Welcome focus in foreign
Close on the
heels of the Seychelles' President's visit to Sri Lanka, the
latter is hosting the Maldivian President, even while holding
talks with Yasushi Akashi, Japanese special representative, who
is no stranger to Sri Lanka. Only a couple of weeks back, Sri
Lanka played host to the King of Swaziland, thereby underscoring
this country's special concern to expand cooperative ties with
the African continent.
All this and more is taking place on the foreign relations
front, in the backdrop of some momentous developments which are
of great significance for not only Sri Lanka but for the
developing world in general. The 16th Non-aligned Heads of State
Summit is just round the corner and will be held in Tehran,
while come September 7, 2012 and Sri Lanka will be hosting the
58th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference. Thus, Sri Lanka is
certainly in the limelight internationally and could consider
herself to be in the thick of very beneficial inter-state
interactions. This is an astounding rebuff of those who have
been singling this country out for criticism on nebulous,
ill-founded allegations, locally as well as internationally.
While these developments should be seen as underscoring the
confidence a considerable proportion of the international
community has in Sri Lanka, they also have to be valued for the
insights they offer on currently changing international power
configurations. As frequently pointed out, the international
power balance is changing in favour of East Asia and the
developing world in general and economic clout is playing a
considerable role in this shift in power relations between the
developing world and the West. It is East and South East Asia,
in particular, which are the key economic players in this
changed international power structure and it follows naturally
that this economic clout translates into political muscle.
Accordingly, in terms of power and influence, things are
looking up for the developing world or the South of the global
hemisphere and the less powerful of the world community should
exploit the pluses in this favourable international situation to
the fullest. Accordingly, Sri Lanka is giving her foreign policy
the correct orientation by strengthening her ties with the
global South, including island states in the Indian Ocean region
and the economic 'powerhouses' of Asia, including China, India,
Korea and Japan.
The concept of South-South cooperation had fallen into disuse
as a result of the majority of developing countries choosing
over the past 30 or more years to headily immerse themselves in
the 'synergies' of economic liberalization and what has been
seen as market-driven growth. This is highly unfortunate because
it was most inadvisable of the developing countries or the Third
World to drift away from their ideological moorings, such as,
Non-alignment and South-South cooperation, which could have
paved the way for their empowerment in every conceivable
respect. Instead, neo-liberal economic development paradigms,
which most of the developing countries opted for, have not
brought them any substantial and tangible material benefits
worth speaking of.
Therefore, the developing world needs to make some marked
changes in its development thinking and one important change in
such policy thinking is the strengthening of economic and other
linkages among developing countries.
That is, the steady fostering of South-South cooperation and
the upcoming NAM Summit would do well to not only resurrect and
support this concept but explore the possibilities of practising
it in a major way.
Looked at from this perspective, Sri Lanka is doing right by
fostering close economic links with the rest of the developing
world, irrespective of whether the states are big or small.
There are vast and lucrative markets which are opening-up in the
Indian Ocean region and beyond and this country's aim should be
penetrate them to the benefit of the states involved. Trade,
investment and tourism are just three areas of economic
importance that are waiting to be tapped on a cooperative basis
and the developing world would do well to lose no time in going
about this task.
What we in the developing world need is a change in policy
outlook and it is high time we revived those ideological
underpinnings, such as, NAM and South-South cooperation, which
are uniquely Third World in origin.