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Globalisation and Regionalisation: Mapping the New Continental Drift

How far have regional organisations in the south been successful in struggling against neoliberal policies initiated in the northern countries, and actively aided by the international financial institutions? How far have they succeeded in establishing an alternative global regime of development? An assessment of these regional formations in Asia, Africa and Latin America is undertaken to find whether they could fulfil the aspirations for an alternative and just globalisation.


Globalisation and Regionalisation: Mapping the New Continental Drift

Ajay Gudavarthy

How far have regional organisations in the south been successful in struggling against neoliberal policies initiated in the northern countries, and actively aided by the international financial institutions? How far have they succeeded in establishing an alternative global regime of development? An assessment of these regional formations in Asia, Africa and Latin America is undertaken to find whether they could fulfil the aspirations for an alternative and just globalisation.

An earlier version of this paper was presented at an international conference on “Social Policy in a Globalising World: Developing a North-South Dialogue” jointly organised by University of Florence and ISA (RC 19), 6-8 September 2007, Florence. I wish to thank Adam Habib for sharing some of his work on Africa, and also Martin Aranguren and Antulio Rosales for sharing their unpublished work and for some very interesting discussions on the ongoing changes in Latin America.

Ajay Gudavarthy ( is with the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

he adverse impact of neoliberal reforms being aggressively pursued in the name of globalisation since the 1960s in Latin America and 1980s in Asia and Africa has resulted in certain common trends and patterns of underdevelopment. The southern continents need to not only realise this but also learn from each other’s experience and forge stronger political alliances and economic integration that they seem to be already moving towards independently in each of these continents. In the last three decades there has been a fivefold increase in the difference in the per capita income between the industrialised northern and the developing southern countries.1 One way to resist such an onslaught and growing inequalities is sought in the new regional formations, such as the New Partnership of Africa’s Development (NEPAD) in Africa, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in Asia and MERCUSOR and Bolivarian Alternative for the People of Our America (ALBA) in Latin America. How far have the regional organisations been successful in struggling against neoliberal policies initiated by the northern countries, and actively aided by the international financial institutions? How far have they succeeded in establishing an alternative global regime of development? Before we proceed to answer these questions we need to map what exactly are the political, cultural and economic principles involved in the alternative discourse on globalisation. We can then assess which of the alternative regional formations in Asia, Africa and Latin America actually are close to the aspirations for an alternative and just globalisation.

Problematising Alternative Globalisation

Problematising alternative globalisation is an arduous task not only in mapping the alternative political, cultural and economic principles that are agreeable without excluding or being disadvantageous to any of the developing countries but also in making them practical enough in terms of their immediate implications and implementational mechanisms. We shall attempt to elaborate the core principles, which shall serve us as the guiding principles in making an assessment of the growing phenomenon of regionalisation.

1 Economic Guidelines

The foremost principle is to move beyond the singular focus on economic growth and trade, to arrive at human-centric sustainable, humanist or whole development. This involves critiquing the profits system for the corporates as the prime aim of the economy.

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Concomitantly this principle is built on a questioning of the fictitious logic

that the huge global problem of poverty, both absolute and relative, can be solved by seeking to maximise overall economic growth, on the questionable assumption that this will push up living standards across the board. In these circumstances it will have to be recognised that the only alternative way of solving the problem is through redistribution of income and wealth, both within and between the nations (Shutt 2001: 109).

This shift from “maximisation to redistribution” helps us to make a crucial distinction between “market economy” and “market society”, i e, market needs to have a delimited role and cannot be the lone driving force for the development model to be pursued by the countries of the south. Increasingly the northern countries have ended up as market societies with hedonistic consumerism as the most significant motivational factor and allowing the consumer logic to dictate the social life-world, which is what Habermas referred to as a process of “colonisation of the Life-World”. It also needs to be recognised that since the second world war the global “growth rates cannot for long significantly exceed their historic average of 2-2.5% over the long term” (ibid: 108). Thus, the alternative development model, as against the neoliberal model of economy, needs to postulate alternative priorities such as detailed below.

Making environment sustainable that is being disrupted by overconsumption of scarce non-renewable resources – focusing on the ecological issues invariably have global dimensions and cannot be restricted to the local or the national. However, the issue of distribution of responsibilities between the north and the south needs to be elaborately discussed not to adversely impact the basic growth required for any meaningful development.

Drawing a causal link between population growth and poverty that works both ways – in order to break the vicious circle between the two, upgrading of social conditions, including massive programmes for literacy, ought to be of high priority (Seminar 1996: 204) .

Universalising the effective appropriation of all human rights

– civil, political, social, economic and cultural, where both forms of rights are indispensable to any meaningful idea of development. As Amartya Sen has observed for “development as freedom” both civil-political and socio-economic rights are means and ends simultaneously. Substantive freedoms include the idea of human dignity which refers to, along with access to resources, health, education, and equity of opportunities, also participation in the life of the community, and being free to speak. They should all finally contribute towards giving individuals greater control over his/her environment and thereby increase their freedom. Thus development is considered as a combination of economic issues such as income and jobs as a “social bases of self respect”. Amartya Sen considers both a “sense of self” and the capacity “to appear in public without shame” as relevant to the “capability to function”, hence as falling within the scope of an account of justice and development that enjoins the equal distribution of basic capabilities.2 In this context, the objective of full employment appears as central to the implementation of economic and social rights.

The more so that unemployment and severe underemployment affect 30% of the world workforce and the realistic projections do not warrant any optimism unless employment-oriented development strategies replace the growth-oriented ones (Seminar 1996: 205).

The labour of the primary producers has to be valued at a level compatible with basic human dignity, rather than the starvation wages that currently condemn so much of the third world’s rural population to subsistence living. This reinvigoration of labour into the development model should subsume two important factors:

(i) proper economic value to the role of carers (for instance, those engaged in child rearing or tending disabled relatives), (ii) policies on labour should move beyond mere “reactive social policies” that bring relief to the victimised populations dealing with unemployed, underemployed and excluded, rather than with unemployment and exclusion (Seminar 1996).

2 Political Guidelines

In the political arena the crucial issue is that of initiating the process of “democratisation as differentiated from democracy”. The crucial issue seems to be that of conceptualising the role of the state, in the third world, which is undergoing contradictory pulls. On the one hand, the rise of the new Empire and a growing imperial global state constituting the new financial and international institutions, such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, Group of Seven, Inter-American Development Bank, global corporations, warrants a strong state in the southern countries to retain autonomy to pursue independent policies. In other words, there is a strong need to preserve the sovereignty of the nation state. On the other, within the nation the process of democratisation implies not a strong and centralised state but a state that is willing to cohabit with multiple centres of power that challenge its unitary notions of sovereignty. In other words, there is a pressing need to encourage decentralisation and be responsive enough to account for public opinion. Are these reconcilable objectives? Perhaps three broad views emerge on this as detailed below.

Antonio Negri argues that “to resurrect the nation state to protect against the global capital” is a misguided nostalgia and must be rejected. He further argues that:

We claim that Empire is better in the same way that Marx insists that capitalism is better than the forms of society and modes of production that came before it. In the same way today we can say that Empire does away with the cruel regimes of modern power and also increases the potential for liberation (Negri, Hardt 2000: 43-44).

“Global Cosmopolitanism” demands that (nation) state be pushed into a process of disappearing. Even scholars from the south have begun to accept that,

some erosion of national autonomy in the short term to improve economic performance in the medium term on the premise that, ultimately, it is economic strength which provides nation states with political clout in the international community.3

In contrast to the above position, Manuel Castells argues that,

a new form of state is emerging, and supranational institutions, national states, regional and local governments, and even NGOs are linked together in a network of interaction and shared decision-making

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that becomes the prevalent political form of the information age: the

network state (Castells 1996: 33).

In such a formulation domestic concerns have become intertwined with external factors as to make the distinction between national and global merely semantic. We need to therefore acknowledge that globalisation has encouraged the formation of multiple modes of organisation and alliance at a transnational level, which is also advantageous for the protest movements across continents.

Finally, James Petras and Samir Amin would argue that contemporary globalisation predominantly is a form of imperialism. According to Petras, the expansion of capital should be seen as an imperialist conquest, exemplified by the concentration of world economic power in a few US-based multinational companies. We are witnessing transnationalisation of global elites in nexus with the domestic elites of the third world countries with an increasing disintegration of national societies and local communities. The current process is therefore best conceptualised as “mercantilist capitalism”, according to Petras, where “the imperial state (the United States) combines protectionism at home, monopolies abroad, and free trade within the empire” (Petras 2004). Similarly, Samir Amin believes that protecting against the imperialist onslaught first requires a kind of de-linking before we re-globalise in order to pursue certain protectionism internally and development without expansionism (Amin 1997: 123). The marginalised therefore need the nation state as a buffer from the world economy. In other words, “the fate of the global economy ultimately rests on domestic policies in its constituent states” (Kapstein 1996).

The process of contextualising the role of the state in augmenting democratisation and empowerment of the marginalised is a complex issue, beyond the scope of this essay. However, alternative globalisation has to continuously push the state to move beyond the demands of mere representative democracy and provide for substantive opportunities to the vulnerable to take part in the policymaking. This is possible if democratisation refers, not to just procedural neutrality and representation but effective local control of resources and decision-making, including autonomy for the indigenous peoples coupled with new modes of planning

by redirecting existing resources and organising education and pro

duction in terms of locally determined goals and available resources

and revenue generators (Bray 2002: 120).

On the other hand, the state needs to be compelled to curb the power of the corporates; apart from popular pressure at the institutional level, there needs to be restrictions on the funding of political parties by corporates. Control of the ownership of the mass media should enable minority opinions to be heard and openly debated in the public sphere. Finally, popular control should not be restricted to just an organised and institutionalised civil society but should also take into account the various radical and militant protest politics across the globe, including movements such as the Zapatista in the Latin America and the Maoist struggles in south Asia, which are waging incessant battles against neoliberal regimes. In other words, merely taking on board the NGOs is not a sufficient account of the process of democratisation but might actually entail going beyond civil society.

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3 Cultural Guidelines

Finally, cultural parameters are as important a source of conflict and discrimination in the contemporary world as the problems of economic inequality and redistribution. A broad alternative culture as part of the alternative globalisation has to have its roots not in market and competitiveness but in the processes of generating “substantive solidarity”. Solidarity connotes the human capacity to cooperate and trust to generate a sense of security and development and preserve exchanges between individuals and social groups. This includes both the process of avoiding commercialisation and marketisation of society and relations, and also the continuous need to legislate and regulate all social relationships. Solidarity has many dimensions, as the Copenhagen document states, it could include solidarity between nations – often reflected in the new phenomenon of regional integration; solidarity with future generations – inter-generational – includes taking the responsibility for the climatic changes and damages thereof due to excessive industrialisation; solidarity among social groups and classes can be expressed in the payment of taxes. Recently some of the countries have officially introduced “solidarity taxes”, which are directed to alleviating unemployment, or poverty in general. It thus needs to be recognised that alternative globalisation has to preserve solidarity as a founding, rather than as an instrumental value. In other words, individuals, groups and nations have to realise the intrinsic value of the “act of giving”.4 This in course of time should make it possible for the nations to recognise a global order based not on uniformity and standardisation but “graded obligations”. The more developed will have more obligations vis-a-vis the developing countries. Entrenching such an inverse relation, will alone ensure lasting global peace.

Similarly, closely related to this is the need to realise the claims to recognition. These include respect for the immense global diversity and avoid the civilising missions. It is equally pertinent to realise the claims for recognition in their own right rather than as a dependent or a derivative variable of the economy. Claims for redistribution and recognition are two dimensions of justice, where both are co-original and co-primary. As Nancy Fraser argues,

Bivalently oppressed groups…suffer both maldistribution and misrecognition in forms where neither of these injustices is an indirect effect of the other, but where both are primary and co-original. In their case, neither the politics of redistribution alone nor the politics of recognition alone will suffice. Bivalently oppressed groups need both.5

Alternative globalisation has to be thus based on these three broad principles of moving beyond economic growth and tradedriven development in the economic field; differentiate between democracy and democratisation in the political arena; and augment substantive solidarity and claims for recognition in the cultural domain. In light of these broad principles we shall attempt in the rest of this article to assess the nature of the new regional organisations and their attempts in transnational policymaking, and in what effective ways do they counter the neoliberal reforms and usher a new era of alternative global order. We will also examine the possibilities of the emergence of a new continental drift around a common tri-continental perspective of Africa, Asia and Latin America.

African unity is based on the ideal of “Pan-Africanism”, which constituted both global as well as the continental perspectives. While the global Pan-Africanism envisaged a unity of all those people with African origin and join a worldwide movement for solidarity, the continental perspective emerged in an attempt to unite the post-colonial states. It was in 1958 when the first Pan-African movement was finally launched with the Conference of Independent African States (CIAS). After that in 1960, the phase of political independence for several African nations, young African leaders took the initiative for African unity and formed the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in 1963. The key concerns of this organisation were liberation of the other remaining African countries and fight against discrimination, racism and hierarchies of all hues, along with the right to self-determination in running the internal affairs of the independent nations.

OAU brought out the Lagos Plan of Action (LPA) in 1980 (Biswas 2003: 12). It was anchored on two principles – collective self-reliance and self-sustaining development. However, for various historical reasons, such as lack of infrastructure and continued dependence on the metropolitan powers among others, the initiative for African unity around these principles got derailed.

Yet again, on 9 July 2002, leaders of 43 African countries met in Durban, to replace the 39-year old OAU, with the new African Union. The major shift in the new Union this time was in its civic foundations. Previously, there had been little pretension of including the civil society in any activities of the OAU.

Not until the emergence of the AU did the norms, values and principles of democracy, civil society…come to be recognised as essential to accelerate the African integration project. This recognition is a big step from the OAU days and the state-centred…approaches of the past (Habib 2006: 16).

Civil society participates in the AU through the Economic, Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOC). ECOSOC, as suggested, is to be composed of 150 civil society organisations, including groups such as the NGOs and community-based organisations, organisations of workers and employers, traditional leaders, religious and cultural associations. There is an attempt to include 24 transnational sectoral civil society organisations selected at regional and continental level (ibid: 20).

The economic programme for the realisation of the African integration envisaged by the AU is formulated through the NEPAD. The operationalisation of the AU is interconnected to the implementation of NEPAD. NEPAD has been envisaged as an alternative regional level programme to reverse the dire socio-economic conditions in Africa. Amongst 340 million, half the population lives on less than $1 per day. The mortality rate of children under five years of age is 140 per 1,000, and life expectancy continues to be low at 54 years. Only 58% of population has access to safe drinking water. The rate of illiteracy for people over 15 is 41%. To reverse this situation the proposals in NEPAD are expected to help Africa achieve a growth rate of over 7% per annum (Biswas 2003).

Towards this end, NEPAD has evolved certain core principles for its working:

(a) Good governance: It primarily refers to building institutions for the markets. It includes among other things the idea of corporate governance, which refers to “the mechanism through which the corporations – whether private, publicly traded, or state-owned

– and their managers are governed”.6 Similarly, it also emphasises that governments can no longer monopolise programme d elivery and instead need the active participation of the private sector and NGOs.

  • (b) Economic policymaking and execution: Under this NEPAD believes that economic liberalisation needs to be deepened to encourage greater private sector activity. It stresses the need for government to withdraw from interfering in all the sectors of the economy. There is an urgent need to give priority to revitalising regional cooperation and integration frameworks. The primacy seems to be given to emulate the models of the European Union and the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) (Hope 2002: 394).
  • (c) Productive partnerships: The focus as per forging new partnerships is the need to recognise that the NEPAD secretariat works closely with the World Bank, IMF and the African Development Bank. In fact the poverty reduction strategy papers were finalised under the guidance and approval of th World Bank and the IMF. NEPAD is seeking active partnership with the industrialised countries to attract foreign direct investments (FDI) and the international donor community. To realise this NEPAD is interested in establishing
  • a market-oriented economy based on open trade and investment policies; the protection of property rights; supportive taxes and expenditure policies; appropriate monetary, financial and exchange-rate policies; the control of corruption, explicit promotion of the private sector activity, including the privatisation of the state-owned enterprises (Hope 2002: 395).

    (d) Enhancement of democracy, peace and security: Democracy here refers to increasing political pluralism, allowing for the existence of various political parties, periodic organisation of open elections. To achieve security the focus again has to be on peacekeeping, peace enforcement and post-conflict reconciliation and rehabilitation.

    Given these broad policy formulations of NEPAD, it is perhaps justified to conclude that its notion of regional integration is primarily driven by a market-dominated economic model. Though the programmes taken up in NEPAD do emphasise on global integration, no sustained criticism of the global corporations and their ruthless profit-making mechanisms is offered. Instead the private sector is repeatedly looked upon as the sole alternative giving up the previous emphasis on protectionisms and building indigenous industries. “Imperialism” is not the ideological language used by NEPAD. Similarly, there is no mention of redistribution of any kind in removing poverty. The emphasis, instead, is on protection of property rights and the logic seems to be the neoliberal belief in “maximisation leading to upliftment of living conditions”. Even democracy is conceptualised more in procedural terms rather than around substantive principles. Most of the regional organisations working along with or as part of NEPAD have a limited notion of participation. For instance, “SADC encourages non-state actors and stakeholders to form associations with which it will sign memorandum of understanding”.7 The stakeholder language shifts the focus where people are expected to act more as consumers

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    rather than as rights bearing citizens protecting political rather than just commercial interests.

    Even the institutions designed to implement the programme of integration, such as the African Peer Review Mechanism, are defined by a rather technical understanding and are largely depoliticised. Complex socio-economic processes are reduced to technical problems to be solved by “experts”. There is no effective provision for local control or to accommodate the demands of radical protest movements, instead is limited to a civil society that is equated with NGOs. While OAU was critiqued as state centric integration, NEPAD becomes people centric by virtue of the withdrawal of the state, and its replacement with market and the NGOs. Virtually entrenching the possibility of equating civil society with market as they become synonyms of each other. However, selective state intervention is demanded, as in any other neoliberal model, when the state has to serve the interests of the market. Therefore it is believed that “integration (around the imperatives of the market) will not succeed if sufficient political muscle is not applied to make it succeed” (Mistry 2000: 560).

    Thus, regional integration as a mode of global integration needs to be underscored with the fact that Africa is not being integrated for the first time with the global capital. Mere emphasis on market, growth and FDIs, gives an impression that Africa is underdeveloped because it was marginalised in terms of its global integration. These myths, according to Samir Amin, are strengthened because the exports of Africa represent only a minute proportion of the world’s trade. He argues,

    In fact it matters little that Africa`s exports have represented only a minute part of world trade yesterday and today. Capitalism is not a system which sets out to maximise production and productivity, but one which chooses the volumes and conditions of production which maximise the profit rate of the capital. The so-called marginalised countries are, in fact, the super exploited in brutal manner and therefore, impoverished countries are not countries located at the margin of the system (Amin 2006).

    The peripheries are integrated into the global system in a passive way, i e, they adjust without playing a significant role in shaping it. All regions are equally integrated, the point is in which way are they integrated. AU and NEPAD seem to proceed on the assumption that they are the harbingers of a new global integration and in the process are strengthening the global market and thereby the already existing marginalisation of the African people. To reverse this there is a need for certain kind of delinking from the global market before we can reglobalise, and build a self-sufficient economy for which it is imperative to go “far beyond what is generally suggested under the labels of good governance and political multiparty democracy” (ibid). Political pluralism does not necessarily represent wider socio-economic groups; they can very well represent the nexus between the domestic and the global elites.

    Finally, NEPAD’s regional integration does not take into account the problem of regional hegemons, such as South Africa, which contests any meaningful idea of substantive solidarity. In Africa, South Africa enjoys a favourable trade surplus – the overall trade balance recently stands at 5:1 in South Africa’s favour. Will the South African multinational corporations reinforce the South African government’s foreign policy favouring the development

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    of the entire region or use plans such as NEPAD to gain market access? The foreign policy of the post-apartheid South Africa aims to create congruence between “human rights, solidarity politics and its own development needs”. However, South Africa has contradictory policies in relation to Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Burundi. The presence of business is seen as exploitative, profiteering or leading to displacement. NEPAD has not sufficiently focused on any of these issues. It needs to realise that countries like South Africa cannot remain as relative islands of prosperity in a “sea of poverty and insecurity” (Gudavarthy 2006). But for this we need to move beyond the considerations of trade as formulated under neoliberal ideological proclivity, which is what is undermined in NEPAD.

    Asian Unity-SAARC/ASEAN

    The most significant initiative, for not just Asian regionalism but that of all the southern countries, was taken by the newly independent Asian and African countries, as part of the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM). “An important forerunner of NAM (which was formally inaugurated in 1961 at Belgrade) was the 1955 Bandung conference in Indonesia” (Vanaik 1995: 26). The most important aspect was the “third bloc” solidarity that emerged between the Asian and African countries around the famous Five Principles (Panchshila). The most significant aspect of Panchshila was its anti-colonial spirit and belief in the autonomy of the nations and practice of non-violence (ibid). Finally, it stressed on the cultural and racial equality bringing an important cultural dimension into the idea of solidarity. Further, the economic programme was formulated as part of the Group of 77 (the entire third world) expressing this new broad Southern Alliance, which initiated the struggle for the New International Economic Order (NIEO) envisaging:

  • Independent pursuit to develop productive forces.
  • Carry economic affairs primarily at the national level through following the policy of self-reliance and protection to the nascent industries.
  • Though it effectively is a state-initiated programme it has to have the popular support of the people of the south.
  • However, in spite of the spirit, the NAM was non-starter and so was the initiative to forge regional alliance between the Asian countries. The literal collapse of the political project to economically align the nations in Asia was primarily due to what can be described as cultural reasons. NAM and the struggle for NIEO failed due to various cultural conflicts between the countries of Asia. Historically, in south Asia it can be traced to China’s defeat of Indian armed forces in the 1962 border war. With this the nations began to think in terms of their realist national interests and military prowess. India began to “position itself so as to benefit from both the US policy of seeking to contain China and from the deepening Sino-Soviet rift” (ibid: 29). Next was the 1965 Indo-Pakistan war around the issue of Kashmir. Yet again, it had strong cultural overtones as Pakistan argued that Kashmir belonged to its territory owing to the majority Muslim population in Kashmir. The war led to a realignment of forces where Pakistan began to forge closer ties with the Islamic west Asia, making the religious angle more prominent in the geopolitics of Asia. Following this was the war of 1971 leading to the formation of Bangladesh. The Simla Accord of 1972 put a temporary lid on the brewing conflict but not without new realignment, where the new alliance between Pakistan-China and the US stood in contrast to the Indian decision to move closer to the Soviet Union. In Sri Lanka, as the repression of the Jaffna Tamils grew and ethnic strife escalated around the question of self-determination and an “independent homeland” or Eelam for the Sri Lankan Tamils, India began to involve itself, yet again around a ethnocultural issue.

    On 29 July 1987 the two countries signed the Indo-Sri Lanka Accord wherein the Indian army was for the first time made the guarantor of civic peace in a neighbouring and fully sovereign country with which it was not at war (ibid: 35).

    There are similar tensions between China and India that continue even today. There is the border issue where part of Arunachal Pradesh is claimed by China as its own territory and there is also the sore point of India providing political asylum to Dalai Lama and active support to the cause of Tibet.

    Amidst such entrenched cultural entrapments, institutionalised regional cooperation began as late as in 1985 when the SAARC was established.8 SAARC continues to shun cooperation in hardcore economic issues and formed the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) only at the end of the Islamabad SAARC summit in January 2004 (Dubey 2007: 1238). Even here,

    there is no specific provision in the Agreement for the adoption of measures of deeper integration…And worst of all Pakistan has refused to apply the SAFTA provisions to its trade with India. An FTA in south Asia has very little meaning if it does not cover potentially the largest segment of trade in the region, i e, between Pakistan and India (ibid).

    Even during the previous 14th SAARC Summit in New Delhi 2007, the issue of SAFTA remained inconclusive.9 What comes through is the “obsession with state security to prevail over human security”. Thus there are very little provisions to bring in non-state actors that at least express the popular sentiments. As the civil society suffers from lack of opportunities to participate the state itself is weakened after the process of liberalisation with very little independent space left to it to exercise its policy options and for making macroeconomic policy decisions. The nation state in this context is in a peculiar position of remaining only as a cultural entity and playing a very insignificant role either in generating common political ideologies or in forging new economic alliances. Thus,

    the intra-SAARC trade remains around 4% of the regions total as against 78% of EU, 53% of ASEAN and 50% of NAFTA. Even the late entrant MERCOSUR have substantially enlarged their intra-regional trade (Srivastava 2004: 148).

    The ASEAN with 10-member countries has made some attempts to expand and stabilise with its attempts to include China, Japan and South Korea. This was made evident at the Summit held in Bali on 8 October 2003. ASEAN was set up in 1967 as a coalition of anti-communist countries (Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia) to primarily stop the spread of communism. Ironically it is this very organisation now seeking integration with China. However, first

    the APT’s (ASEAN Plus Three) emergence raises questions about the relations between it and other regional groupings such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum and ASEAN itself,

    as well as about the overall prospects for its future development (Stubbs 2002: 440). Second, given the history of the region; the cultural, linguistic, and political divisions that runs through east Asia, it is again difficult not only to incorporate new members but also to stabilise

    the relations between the old members of the ASEAN (ibid). The region’s democratisation means that the rise of popular nationalism will have an impact on decision-making at the highest levels…In countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea, and even Japan there are signs that nationalism has intensified in the wake of the crisis. ...The differences in approach to economic policy within the region that have emerged in the wake of the Asian economic crisis and underscore the cultural and institutional diversity of the east Asian region could also limit regional economic cooperation under the APT framework (ibid: 451).

    Further, what is making the new regionalism between ASEAN and the new regional powers such as China difficult is the ostensible nexus between Chinese ethnicity and Chinese capital as a vehicle for regional integration.

    The increasing economic value of “Chineseness” catalyses the ethnicisation of economic growth in the region. As some of the scholars have pointed out,

    We introduce the concept of “ethno-class” to encapsulate the diversity of historical, social, and economic factors that have led to the cultural and economic powers held by certain ethnically defined non-state actors (Wee 2006: 326).

    Such “ethno-class” formations then become crucial in determining the political and economic relations between the countries.

    From this perspective, the Malaysian state responded to the historical existence of ethnic Chinese entrepreneurs as an ethno-class by deliberately setting out to create a bumiputra (native) ethno-class of entrepreneurs. The distinctiveness of such ethno-classes then comes to be marked by ethnically based exclusion and inclusion, advantages and disadvantages, opportunities and constraints (Wah 2006: 337).

    With bumiputra, the rights granted to the citizens are not shared with non-indigenous citizens. However, the culture-based interactions can work both the ways; for instance, in other contexts Malaysia has been aggressive in utilising the “cultural resources” of its Muslim, Chinese and Indian populations to tap into Arabic, Chinese and Indian capital markets.

    A logical contradiction has thus emerged with the Malaysian Chinese being viewed as national assets on the one hand, and as non-bumiputra and hence second-class citizens on the other hand. Thus what is to be underlined in the relationships between China and south-east Asian countries is the element of interethnicity, and not just the international relations between nations. Finally, China is attempting a new mode of regional cooperation to counter the culturally-constrained former experiments with its new currently active SCO, with China, Russia, Kazakistan, Kyrgistan, Uzbekistan and a proposal to include India, Pakistan and Iran. SCO aims to realise free flow of commodities, technologies and services in the Asian region. They have already agreed on 125 joint proposals relating to trade and investment. Between China and Russia alone bilateral trade has reached $30 billion, which amounts to an increase by 37% from 2004. In order to boost other Asian economies China has already announced $900 m loans for the other SCO countries. There is also along

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    with SCO the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia with all the major countries in Asian region including China, Russia, India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, Thailand, South Korea and central Asian countries. It would be a platform to act on matters of social development in the region addressing concerns such as under development, poverty, and literacy among others (Aiyar 2007).

    Asian experiments in regionalism are marred by strong cultural entrapments. They need to rework around how to infuse their experiments with substantive solidarity where the mutual obligations go beyond mere quid pro quo kind and the nations are able to dialectically balance the claims for recognition on the one hand and realising substantive solidarity on the other. Currently these contrasting dimensions seem to be countering each other and thereby retarding the regional experiments. Going beyond culture, without negotiating with it as in the new experiment with SCO, might yield positive results in the short-term but might prove to be counterproductive in the long run.

    Latin American Solidarity – MERCOSUR/ALBA

    On 26 March 1991, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay met to form the Common Market of the South. Mercosur has 50% of the population, 58% of the GDP, and 40% of the total foreign direct trade of the Latin American Integration Association (LAIA). Mercosur is the third largest trading bloc in the world. The rationale for Mercosur was the notion of “open regionalism”, unlike the protectionist model of regional integration of the 1960s and 1970s. However, Mercosur did not embrace a complete neoliberal approach. Instead it was conscious of the political dimensions of regionalisation and was conscious that “the debate has been monopolised by economists, with an excessive focus on the trade creation-trade diversion issue, thus neglecting the political dimensions of the new regionalism”.10 In this sense, Mercosur was basically aimed at strengthening the bargaining power of Argentina and Brazil in regard to NAFTA, and therefore Mercosur was essentially “a political initiative of the governments of Brazil and Argentina”. It does not believe in the free operations of the market to achieve “inter-regional equilibrium” on the basis of common industrial and agricultural policies. However, the August 1994 Buenos Aires Prudential Summit indefinitely postponed the formation of a common market with a common industrial policy and productive complimentarity of national economies. Argentina abandoned all state-sponsored industrial initiatives and left its national industry completely unprotected. Brazil wanted free access to the Argentine market, while Argentina wanted to preserve its automobile industry, which was hit hard by Brazilian devaluation. Argentina’s 400 auto parts companies feared being wiped out by Brazilian competition. In July 1999, the Brazilian government announced that all negotiations with Argentina had been suspended and even threatened to dissolve Mercosur. The lessons learnt from this crisis were the measured need of state intervention with a political perspective on the need for regionalisation beyond merely trade-driven liberalised integration. Regionalism needed to harmonise the macroeconomic policies around a common vision of development. In turn this required a stronger link with the domestic politics

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    and its demands thereof, as against such an assumption in the “there is no alternative” model. Mercosur needed to develop into something more than free trade (ibid).

    It was at this crucial juncture in the history of the alternative regionalism in Latin America that Hugo Chavez came up with the programme of ALBA. It was proposed as an alternative to the US sponsored Free Trade Area of Americas (FTAA). The core principles of ALBA includes a socially-oriented trade block rather than one strictly based on the logic of deregulated profit maximisation; ALBA appeals to the egalitarian principles of justice and equality; it proposes “Compensatory Fund for Structural Convergence” which would provide financial aid to the most economically vulnerable countries to build economic infrastructure for “endogenous development”; agriculture would prioritise food self-sufficiency rather than being a mere export-oriented activity; it is opposed to the intellectual property rights regimes, parti cularly concerned with the case of medicines – life saving drugs being the focus; and finally, it is for the use of public policy instruments such as the provision of subsidies to regulate domestic prices to guarantee essential public services for the overwhelming majority of the population who cannot afford market-priced services (Anderson 2006). With this ideological and a political perspective ALBA is emerging as an agreement among Venezuela, Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Uruguay. The Cuba-Venezuela agreements, as part of ALBA, formalised on 14 December 2004 includes among other things exchange of Cuban health professionals to build a primary healthcare system in remote areas of Venezuela in exchange for Venezuelan oil. Cuba also supports Venezuelan educational missions such as Robinson, Ribas, Sucre and Vuelvan Caras.

    The nine integration and cooperation agreements signed between Venezuela and Argentina include Petrosur and Petrocaribe. There is also the proposal for Telesur to build the Latin American Television Network. ALBA would also build regional alliances not by emphasising standardisation but principles of special and differential treatment determined by variables such as population, surface, global production, and endowment of resources, compositions of exports and external vulnerability, level of industrial development and per capita income (ibid). Further, under the “Gran Gasoducto del Sur” a region wide pipeline is being planned to transport natural gas from Venezuela and Bolivia to the rest of South America. A pipeline between Argentina and Venezuela (worth $20 billion) has already been formalised; there is a proposal for a South American development Bank to channelise South American international reserves from the banks in the north and Venezuela has already committed $2.4 billion to Argentina in order to assist it to pay off debts to the multilateral agencies; to improve communication there is a proposal to build a “bio-oceanic corridor” connecting the Atlantic with the Pacific side of the continent through Bolivia and Amazonia; it is envisaged that in near future there would be joint projects to enhance technology, infrastructure, security through defence arrangements, and energy concerns with special focus on nuclear energy and hydroelectricity.

    ALBA is not merely an economic integration organisation but it also proposes to gradually evolve into an Initiative of South American Region marking the “physical integration of the region” to emerge as a free zone that is free of illiteracy, street kids and poverty. ALBA also intends to fuse with the radical social movements. These movements go beyond lessening poverty and redistributing income and include transforming the nature and application of power. They strive to redefine power between people, place, state, class and social groups. This kind of participatory democracy is sought to be maintained along with developing a “social state” that works towards maintaining its sovereignty against external intrusions. There are attempts to build creative forms of national and transnational organisations that aid democratic participation. For instance, community participation in health and education are ensured through the newly formed neighbourhood associations, health and school committees and activating local government. Pre-packaged programmes are replaced with active citizen participation under missions such as Barrio Adentro. Similarly,

    the idea of integral education is a key component of the Bolivarian Revolution, meaning that education is not seen as separate from other spheres of life; it is seen to be a critical element in efforts to create direct, and participatory democracy. Over two million people are active in “Bolivarian Circles” that organise within local communities to discuss, and implement a variety of community projects in areas such as education, health and sports (Gibbs 2006: 274).

    Further, direct democracy is evident in land councils, giving ownership and control of poor areas to local residents. These processes still


    1 Refer Gudavarthy (2006) for more empirical details on Asia, Africa and Latin America

    2 See Sen (1998). Also refer for further elaboration of related issues, Gudavarthy (2008). It also needs to be noted that capabilities approach has the propensity to reduce social justice to a matter of individual access to public goods and a project of individual liberation. This dimension of the approach becomes all the more important under regimes with neoliberal consensus. Refer Phillips (2001).

    3 Deepak Nayyar, “Globalisation: What Does It Mean for Development”, op cit Copenhagen. 4 Copenhagen op cit, p 220.

    5 See Fraser (1999: 31). However, in extending her framework to include to the specificity of the political, Fraser builds a strong binary between affirmative politics of framing accepting stateterritoriality and transformative approach operating beyond the Keynesian-Westphalian framework. As discussed earlier the choice of moving beyond the Westphalian frame, however desirable, is not an easy one for most of the nations in the South. Refer Fraser (2005).

    6 See Hope (2002: 391). Also refer Ravi Kanbur, “NEPAD: An Initial Commentary”, www.people.

    7 Chris Landsberg, “People to People Solidarity: Civil Society and Deep Integration in Southern Africa”, op cit, Transformation. Southern African Development Community (SADC) was formed in Lusaka, Zambia on 1 April 1980, following the adoption of the Lusaka Declaration. Member states of SADC are Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

    8 Though signing the Treaty of Rome in 1957 is considered the first attempt at regionalisation, such attempts were not consolidated until the formation of SAARC.

    9 The two-day 15th SAARC Summit was held at the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo on 2-3 August 2008. The focus on combating terrorism was so heavy in the deliberations at Colombo that other issues were overshadowed.

    100 raise the question as to whether a state centralised against the global powers can be democratic and representative in its everyday working. Though the Venezuelan experiment does not exhaustively answer this question it nevertheless reflects the fact that “more qualitative forms of democracy and redistribution depend on a certain degree of national sovereignty in economic matters” (ibid: 277).

    Notwithstanding the fact that there are very many crucial issues that can only be commented upon in times to come, including the issue of how centralised that state might get given the politics of fighting the global forces and focusing a lot on the discourse of nationalism, nation state and its sovereignty, ALBA comes very close to the spirit and agenda of alternative globalisation that we outlined at the beginning of this article.11 There also seems to be effective counter-checks introduced in the way power is being decentralised and radical movements are being taken into count in the agenda setting process.

    To conclude, the focus on redistribution beyond mere economic growth, substantive solidarity towards the vulnerable nations and a purposive distinction between democracy and democratisation are factors that need to be protected and further strengthened as the nodal points for a larger south-south dialogue where the continents drift laterally to forge alliances against the current process of neoliberal reforms.

    10 See Carranza (2003: 70) and also refer Seligson (1999).

    11 However, part of these apprehensions do get reinforced by some of the changes that Chavez attempted to initiate recently with regard to the term of the president and merging many of the political parties.


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