Look to Brasilia, Not Beijing

by Dave

 WSJ.com

a more compelling challenge to the current world order may be emerging from an unlikely trio of countries that boast both impeccable democratic credentials and serious global throw weight. They are India, Brazil and South Africa and their little-noticed experiment in foreign policy coordination since 2003 to promote subtle but potentially far-reaching changes to the international system has the potential to leave fears of a rising China in the dustbin of history.

The quasi-alliance of these three powers has serious implications for the international system, and its major underwriter, the U.S., depending on how the challenge is handled. But an equally important, and quite unintended implication, is the sabotage of China’s great power ambitions. By robbing China of its claims to represent developing countries, this new cooperative trio could sideline China from the major debates in international affairs. That may be good news for domestic reform in China, which has long been stunted by the country’s great power ambitions.

The origins of the India-Brazil-South Africa Dialogue Forum (IBSA) lie in South Africa’s quest for a new allies more consonant with its interests and ideas following the end of apartheid in 1994. The immediate impetus came from Brazilian president Luiz InĂ¡cio Lula da Silva, who floated a formal cooperation scheme in early 2003. In June of that year, the foreign ministers of the three countries inaugurated the group in Brasilia, calling for a strengthening of international institutions to address the concerns of developing countries in areas like poverty, the environment and technology. Since then, according to Sarah-Lea John de Sousa of Madrid’s FRIDE think tank, the trio has been gaining support as “spokesmen for developing countries at the global level.”

IBSA members note that they are “vibrant democracies” and Daniel Flemes of Hamburg-based German Institute for Global and Area Studies noted in a 2007 paper that “IBSA’s common identity is based on values such as democracy, personal freedoms and human rights.” Human rights, civil society, social empowerment and “gender mainstreaming” are central to their moral capital.

Indian and Brazilian diplomats in particular, already among the world’s best, can advance the IBSA agenda because they share common ideals.

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