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‘South bloc’ in geopolitics and great power rivalry

‘South bloc’ in geopolitics and great power rivalry

In contemporary geopolitics, international organizations play a crucial role in shaping global governance and power dynamics. China and the United States have reached an ideological stalemate as they are entrenched in shaping global governance through intergovernmental groupings by influencing the Global South. A contested US, an emerging China and a rising India have been openly trying to stabilize their relationship with renewed dialogues and regular diplomatic engagements, which have been at their lowest in the last 50 years with the risk of war. The Group of 20 (G20) and the Group of 77 (G77) are two prominent blocs within the international community. 

The triad diplomacy between China, Russia and North Korea is an endeavor of Russia to globalize the war in Ukraine. President Putin’s ambition and strategic misstep is costing the world colossal losses, together with Sino-American rivalry. Putin is rooting for an international system that is multipolar, upholds conservative values, is largely delinked with the US and gives space to Russia as a dominant player in a new era of global politics. In the Cold War, the inclination of the ‘Third World’ toward the Non-Aligned Movement was phenomenal. 

But in the era of Cold War 2.0, India’s influence in the Global South is more visible as the G20 summit, just concluded with North-South cooperation, has shown. Like India, China also has plans to lead the Global South for South-South cooperation. 

It is important to compare India’s role in the US-governed G20 with that of the China-led G77. Additionally, discussions on the concept of the ‘South bloc’ and its implications for geopolitics and great power rivalry are essential for international relations.

Geopolitical significance

The G20 comprises Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States along with the European Union. This bloc, accounting for more than 80 percent of world GDP, 75 percent of global trade, and 60 percent of the global population, was established in 1999 as a platform for Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors to discuss international economic and financial issues and address major issues related to the global economy, such as international finance stability, climate mitigation and sustainable development. India and the US are key players in the G20, which comprises major economies of the world. Both countries possess significant geopolitical and economic clout. India represents a large emerging market with tremendous growth potential, whereas the US remains a global superpower with vast influence.

The Group of G77 (G77) was established in 1964 and originally consisted of 77 member-states, hence its name. 

Over the years, the membership has grown to include 134 developing countries from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. China’s membership in the G77 in 1994 grants it a platform to represent the interests and aspirations of developing nations to promote economic cooperation, coordinate positions on international issues and advocate for development needs of member-states.  As the world’s second-largest economy, China’s growing influence in G77 gives it a considerable geopolitical leverage.

Global politico-economic connection

The New International Economic Order (NIEO) approached around after the Intergovernmental Group of Twenty-Four on International Monetary Affairs and Development or the Group of 24 (G24) was recognised in 1971 as a chapter of the G77 to harmonize the opinions of developing countries on international monetary and development releases, which then envisaged North-South cooperation in 1973 in the Algiers Conference of non-aligned countries. The sixth Special Session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), established in 1964 as an authorities’ body of the UN General Assembly in stimulating trade and development predominantly in developing countries or the Global South, adopted a program of action while the Paris talks (North-South Dialogue of 1977) negotiated North-South cooperation by setting up the Willy Brandt Commission with an understanding to revitalize the issues of international economic development emphasized by the World Bank Commission Report (1980) for North-South cooperation.

 In G20, both India and the US possess strong and diversified economies. With the nominal GDP of $25.46trn in 2022, the US has a higher GDP and greater economic influence globally. India’s GDP of $3.39trn in 2022-23 with economic growth rate and potential offer has vast opportunities for investment and development. The G20 is composed of most of the world’s largest economies’ finance ministries, including both industrialized and developing countries. It accounts for around 80 percent of the gross world product (GWP), 75 percent of international trade, two-thirds of the global population and 60 percent of the world’s land area.

G77 accounts for 80 percent of the world’s population. Within the grouping, China’s economic strength is emerging with the GDP of $18trn and its Belt and Road Initiative aims to channel financial aid, infrastructure projects, and investment among the G77 nations o 

This is Part I of a two-part series.  

The author is a Strategic Analyst, Major General (Retd) of the Nepali Army, and is associated with Rangsit University, Thailand