US-China Interest in NAM Countries

United States and China, the two major powers are competing with each other to assert their influence in the developing countries, primarily the member states of the Non Aligned Movement. The influence extends not only to peacekeeping missions but also through humanitarian and development aid that is aimed at ensuring the strategic interests of the superpower. The article looks at two cases of US and China asserting their influence in the Non Aligned countries. The first case pertains to the US sale of arms to Iraq while the second case pertains to the increasing Chinese influence in Myanmar.
In the aftermath of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the country has plunged into an unending civil war. Even a decade after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, the country is marked by unrest and strife.  Despite the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq at the end of 2011, the United States remains a key Iraqi security and defense partner, providing more than $14 billion in arms to Baghdad since 2005.
Iraq’s Shia-run central government is in the midst of a bloody battle with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a group that was excommunicated recently by Al-Qaida’s core leadership. As sectarian violence drives Iraq toward a political chasm, its government’s clash against Sunni fighters is becoming beneficial for American arms manufacturers. Lack of expertise and equipment prompted the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in October 2013 to issue a desperate plea to the United States for more military assistance. The Pentagon said in the beginning of 2014 that the US would accelerate the delivery of 100 more Hellfire missiles, which were due to be sent to Iraq in the next few months. Some 75 Hellfire missiles, which can be fired from helicopters and warplanes, were delivered to Baghdad in mid-December 2013. The budget of the arms contract to Iraq was estimated at $2.4 billion. It also involves the sale of 681 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and 40 truck-mounted launchers, as well as three Hawk anti-aircraft batteries with 216 Hawk missiles. An earlier US arms package to Iraq included the sale of 12 Bell 412 EP transport helicopters, and 50 Stryker armored vehicles equipped for nuclear, radiological, biological and chemical warfare.
In the midst of the ongoing conflict in Iraq and the profit-endeavoring venture for the US arms suppliers to Iraq, it is significant that the NAM countries have also taken note of the situation in Iraq. The 17th Ministerial Conference of the Non-Aligned Movement held in May 2014 in Algeria adopted 2 positive resolutions on Iraq. The conference welcomed Iraq’s initiative to promote and strengthen international cooperation in the fight against terrorism.  It was also significant that Iraq headed the session of the meeting of the Ministerial Conference of the 17th Non-Aligned Movement where the member states called for a coordinated action in crisis societies.  In the light of these developments, it is imperative for the NAM to devise a coordinated peacekeeping strategy for Iraq and reduce the country’s reliance on the US military aid for maintain peace in the region.
The other case study of the article pertains to the Chinese aid to Myanmar. As opposed to the US intervention in Iraq that aimed at maintain a security presence of the former, the Chinese influence in Myanmar extends to humanitarian aid with the real motives of establishing Chinese strategic hegemony in the South East Asian region. In February 2014, humanitarian aid from the Red Cross Society of China worth 5 million yuan ($820,000) arrived in Kachin, Northern Myanmar. The shipment, including rice, cooking oil, salt and quilts, was targeted to be distributed to 10,000 displaced families. The aid is a part of extending the Chinese strategic influence in Myanmar. In the past two years, Chinese special envoy for Asian affairs attended several rounds of peace talks between the Myanmar government and the Kachin Independence Organization/Kachin Independence Army (KIO/KIA). China is considered the “primary supplier of economic and military assistance” to Myanmar. In recent years, PRC government entities have financed many infrastructure, energy-related (especially hydro power), agricultural and other high profile development projects in these countries, which also rely upon Chinese construction materials, equipment, technical expertise, and labor.
In the context of the increasing Chinese aid to Myanmar, it must not be forgotten that foreign aid from China is often characterized as ‘rogue aid’ that is not guided by recipient need but by China’s national interests alone. Among all the political forces jockeying for position in Myanmar’s new political order, the military is perhaps the most China-friendly group. This is partially a legacy of China’s special relationship with the previous military government and strong personal ties with individual generals who wielded influence before 2011. These special ties are strengthened by certain shared political values and common economic interests. Moreover,  it has come to the fore that the Chinese projects in Myanmar, primarily in the natural resources and energy sectors, have failed to bring substantial benefits to the people, and locals feel that economic relations between the two countries are unequal, with Beijing plundering their natural resources while disregarding their interests. New immigrants and newly urbanized Myanmar-Chinese have also been accused of controlling the local economy.
Myanmar is a member state of the Non Aligned Movement and as such the NAM member states must take steps to counter the increasing Chinese influence which is based on the principle of unequal exchange. It is noteworthy that India, a major power in the South Asian regions has taken a series of initiatives in this direction. In that regard, it is worth noting that New Delhi has begun to assist Myanmar in a number of important spheres, including agriculture, information technology and engineering. Most recently, INDEE 2014, a flagship engineering exhibition of India’s Engineering Export Promotion Council, was being held in Yangon with Indian embassy support.
The NAM countries under the leadership of  regional powers like India need to send a clear message through the formulation of policies in post conflict nations like Iraq and Myanmar that  that  they believe in establishing peace in the region and also in  providing assistance in sectors where local capabilities can be developed as opposed to the interests of the developing countries in securing their strategic, military, and economic interests alone.

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