Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Back in the 1970s the countries of the Global South unified behind the leadership of OPEC and pressed the New International Economic Order against the Global North. Think of it as a global magnification of the rant from Network: "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more!"

With the debt crisis of the 1980s, the Global South entered the doldrums. Richer countries in East Asia abandoned the bloc, OPEC lost its power as the cartel crumbled, and poorer countries in Latin America and Africa entered a "lost decade" (or for Africa, "lost decades"). The towering personalities of Nehru, Nkrumah and Nasser disappeared.

It's been a long time since the Global South got organized to exert it's power over any issue. But the tide may finally be shifting.
India should pull out of the World Trade Organisation if the current talks do not produce the results developing countries want, a hardline Hindu group close to the ruling coalition has said.

Talks in Montreal aimed at finalising the agenda for key negotiations in Mexico in September have just wrapped up without agreement on key issues including the opening up of agriculture.

Now the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch (SJM), a group with about 15 million members - and one of a number of Hindu groups allied to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) - says that is not good enough.

It is planning a mass protest outside parliament in Delhi on 3 September to pressure the government into threatening a pullout.

"It is time for the WTO to mend itself or become acceptable to all developing countries," said SJP leader Muralidhar Rao at a news conference in the southern hi-tech centre of Bangalore.
Now India has long been able to be the rallying point for the Global South. With an enormous population, developed advanced manufacturing and now high-tech sectors, a middle class in the hundreds of millions, strong anti-colonial past and democratic, it is really the perfect leader of a Southern coalition. Yet under the BJP, India has had little interest in anything beyond its own borders.

If the BJP is finally being roused to oppose the WTO and lead the South against it in Cancun later this year -- that the South is not just "mad as hell" but now might have the power to actually do something about it -- this would be big big news indeed.

You may not remember, but it was India which held out until the bitter end in Doha in November 2001. Under WTO rules, every country must agree to launch a new round of trade talks for those talks to go forward. The US and the EU, after hammering out their differences, figured to steam roll over the rest of the world, but India was about the only country that was powerful enough to stand up and say "no more". Only at the very last moment did India relent. India's track record suggests it is not afraid to stand up for itself. If the rest of the South stands with it, and India knows it, the fireworks in Cancun in September may be visible worldwide.


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