Stop China phobia, embrace multipolar world – ministers at diplomacy forum
Posted on March 2nd, 2024

MEHBOOB JEELANI Courtesy TRTWorld

Ministers from four Asian countries spoke about the necessity of steering the so-called global south away from a bipolar discourse in which the world is perceived solely through the prism of the US or China.

From the impact of climate crisis to new security challenges and economic opportunities, the ministers underscored the importance of engaging with both China and the United States without becoming pawns of either of the two players. /Photo: AA
OTHERSFrom the impact of climate crisis to new security challenges and economic opportunities, the ministers underscored the importance of engaging with both China and the United States without becoming pawns of either of the two players. /Photo: AA

As panellists at the distinguished Antalya Diplomacy Forum 2024, top ministers from Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Vietnam spoke in favour of a multilateral world order, emphasising the need to find a middle path with the common aim of achieving economic prosperity.

The panel, titled “Building Asia-Pacific Regional Architectures: The Challenges of Unmatching Interests,” comprised Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud, Sri Lanka’s State Minister of Foreign Affairs Tharaka Balasuriya, Vietnam’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Nguyen Minh Hang, and Malaysia’s Minister of Higher Education Zambry Abd Kadir.

From the impact of climate crisis to new security challenges and economic opportunities, the ministers underscored the importance of engaging with both China and the United States without becoming pawns of either of the two players.

We should not promote China phobia in Asia. We should not let anyone impose the Cold War mentality on us,” Zambry Abd Kadir said, explaining how China has become a significant trading partner in ASEAN countries.

Sri Lankan foreign minister Balasuriya praised both China and India for their assistance to the island nation in times of crisis.

During Covid we got so many vaccines from China that saved thousands of lives in Sri Lanka. Another example is when we had an economic crisis in Sri Lanka, who helped us? It was India that helped us. Again it was India which helped us secure $2.9 billion at the International Monetary Fund after New Delhi gave financial assurances,” Balasuriya said.

The panellists spoke in line with the long-standing position of Türkiye’s, which has repeatedly argued for UN reforms, with its President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stating that “effective multilateralism requires effective multilateral institutions.”

Over the years, several developing countries have invested more time and effort in strengthening alternative forums and institutions such as BRICS, the African Union, ASEAN, and SAARC, constantly seeking platforms to promote cooperation on economic and security fronts.

Balasuriya believes that in the coming years, more regional organisations will emerge to assist South Asian and Southeast Asian countries, specifically in forging alliances in various fields.

Aligning itself with these changing dynamics, Sri Lanka has made some crucial moves to ensure that all its eggs are not in one basket.

Sri Lanka is trying to open up, re-looking at the Indo-Sri Lanka Free Trade Accord and trying to expand it into other areas. We have just concluded signing a Free Trade Agreement with Thailand. We are negotiating with Bangladesh. We are signing a Bilateral Trade Agreement with Indonesia and also we are looking at a Free Trade Agreement with China,” Balasuriya told TRT World on the sidelines of the Forum.

TRT WORLDSri Lanka’s State Minister of Foreign Affairs Tharaka Balasuriya spoke to TRT World on the sidelines of the Antalya Diplomacy Forum. Photo/ TRT World

UNSC reform

On the world’s financial architecture and the structural imbalance of the United Nations, Balasuriya said Sri Lanka’s position complements Türkiye’s stance.

Pitching for the UN reforms, he said at the time the organisation was formed in 1945, the United Kingdom had 10 percent of the world’s GDP share, thanks to India.

But now, the United Kingdom doesnt control that much of the GDP and in terms of the population it is not significant. [Yet] the world order at this moment is an all boys club. It’s the victors of the Second World War,” Balasuriya said.

So we certainly believe that a country like India for example, which already has the world’s largest population, doesn’t have a permanent seat in the UNSC – that’s absurd. If you look at the African nations, none of them have a permanent seat. None of the Latin American countries have a permanent seat.”

Balasuriya said that in the absence of such reforms, the regional powers are left with no choice but to find new avenues to work together outside of the traditional international institutions that are skewed in favour of the Big Five – the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China and Russia.

Giving the example of the ongoing Israeli violence in Gaza, Balasuriya took a dig at the Rules-Based Order, which is generally perceived as a US-led international order.

Whose rules are we talking about? Are these consensual rules? Or are these rules organised by certain countries and the rest of the countries have to follow?” he said, adding that the stakeholders in the Gaza war should take a cue from the Türkiye-brokered grain deal and try to bring an end to the violence and suffering Palestinians are facing.

SOURCE: TRT WORLD


Mehboob Jeelani

Mehboob Jeelani is a senior producer at TRT World.

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