The UN and the WTO A South Asian Perspective

Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury


South Asian countries take global multilateral organizations seriously. These include the United Nations (UN) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). This is largely because most South Asian countries are militarily weaker than many other countries from other parts of the world, despite two of them, India and Pakistan, being nuclear-armed with also large conventional military capabilities albeit less advanced; and economically most are struggling with developmental challenges, in need of assistance to achieve agreed aspirations such as those reflected in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) . They tend to view the UN and the WTO as providing a modicum of global order (which these countries also support by providing vast numbers of peace keeping forces for strife torn regions), and also create a ‘level playing field’ in terms of trade and economic competition. The latter is particularly true of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) in South Asia (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal) who look to the WTO to ensure a ‘special and differential treatment’ for them in the international market economy. For Afghanistan, especially following the up-coming withdrawal of troops from the United States, the UN will continue to have a critical role to play. In many international bodies, South Asians have for long accorded intellectual leadership, based on their advanced non-technological resources, but as Asia rises in power and prestige, and as does South Asia with it, there is a pervading sense of exclusion (such as India from the UN Security Council) that require to be addressed seriously if the agencies are to continue to remain as relevant to the region as they have been. Hence, the great interest in these countries on the reforms of the global multilateral institutions, though they often feel to have run up against a blank wall. The author is well-placed to evaluate the organizations, as he has attempted to do in the essays in this book from a South Asian perspective , This is because of his having served as Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN and the WTO, both in New York and Geneva, for over eleven years and also having chaired many important committees helping to frame rules, policies and decisions in both these organizations.

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