ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Premature Superpowers

The emergent powers of the world are casting themselves in the same imperialist moulds.

Two incidents in the recent past, albeit often reported in ways which exaggerate their import, do indicate something about the world as it changes in fundamental ways. Last month Brazil proposed a meeting of the finance ministers of the BRICS bloc – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – to discuss ways in which they could help the European Union overcome its financial crisis. The actual amounts of assistance being discussed were not large, but as a fund manager from the Swiss bank UBS explained, a highly public show of confidence and support from the only group of large economies which is not in crisis would go much further in restoring “market confidence” than the mere numbers. Whatever be the validity of such exercises – we believe much of this is illusionary – it remains a potent sign of the new world as it is emerging, timed as it was with the annual jamborees of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, and the United Nations, to send a global message. That nothing came of this exercise is irrelevant to the point which was being made that a group of former colonies and a defeated superpower were now discussing ways to help their former colonial masters and adversaries.

In a different part of the world, a few weeks before this mediafocused affair, the navies of two of these BRICS countries had a spat in international waters rich with petroleum resources. India’s naval assault vessel, INS Airavat, on a “friendly visit” to Vietnam apparently received warnings from the Chinese navy to stay away from what it claimed were the territorial waters of China. China claims the entire South China Sea as its waters, which has led to disputes with Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan and other south-east Asian countries as its claim conflicts with the internationally accepted position of territorial waters and exclusive economic zones.

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