World Trade Organization (WTO) and fiscal oligarchies like World Bank (WB), International Monitory Fund (IMF), and Asian Development Bank (ADB), as well as further reformation in the bodies on Climate Change and Nuclear Nonproliferation the results may become highly friendly towards world citizenry.
Challenges Ahead: The biggest challenge of our times is paradigm shift in the interest-games. There can be hundreds of ways to serve the interests in a manner to avoid damaging the legitimate interests of the indigenous people in the regions of high stakes. The other major challenge is to cleanse the dirt and straight the knotty patches that were created due to World War I, II and the Cold War.
Twenty first century has to get rid of the dirt and the trouble created in the twentieth century. We have to fight with the climate threats, poverty, food insecurity and non-sovereignty, struggle for the civil and political liberties in almost all continents of the world. The time has come for the world to transform quantitative voters’ democracies of Asia and Africa into the substantive democracies. We have to give liberations to the nations like Sindhi, Baloch and Kurds that have lost their legitimate sovereignty two centuries ago and fighting for the freedom. In fact Sindh and Balochistan are the historical countries that are under subjugation since last 170 years.
Let the changing world power matrix also address the legitimate issues that have devastated nations and subjugated nations in Pakistan, and war victims in Afghanistan and Iraq. The most important would be putting a final and permanent full stop to the use of religious extremism as a proxy of the war to resources and geo-strategic interests. A large range of structural and legal framework reforms within United Nations in the above context is the niche of the time.
A real mid-path, would be an appropriate blending the philosophy of Gandhi, Tolstoy, Martin King Luther, Nelson Mandela and G.M. Syyed with the international relations and politics is the only way forward for peacefully co-existing world. Utopia or material? Only time has to prove. The writer is a Sindhi refugee journalist, activist and analyst currently staying in New Delhi.
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