Africa, Asia and global security

Oct 12, 2005 02:00 AM

by Juwono Sudarsono

In the five decades between the Afro-Asian conference in 1955 and the 50th anniversary commemoration in 2005 in Bandung, global security has largely been determined in terms of what the powerful countries of the developed world arbitrarily define it to be.
The international system established in 1945 and which transpired 60 years later had one underlying theme in common: Global security remains dominated by the major powers and veto-carrying permanent members of the United Nations Security Council: The United States, France, the United Kingdom, Russia. They constituted the most powerful nuclear weapon-possessing nations of the world. Since 1971 the one nation representing the developing nations of the South remains China.

For practical political and economic reasons Germany and Japan become members of the triangular poles of economic power centres: North America, the European Union and Japan. Of the three major Asian countries that participated in the 1955 Bandung conference, Japan, China and India now constitute global political and economic powers, but even their combined powers still do not match the powerful nexus of political, economic and military strength of North America and the European Union.
Despite the rising political and economic authority of Japan, China and India, the strength of the developed world in the areas of the knowledge economy and path-breaking service industries remain the most powerful engines and repositories of technological research, development and innovation.

And, notwithstanding the plethora of political, economic and security multilateral institutions and movements that have sought to forge a more distributive international system, most developing nations in Africa and Asia have little effective leverage to reform and redefine the terms and conditions of the intense unequal state-of-power relationships.
The 2005 Asian-African Summit and Commemorative meetings in Jakarta and Bandung in April sought to establish a long-term strategic partnership through which the sustained political, economic and social commitment of the nations of Asia and Africa -- in cooperation with the countries of the developed world -- would forge a fairer and more equitable international system.

It is a long-standing commitment that reaches back to Bandung, the first Non-Aligned Movement in Belgrade in 1961 and the numerous political, economic and security international and regional conferences, seminars, workshops and summit meetings throughout the 1960s up to the beginning of the current millennium.
The New Asia-Africa Strategic Partnership seeks to create a global system in which the unequal state of power relationships between the powerful North and the weak South is transformed into a world system in which the levers of "the power to persuade" and "the power to coerce" mesh together so that a greater part of the world's population will gain ready access to basic needs of human survival and ensure security in the wider sense -- political, economic, social, military and environmental.

In 2005, of the estimated 6.5 bn people of the world, more than 2 bn live below the poverty line, 70 % of whom reside in the countries of Africa and Asia. By 2050, more than 9 bn people will inhabit the earth. The demographic pressures on the environment and on political and social systems will be unimaginable. Global security remains valid only for those who can afford it by virtue of their political, economic and social power and privileges.
What are the salient features of this highly unequal power relationships? Can the countries of Africa and Asia persuade the countries of the powerful industrial world that the long-term interest of the rich cannot survive if they do not care for the plight of the vast majority who are desperate and in despair?

As in 1955, the global security of the international system in 2005 remains largely defined by an imbalance of power relationships. The most critical inequities of the system are:
-- In social-economic terms, the absolute gap between the world's richest and poorest nations has been growing during the past 20 years. It is getting wider even as the proportion of the world's population living in extreme poverty continues to fall.
-- The richest 20 % of the world enjoy more than 80 % of the world's income; the second richest 20 % enjoy barely 11 % of income; the next 20 % commands a paltry 2.3 %; the fourth 20 % a dismal 1.9 %.
Even allowing for region and country-specific areas in south, east and west Africa and east Asia that have done relatively well between 2000-2005, the vast majority of African-Asian peoples still live well below the poverty line.

-- In the realm of military power, more than 80 % of the world's nuclear, conventional, biological and other agents of mass destruction are produced or in possession of countries of the developed world. In effect the production, sale, application and control of these weapons is regulated by governments and firms of the developed world.
Lacking most of the basic requirements to develop advanced nuclear and conventional weapons, many African and Asian nations have little capability to inject effective leverage over the terms and conditions of regional and local security.

As a result, many African and Asian nations become breeding ground for disaffected youth which record to asymmetric warfare. No one country -- not even the United States, Russia or China -- can claim to be completely autonomous in how it sustains its military.
The future of military weapons and equipment production must take into account co-production agreements, joint-ventures, corporate alliances and sub-contracting across continents and nations. Command and control capabilities which depend on key technologies such as electronics are by nature globalised industries.

The more advanced countries in Africa and Asia must ensure that a common strategy to share in the commercial spin-offs of military technology and research with the developed world must be applied to save lives rather than destroy them. Every dual use which initially concentrates on producing bombs, missiles and tracking systems must be transformed into live-saving utilities and equipment.
More than 70 % of advanced research and development in science and technology are concentrated in the countries and firms of the developed world, 50 % of which originate in the United States. Although global research and development cuts across national and regional borders, the vast majority of the revenue accrued through these activities benefits advance industrialized countries.

African and Asian nations must connect into the rapid changing new technologies. Enclaves of advanced research and excellence in their commercial applications must become priorities to be integral parts of the Asia-Africa strategic partnership.
By 2050, the benefits of these revolutionary advances in science and technology must provide outreach to the poorest of the poor in Africa and Asia. A world system in which the scientific and technological innovations of the few do not care to help the poor cannot for long save the few who are rich.

Over 70 % of the world's financial, investment, banking and trading companies command the capital, services, human skills that define the accumulation, distribution and legal underpinnings of global capital movements. These movements drive the demand and provision of strategic energy, minerals and other wealth creating value-added goods and services. The "24/7" nature of these global transactions fuel the industrial, commercial and military reach of the powerful nations that define security at the regional and global levels.Of critical importance within African and Asian states are the dangers of acute internal disparities between those who gain from financial services through globalisation and those who remain in deep inertia because they cannot gain access to the human and technological skills needed to be connected with the outside world.

Of the more than 90 % of international trade transported by sea, more than 70 % of commercial fleets are owned, controlled or operated by countries and firms constituting less than 20 % of the world's population. Of the more than 2,200 warships and 5,000 strike aircraft worldwide, more than 40 % are owned by the United States and its NATO allies.
Together they command more than 80 % of the available nuclear and conventional air firepower. It follows that the security of the global trading system is underpinned by powerful military forces guaranteeing free flow access and openness to the world's seas and skies.

African and Asian nations seek to redress the balance of these deeply unjust military power inequities by persuading the countries of the developed world that unless military spending in the rich countries are re-allocated to provide economic assistance to the world's poorest countries, the vengeance of transnational crimes -- illegal immigration, drugs and narcotics profiteering, small arms smuggled to fuel violent crime in the urban centres of the rich countries -- will visit the rich world from time to time.
The success of the New Asia Africa Strategic Partnership will depend on how the powerful engines of growth of China and India will be sustained through 2050. Assuming that the combined population of China and India will reach 4.2 bn out of a world total of 9 bn by 2050, the "centre of economic gravity" will focus on these two economies.

The very size of the two countries as vast markets in Asia will define the scope and speed of the scientific and technological advancement that industry standards have to maintain in order to produce enough of the manufacturing goods needed to feed, house and provide adequate water and electricity of their large populations.
The actual spin-offs emanating from the production and distribution of these giants will benefit the economies of Southeast Asia, largely through the geographical proximity and commercially viable access to energy, mineral and timber resources. With Japan repositioningitself to the rising competitive forces from China and India, a more Asian-centric identity can be created.

The combined North-East Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia community could shift the distribution of power to the Asia-Pacific and the Pacific. The more difficult proposition would be to connect the Asia-centric rise of India, China and Japan with the more fragmented poles of regional development of Southern Africa, West Africa and East Africa.
Japan has long looked to the whole world as it sources energy for its industries, going as far as Brazil and Central America for its mineral resources. China has developed plans to extend its reach to the energy sources available across Russia into the hinterland. It has also expanded its reach to the resource-rich countries of West Africa and beyond. India seeks new access to oil and gas by building and financing pipelines across Pakistan to the oil-rich Central Asia republics.

The energy-market nexus linking Asia and Africa is harder to connect and consolidate largely because the majority of African states south of the Sahara do not have as many mineral resources as the gas fields and undersea resources of the Asian mainland. Connection is made more difficult by the relative low purchasing powers of the majority of the African states. South Africa, West Africa and East Africa do not have the same geographical proximity and economic mutuality that favours the Japan-China-India triangle.
In addition, so long as many countries in southern Africa face dire political and economic conditions arising from endemic ethnic tension, internal conflict and violence over claims of tribal identity and territorial integrity, it would remain difficult to inject strong commitment to widen and deepen political and economic links with Asia.

In the final analysis, while the nations of Africa and Asia seek to redefine the terms and conditions of global security in the wider sense, they will have to depend more on the persuasive forces of market attraction than on the application of credible coercive means of compliance.
Until the economic and military imbalances are adequately restructured and reformed, the quest toward a more equitable global security system will remain tenuous. In the past, widening gaps between rich and poor have led to numerous movements against global injustice.

The industrialized world has only recently realized that conducting a Global War On Terror (GWOT) only exacerbates the sense of injustice and humiliation felt by many of Asia's and Africa's youth. The change to a Strategy Against Violent Extremism (SAVE) can only succeed if the industrialized world provide outreach and sustenance for the many countries in Asia and Africa that remain trapped in grinding poverty.
Correspondingly, throughout 2005-2050 leaders in Asia and Africa must consistently pursue policies and actions that provide greater opportunities for employment, education and health care for the poor within their borders. As with global security, domestic security can only long endure if it is increasingly underpinned by a broader network of social and economic justice.

Global security ultimately depends on broader-based social and economic justice within the regions in Asia and Africa. Regional peace and security in turn depends on domestic distributive justice, a necessary pre-condition for regional stability. If the nations of Asia and Africa wish to play a more effective role in galvanizing global security, then all leaders of Asia and Africa must have a greater commitment to social justice at home. Hi-tech guns, tanks, ships, sensors, munitions and strike aircraft alone do not insure sustainable security.
The greatest test for the leaders and nations of Asia and Africa is that their search for global security must begin with broader and fairer social justice at home. That is the ultimate challenge for the next 50 years.

The writer is the Minister of Defence for Indonesia.

Source: The Jakarta Post
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