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Spirit of Bandung and Belgrade in Johannesburg: Opening the Gates of ‘Heartland’

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In the fluid global order, initiatives to implement cooperation, exchange of resources and synergies are relevant. The triangulation between Russia-Iran-India is a fact and a pressing necessity, especially for Russia and Iran, the most sanctioned countries in the world. The strengthening of the International North-South Transport Corridor could implement that triangulation. The multimodal North-South corridor is 7,200 km long and makes it possible to reduce costs and times for goods transportation if compared to the passage through Suez. According to estimates, the North-South could double the volume of goods from the current 17 to 32 million tons. Furthermore, over the past year, the reveal of the corridor has grown. So, this project opens geopolitical repercussions, making Asia autonomous and integrated for the first time.

The advantages of the corridor in pills:

1. Reduction of dependence on Suez.

2. Time and cost reduction.

3. Alternative route for Indian goods to Central Asia bypassing Pakistan.

4. Iran is once again a median crossroads.

5. Breaking the isolation and circumvention of sanctions for Russia.

6. Complete integration of the region around the Caspian Sea as a new global hub.

Bandung (1956), Belgrade (1961), Johannesburg (2023)- Materialisation of the Grand Idea

Rather recently on these very pages, the IFIMES researcher Dr. Maria Smotrytska – while marking the 60th anniversary of the inaugural, Belgrade conference of the Non-aligned Movement (NaM) (Aug-Sep 1961), recalled the famous argument of prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic ‘No Asian century without pan-Asian multilateral settings’ which was prolifically published as policy paper and thoroughly debated among practitioners and academia in over 40 countries on all continents for the past 15 years. Then and there, Smotrytska was revisiting and rethinking the professor’s very argument, its validity and gravity in retrospect.

Hence, she noted “Today Eurasia is the axial continent of mankind, which is home to about 75% of the world’s population (see Map 1), produces 60% of world GDP (see Map 2) and stores three quarters of the world’s energy resources (see Map 3) [Shepard, 2016]. In these open spaces, two giant poles of modern geoeconomics are being formed: European and East Asian, which are tearing the canvas of the familiar geographical concept of “Eurasia” and at the same time providing opportunities for new synthesis through the construction and connection of transcontinental transport arteries.”

Past the historical Johannesburg gathering of BRICS, with the “unprecedented (post-) Maastricht-like deepening (institutions’ building) and widening (massive enlargement with 6 either robust demographics or/and economies – hence larger than any of the EU /or for that matter NATO/ enlargements ever) – this grouping is the best living example of the grand idea of Tito, Nehru and Nasser’s postulated active and peaceful coexistence that came to life in Yugoslavia in 1961” – as professor Anis H. Bajrektarevic commented the 15th BRICS Summit. 

How the active and peaceful coexistence is materialising itself without confronting but rather by complimenting the existing world order?

The Global Disorder and the Euro-Asian Synchronization

Rise, decline, marginalization, or collapse are inevitable stages in the life cycle of empires. Political power always tries to reverse the decline, but power transfer is a historical constant. The disappearance of power leads to the emergence of a new one capable of organizing space. In the VI Canto of Paradise, the poet Dante – Emperor Justinian is speaking – uses the metaphor of the eagle flying “against the course of heaven” to depict the transfer of power from Rome to Constantinople, the “new Rome”.

Nowadays, an irreversible power relocation has begun, even if there is not a precise gravitational centre. Indeed, the global order is archipelagic and “fluid”, as the Financial Times noted recently. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a magmatic phase started, incentivizing new triangulations and alliances, sometimes alternatives to the West primacy. Of course, the United States remains the global technological and military pivot, and NATO remains the first military alliance, but it is undeniable that the balance is evolving.

The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) involving Russia, India, and Iran (in total, 13 members) fits into this multipolar-evolving context. If integrally implemented according to plans, it would make it possible to reduce the supremacy of Suez, through which about 12% of global trade transits. This project will encourage a Euro-Asian synchronization and provide an alternative to the traditional Suez route exclusivity, reducing approximately 40% distance and costs by 30%, as claimed by Silk Road Briefing.

Infrastructures have a substantial role in the growth and decline of power. The case of the Suez Canal is emblematic: it interrupted the complex circumnavigations and restored the centrality of the Mediterranean. For this reason, powers aspiring for a hegemonic role invest in infrastructural networks: China with the “Belt and Road”, while Russia and Iran with the Corridor. As a result, the project is fraught with enormous geopolitical implications.

The World Island and Russian Scramble for Warm Seas

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the great Anglo-Saxon geopolitical strategists –Mackinder, Spykman, Lea – asked themselves the problem of how to counter the rise of the gigantic Euro-Asian empires located in the Heartland and their expansion to the critical fault line of the Rimland. In The Day of The Saxon (New York Harper, 1912), Homer Lea warns of the risks of integration between Euro-Asian powers, such as Russia and Germany, as evidenced by the Berlin-Baghdad railway project.

The Anglo-Saxon thalassocrat powers – the authors argued – could not withstand the impact of such vast empires, with young and numerous populations set off for industrial and infrastructural development as well as with boundless natural resources. For this, it is essential to control the Rimland and try to hold back the momentum of the empires, fighting one at a time: once Russia, once China. The containment policy against the Russian giant also derives from these reflections.

They were well-justified fears. At the time, Russia, which had already become a protagonist on the European scene since the Napoleonic wars, had expanded into the Caucasus and Central Asia, had significant rates of economic and demographic growth also thanks to the Trans-Siberian railway and the consequent colonization of Asian Russia. The Czars also aimed at the seas, the Indian Ocean, and the Mediterranean. For this reason, Crimea has historically been crucial in Moscow’s strategies.

Analyzing the complex geographical composition of the Euro-Asian mass in The Geography of Peace (Harcourt, Brace, 1944), Spykman notes that the seas arranged in an arc all around has facilitated the development of the coastal areas, while the more inland areas have always remained disconnected and without reliable communication routes; this prevented full integration. As a result, communications almost always took place with sea routes. However, there are infrastructural interventions that can break the setback of geography.

The Russia-Iran-India Triangulation

The war led the Western world to sever relations with Moscow. However, as evidenced by the growth of the European import of Russian LNG, it is nearly impossible to disconnect Russia from a fully integrated global economic system. For example, during the Cold World, Charles Levinson in Vodka Cola (Gordon and Cremonesi, 1977) highlighted a similar situation: the interdependence between the two opposing blocks – he also envisaged a hybridization in a more authoritarian sense.

Nevertheless, compared to the twentieth century, Russia is no longer an “ideological lighthouse”, no longer commands the Warsaw block, and, after the dissolution, has been increasingly marginalized. As demonstrated by the bloom of private military companies, the Russian State does not have a monopoly on military force. In any case, Russia has found and is developing effective alternative channels to come out of isolation.

First, the Russian-Chinese integration is already a reality: trade could reach a value of about 200 billion dollars by the end of 2023. Furthermore, China is a privileged end market for Russian resources, but Russia is also a relevant market for China that could compensate for the loss of shares in Taiwan and the United States with Russia.

Similarly, trade between Russia and Iran quadrupled in 2022. Interestingly, trade between Iran and the Caspian littoral states amounts to 5.54 million tons worth $3.03 billion.

Last but not least, after a long period in which the mutual value trade has not exceeded 10 billion dollars, in just one year the exchange between Russia and India has reached a record high of 44.4 billion; as a result, Russia is now the fifth largest trading partner. Trade between India and Russia has grown in the last year thanks to the International North-South Transport Corridor, which makes it possible to reduce logistics times from around 40 days to about 25. So, India is investing a lot in the corridor and reached an agreement for the Iranian port of Chabahar. This port is located about 790 nautical miles from Nhava Sheva and Mumbai.

The Geo-Economical Relevance of the Project

A comparable and particularly profitable route already existed a while ago. The United States, England and Canada created a corridor, the so-called “Persian Corridor”, during WWII to transfer military aid to the USSR: over 4 million tonnes of cargo passed through the forerunner of the North-South Corridor.

After the capitulation of the European powers, the USSR had to withstand an overwhelming shock force and was initially forced to retreat. As the Soviet military and industrial complex came into full swing, the corridor, especially in its initial stages, had a greater importance than is generally attributed. The corridor was the only reliable channel to support the USSR as the Nordic and Arctic routes towards Murmansk and Archangel were controlled by the Nazis.

After decades, the project was relaunched in the early 2000s and is listed as a priority by the countries’ governments. The corridor responds to the needs of the three major players involved: access to the Indian Ocean and the Gulf for Russia interrupting isolation, internal infrastructural strengthening for Iran – the country will become a pivotal crossroads of rail, road, and sea routes – and projection towards Central Asia for India bypassing Pakistan, which has become a key-country for China.

In addition, the initiative also has beneficial effects for all the other regional players: the former Soviet republics, Azerbaijan – the port of Baku is becoming an increasingly important hub (over 6.3 million tonnes of cargo in 2022)  – and Armenia, but also the Gulf countries, which are now the protagonists of a cautious and attentive policy to redefining the balance.

Current forecasts predict the doubling of freight volumes from 17 million tons per year to 32 million in 2030. The completion of the project would also lead to a shift of the trade and transit axis towards the heart of Central Asia.

Therefore, the North-South Corridor has enormous potential, but there are many unsolved problems. First, complete the infrastructural works in unison, modernize often-outdated infrastructure sections, and finally complete additional complementary interventions, as in the case of the Volga-Don Canal, which could strengthen trade between the Caspian Sea and the Sea of ​​Azov.

This canal is crucial in Russian Iranian commercial exchange: an estimated 35 merchant ships passed through the Volga-Don passages in 2021 (annual average), but this number grew to 50 in 2022 (42% more). However, despite the growing importance of global trade, the intermodal capacity of the ports on the Caspian Sea is still limited, while the interconnection between ports and railways in Iran is still lacking, but the two partners are willing to invest.

Finally, it is very complex to scratch the supremacy of Suez, especially after the doubling. The data show constant growth: from 2011 to 2016, over 16 thousand ships passed through Suez, while in 2021, over 20 thousand (more than 56 per day), as reported by the Suez Canal Authority (SCA). In 2021, about 1.27 billion tons of cargo were shipped through the canal. Therefore, Suez and Panama remain the fundamental facilitators of modern navigation.


In the already mentioned The Geography of Peace, Spykman highlighted some gates or obligatory passages – the so-called “Gates to the Heartland” – potentially dangerous for “world peace”, from which the Russian giant could try to get out. In his vision, the gates are the Arctic route (the ancient Pomor Trade), the Crimea, central European plains, Caucasian passes, the Khyber Pass. Preventing access to Russia at these points is a guarantee of peace; if not, there may be repercussions.

The northern road remains accessible for Russia even if less safe after Finland entered NATO; precisely, the war against Finland (1939-1940) finished with the conquest of the Karelia region and the Rybačij Peninsula to protect Leningrad and Archangel ports. The post-1989 NATO advance has made Russian penetration towards central Europe almost impossible for Russia. Finally, Russia returned to the war to protect the Crimea and the Azov Sea, now a “Russian inland sea”; moreover, in recent years, Russia has appeared in Syria and the Sahel.

In conclusion, by implementing the International North-South Transport Corridor, always following Spykman’s vision, which represents a route that crosses the Caucasus and the Caspian Sea, Russia is finding a way to break the isolation up, reaching the “gates”.

If this would be one of the world’s best concretisations of the grand Bandung and Belgrade ideas of our times, the following year will show us.

Lorenzo Somigli. Columnist specialised in energy and geopolitics, publications in Italian and international media and magazine like leSfide and Transatlantic Policy Quarterly. Reportage: Lebanon & Türkiye (2021). In Italy, parliamentary assistant (2021-ongoing) & media expert (culture, art).

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International Law

The Impact of Cultural and Religious Differences on Ethnic Conflict: A Case Study of Alawites in Syria

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Alawites are the ethnic and religious minority in Syria which comprise 12-15 percent about 2 million of the Syrian population. As far as the twentieth century, Alawites consisted of four main tribes in relative confinement mostly. They lived in the mountainous region of Hama, Latakia, and Homs while the Sunni majority lived mostly in the densely populated areas of Damascus and Aleppo. The Alawite community faced subjugation and marginalization based on geographic separation and economic disparities and this extended until the French came into power. Before the French control of Syria in 1920, the Alawaites were known as “Nusayris”. After the French control, they started to be known as  Alawite which means the followers of Ali. It was under the French that the Alawites emerged from the rural highlands and enjoyed a certain type of autonomy. The French set up a separate state for the Alawites known as the Latakia state in July 1922. The French also recruited the Alawites into the Troupes Speciales du levant, which later evolved into the Lebanese and Syrian Defense Forces in 1921. Sunnis who were in the majority were against the French as they wanted to create an autonomous Greater Syria which was a term mostly used by the pan-arab nationalists. This further led to a distinct Alawite identity fostering the rifts between the Sunni community and Alawites in Syria. 

The Alawites gained prominence in Syria and were provided with the chance of upward mobility during the rule of the Assad family who belongs to the Alawite community. In 1970,  Hafiz- Al Assad by a military coup came into power establishing a regime that favored the Alawite community in Syria. From 1966 to 1970 more than 65 percent of the entire military of Syria constituted Alawites and even today Alawites hold key positions in the army. Since that moment, the conflicts within Syria have been dominated by religious, cultural, and sectarian divisions. Moreover, the Alawite community fatalities have sparked over the years, either fighting to shield the Assad regime or because they are indicted of supporting or assisting his regime. In the 1970s, A Sunni Organization named Muslim Brotherhood targeted the Alawite community for violence but the regime suppressed the group in a genocide in 1982.

Religious practices and beliefs:

In the modern Syrian context, the Alawites are classified as Muslims but their practices often tend to deviate from Muslim orthodoxy in various arenas. The Alawites are an ethnoreligious group that follows a branch of Shia Islam. They claim that “there is no deity but Ali, no viel but Muhammad, and no Bab but Salman”. The Islam of the Sunni sect under the scholar Ibn Taymiyaa issued several fatwas against Alawites claiming that they are greater disbelievers than Jews and Christians and authorized jihad against them. and The Alawites believe in the idea of the Divine Trinity constituting Muhammad, Ali, and Salman, which is revealed in the seven derivations of the Godhead, each incorporated into three persons. The Alawites believe in reincarnation but the Muslims of other sects oppose this belief saying that it is contrary to Islam.

 In addition, other elements such as the acceptability of alcohol, Christmas celebrations, and the new year of Zoroastrians make them highly suspicious in front of the orthodox Muslims.  The distinct beliefs and practices of Alawites have played a crucial role in shaping the ethnic conflicts within Syria. Historically, the Alawite community has faced discrimination and marginalization within Syria which has led to the creation of a sense of otherness among them due to their own unique set of rituals, practices, and beliefs that differ from those of the Sunni majority of Syria.

Cultural and Religious Differences as contributing factors of Conflict:

The ethnic conflict in Syria is entrenched in cultural and religious differences between the Sunnis and Alawites. Throughout the 20th century, religion has been rendered as a main source of conflict between the Alawites and Sunni ethnic groups in Syria. It is because Alawites and Sunnis adhere to different branches of Islam having distinct religious practices and beliefs. This further leads to religious tensions and ideological differences between the two groups fueling sectarian violence and discrimination. The cultural and religious differences between the Sunnis and Alawites also develop a sense of different identities. Alawites being a minority feel a threat to their identity from the majority of Sunnis whereas on the other hand, Sunni groups view the dominance of minority Alawites as a threat to their own cultural and religious identity and they seek to resist it. Moreover, stereotyping one another based on hate speech, religious intolerance, and demonization has been instrumental in deepening divisions and fueling conflicts between the different ethnic groups.

If we analyze the impacts of religious and cultural differences throughout the recorded history of Syria, we see that during colonial rule, the manipulation of various sects to entrench French rule through discrimination in the structure of the emerging military and the partition of the state into different sects have resulted in long-standing ethnic conflicts. Moreover from 1961 to 1970 religion was further used to strengthen the Alawite influence in the armed forces. The decades-long repression of the majority population of the Sunni community of Syria by the Alawites-led government based on religious and cultural differences and the elevation of Alawites in the private and government sectors led to the creation of sectarian strife among them. All of this was carried out to solidify the Assad regime based on sectarian bonds of the Alawite minority seizing control of the state and pursuing discriminatory policies towards the Sunni majority.

 The struggles between the two groups over the years have fed a civil war in Syria that can transform the map of the Middle East. The Syrian war is considered to be a sectarian conflict between the minority Shite with the support of Alawites and the majority Sunni population on the other. The resistance action of the opposition at the start involved many ethnic and religious groups of Syria against the authoritarian regime of Assad turned into another sectarian war between Shi’ites and Sunnis. This Syrian insurgency started for the same reasons as that of revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt but now it has turned into a sectarian civil war which has no resemblance to what happened in those countries.

Assad Regime Utilization of Sectarianism

During the forty years, the authoritarian Assad regime in Syria has created the conditions for the conflict and its sectarian components. Assad regime highlighted the use of the sectarian nature of the Syrian conflict and by doing that it was somehow successful in motivating the shite Alawite minority to support it. Over the years, the Assad regime has portrayed the opposition forces and in particular the Sunni Muslims as a threat to the very existence of the Alawite community in Syria. The regime has intensified the sectarian nature of the conflict between the Alawites and the Sunni majority as this conflict adopted the shape of the struggle for life for the Alawites in Syria. The Alawites had been a major support base for both Hafiz and Bashar al-Assad. Over the years Assad regime has used the sectarian identity of Alawites for their political objectives to consolidate their power by ensuring the support of primary institutions such as military and security forces.

Moreover, it is also said that the regime has used various sectarian militias dominated by the Alawite community. These militias include the National Defense Forces (NDF) and Shabiha which have been empowered and supported by the Assad regime against the opposition groups such as the rebel fighters comprised of Sunni Muslims. The main strategic objective of such militias was to increase sectarianism in Syria and stop the Alawite community from joining the opposition forces. The regime has portrayed the conflict as a sectarian conflict where the survival of Alawites is at stake while demonizing other ethnic groups, particularly the Sunnis. The result of such utilization of sectarianism that we witness today is that the minority Alawites are entangled in this conflict with the Sunnis due to their historical association with the Assad rule in Syria.

 Role of external actors in exacerbating sectarian strife:

The Syrian conflict is a complex one and multiple actors are involved in it with various vested interests. The conflict is often characterized by a multitude of ethnic, ideological, and sectarian divisions with the minority Alawite community in Syria being one of them. Several external actors such as Hizbollah, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), and Shite fighters from Syria have bolstered their financial and political support to the Assad regime backed by Iran and Russia. Over the years, Iran has remained the steadfast supporter of the Alawite community in Syria, which includes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Iran has provided relentless aid to the Assad regime and has declared the resistance forces in Syria as extremists or terrorists which are supported by Gulf Arab states, the United States, and Israel. The supreme leader of Iran Ayatullah Khomeini once said that Syria is Iran’s thirty-fifth province, and if we fail Syria we won’t be able to hold Tehran as well. This statement highlights the strategic significance of Syria for Iran as it is critical for providing the geographical thoroughfare to the Lebanese Shia militia group Hizbollah. Another reason for Iran supporting the Assad regime is that Iran is fearful of Syria’s Sunni majority and the fact that it may rule Syria supported by Saudi Arabia and the United States and then it would be hostile towards Shite Iran. Moreover, the use of foreign Shia militias in Syria against Sunni majority groups further exacerbates the sectarian divisions. So, here in this scenario, religion is playing a key role which further classifies into different sects supporting each other fueling ethnic conflict.

Moreover, various other external actors support different factions within the Syrian conflict involving the Alawites based on their vested interests. The opposition to the Syrian regime comprised of Alawites by the Sunni majority groups has gained support over the years from various external actors including the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. However, not all these actors have been supporting the Sunni majority, particularly against the Alawites.

The Gulf countries particularly Saudi Arabia and Qatar have long supported the Sunni rebels in Syria both financially and militarily. The main purpose behind this support is to weaken the influence of their regional rival Iran in Syria and support Sunni rebel groups fighting against the Alawite-led Assad regime. Turkey has been a long-standing supporter of the Sunni rebel groups in the Syrian conflict as it assists the Sunni majority groups both militarily and logistically. The purpose of Turkish support is to prevent the emergence of Kurdish forces along its border. In addition, the United States and the Western allies are supporting the Sunni majority groups to weaken the Assad-led Alawite regime and to counter the extremist threats from ISIS in Syria.  It is significant to note that all the external actors involved in the Syrian conflict have their agendas and interest in Syria and their involvement has further complicated the dynamics of the ethnic conflict between the minority Alawites and the majority Sunni groups in Syria.

Efforts needed to address the conflict:

The efforts to address the conflict between the Alawites and Sunnis majority will require an inclusive approach that takes into account all the factors such as historical, cultural, religious, social, political, and economic that are contributing to the long-lasting tensions between the two groups. Healing the sectarian divisions of a diverse nation like Syria is not only necessary, but it has become a significant point for a more secure and stable Syria. To address the long-standing conflict in Syria it is essential to foster dialogue and negotiations between the Alawites and other ethnic groups in Syria. It is also necessary to promote inclusive governance and power-sharing structures within Syria that would provide participation and representation for all other ethnic groups as it would help in addressing the deep-rooted tensions between these groups in Syria. Moreover, engaging neighboring states and regional actors to address the concerns and aspirations of all communities including the Alawites and international support for mediation in the conflict is vital for ensuring the peaceful resolution of this conflict between the Alawites and the predominantly Sunni Muslim community in Syria.


To conclude, we can say that the Alawite-Sunni conflict in Syria is a complex and multi-faceted one. This conflict is a vicious cycle of violence with both sides committing violence against each other. The conflict involves ethnic dimensions with the Alawite minority supporting the Assad regime, while Sunnis oppose it as they see Alawites as an illegitimate ruling class. The Assad regime portrays itself as the protector of the Alawite community against Sunni extremism. Moreover, the conflict has attracted fighters from both sides who are motivated by religious and sectarian considerations. This further polarizes the conflict along the cultural and religious lines making it more difficult to find a peaceful solution. In addition, the external actors’ involvement based on their vested interests has further fueled the conflict along the cultural and religious lines making it more difficult to find a peaceful solution deepening the divisions and prolonging the conflict. However, by addressing the root causes of conflict and engaging in peacebuilding initiatives there is still hope for a more peaceful, inclusive, and prosperous Syria.

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International Law

Democracy at Risk: The Global Challenge of Rising Populism and Nationalism

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Authors: Meherab Hossain and Md. Obaidullah*

Populism and nationalism represent two discrete political ideologies; however, they may pose potential threats to democracy. Populism is a political ideology and approach characterized by the emphasis on the interests and concerns of ordinary people against established elites or perceived sources of power and privilege. Populist leaders often portray themselves as champions of the “common people” and claim to represent their grievances and desires. It is a political stance that emphasizes the idea of “the people” and often contrasts this group against “the elite”.

 Nationalism, on the other hand, is an ideology based on the premise that the individual’s loyalty and devotion to the nation-state surpass other individual or group interests. It represents a political principal positing that there should be congruence between the political entity and the nation-state. While populism emphasizes the idea of “the people,” nationalism emphasizes the idea of the nation-state.

In what ways can populism pose a threat to democracy?

While some argue that populism is not a threat to democracy per se, others contend that it poses a serious risk to democratic institutions. Populism can become a threat to democracy by undermining formal institutions and functions, discrediting the media, and targeting specific social groups, such as immigrants or minorities. This threat arises from its potential to confer a moral legitimacy upon the state that it might otherwise lack. Consequently, it can jeopardize the defense mechanisms established to safeguard against tyranny, including freedoms, checks and balances, the rule of law, tolerance, autonomous social institutions, individual and group rights, as well as pluralism.  Populism imposes an assumption of uniformity onto the diverse fabric of reality, distorting not only factual representations but also elevating the attributes of certain social groups above those of others.

In Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s populist rhetoric and policies have led to the erosion of democratic institutions, including the judiciary and the media. Populism in Turkey can be traced back to the era of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s regime, during which Atatürk’s elites, who had limited commonality with the broader society, assumed the responsibility of educating and guiding the masses. This phenomenon, often referred to as ‘regime elitism,’ has rendered Turkey susceptible to populism, which fundamentally revolves around the conflict between the elites and the general populace.

 In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s populist government has been accused of undermining the rule of law, limiting press freedom, and targeting civil society groups. He has established a repressive and progressively authoritarian state that operates under the guise of democracy.

In media discourse, he has been designated as a populist leader. Empirical analysis reveals that Hungary is currently governed by a form of political populism, characterized as conservative right-wing populism. The salient features of Hungarian political dynamics encompass the government’s claim of challenging established elites, a lack of a clearly defined political agenda, the utilization of propaganda as a prominent tool in its political communications, advocacy for the preservation of a Christian Hungary, intervention in areas traditionally considered independent from state interference such as education and jurisdiction, the implementation of mass clientelism to reward its supporters while exerting pressure on critics, and overt criticism of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Consequently, this trajectory underscores the ascendance of authoritarianism within Hungary.

How Nationalism can be threat to Democracy?

Nationalism can pose a potential threat to both democracy and international relations when it manifests in forms of discrimination, violence, and the exclusion of specific groups. The ascension of nationalism may jeopardize the established efficacy of multilateralism, which has historically been instrumental in preserving lives and averting conflicts. This can result in unilateral actions by certain nations, thereby undermining the collaborative approach to the peaceful resolution of disputes.

Nationalism can serve as a catalyst for conflict and division, fostering tendencies toward exclusivity and competition that impede the resolution of common global challenges. The ascent of economic nationalism has the potential to undermine global collaboration and policy alignment, resulting in a resurgence of nationalist economic strategies in many regions worldwide. Such strategies often prioritize individual national objectives over the collective global interest. Unrestrained nationalism can pose a threat to stability by inflaming ethnic tensions, thereby increasing the likelihood of violence and conflict.

In Europe, nationalism has historically been a significant catalyst for conflict and division, spanning from the emergence of Nazi Germany in the 1930s to more recent upsurges of nationalist movements in various countries. Nationalism tends to foster exclusivity and competition, thereby complicating efforts to address common global challenges. Under nationalist ideology, exemplified by Hitler, instances of extreme cruelty and inhumanity have been documented.

Another instance of nationalism, which presents a significant challenge to democracy, is the ascendance of Hindu extremism and nationalism in India, resulting in communal tensions. Since the Hindu nationalist BJP came into power, there has been a heightened sense of insecurity among Muslims in India, with the situation reaching unprecedented levels of concern. The government has actively employed media, television, and the film industry to propagate Islamophobia among the Hindu majority. In 2018, the Indian High Court rendered a judgment advocating for India to be declared a Hindu state, citing the country’s historical religious divisions. Nonetheless, it is crucial to emphasize that, in accordance with its constitution, India is mandated to maintain a secular state. Needless to say, the rise of Hindu nationalism under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been accused of fueling sectarian tensions and undermining the country’s secular democracy.

Indeed, while populism and nationalism are distinct concepts, their simultaneous global rise poses a considerable threat to democracy. These ideologies frequently favor specific groups over the broader population and can corrode democratic principles. They tend to exacerbate polarization and undermine vital democratic institutions. Hence, many countries are grappling with substantial challenges to their democratic systems, which puts their stability and effectiveness at risk.

*Md. Obaidullah holds both a BSS and an MSS degree in Public Administration from the University of Barishal. He is currently employed as a Research Assistant at the Centre for Advanced Social Research in Dhaka, Bangladesh. His writing expertise spans various subjects, including Public Policy, Politics, Governance, Climate Change, and Diplomacy, on which he frequently contributes

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International Law

Principles of International Relations as Homo Sapiens

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After listening to Hariri’s Home Sapiens, I grasped, with a new perspective, the state of our humanity. I deeply realized that indeed we are the last human species. Our closest relative and competitor, the Neanderthals, were long gone. So how do we, as homo sapiens (“wise men”), wisely ensure the well-being and future of our species?  The question seems too general or even irrelevant to many considering that everyday life on Earth continues despite the horrors of war, the devastation of calamities, and the forebodings of apocalypticism. But let’s not toy around with the destructive propensity and capability of our species which could have played a significant role in the demise of the Neanderthals and could also threaten our very own existence.

Life on Earth now is multifaceted and more complex than when we were still cohabiting our planet with other human species. The ancient “us and them” have become the modern and ironically complicated “among us,” and consequentially “us versus us.” We have become the only remaining human species—but the only remaining species that wants to destroy itself for self-interest.     

Reflecting on the implications of our being the only human species left on Earth, I deduce the following principles for our international relations.

As one human species living on one planet:

The principle of cohabitation

We all have the rights to peacefully and productively cohabit on planet Earth without the sequestration of others due to superficialdiversity such as geographical locations, skin color, social ideology, and culture; or because of national or corporate resource exploitation.

The principle of mutual survival

We cannot survive without the human ecosystem. Human life is a multidimensional ecosystem. It cannot survive and thrive with only one feature or characteristic in one locality. It necessitates global diversity and mutuality. For our species to survive, our relations need to be based on mutual universal survival.

The principle of co-thriving

We cannot thrive secluded from the universal life system. Regression and destruction of one geographical locus, one ethnicity, or one natural feature impacts the whole bio-societal system. Inversely, the flourishing of one locus, one ethnicity, or one natural feature in conjunction with others, furnishes the whole human system to thrive.

The principle of developmental competition

We have both the latent propensity for destructive bouts and a penchant for developmental competition. International relations based on destructive bouts eventually inflect global crises. Global relations based on developmental competition advance our civilization. Each progress in a varied sphere, though will not be the same, complements the whole progression.  

The principle of common home protection

We only have one home, one present habitat for our species to live and thrive, and one human family. Allowing these to decay will not only result in our degeneration but also the eventual risk of our survival.

As homo sapiens, we are at the top of the food chain and intolerant. We want to devour everything we can see and irrationally have the delusion of grandeur of being the only predator left. But the prey and the predator are one and the same. It’s not so naïve to outline what can be tagged as an idealistic theoretical construct. But let’s also accept the fact that the most influencing factors in our international relations are either commercially exploitive or ideologically invasive. And these are not sustainable and globally beneficial—for they are calculated goodness intended for the temporal benefits of the very few. The principle of the common good will enable us to see more beyond our present state and ensure the well-being and future of our species. 

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