By Vivek Pattanayak in Bhubaneswar, October 21, 2021: After giving a narration of unfolding of political events in the immediate recent past which are fresh in our collective memory I gave an over view of growth of international mechanism which has been playing a role in attempting to establish order since last seventy five years possibly with some modicum of success and also with some spectacular failure(my former Swiss colleague in UN system, Francoise Frochaux rightly reminds me that we should also acknowledge how many conflicts the world has avoided thanks to UN) , now I thought of giving a projection what is in store for future , of course in near terms. The famous geo-political expert, George Friedman wrote in 2010, Next Hundred Years. Making a projection for such an extended period would be hazardous even for an astrologer.
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Many thinkers opined towards the end of the twentieth century that next century would belong to Asia. In this context, it is worth quoting Deng Hsiao Ping when he told Rajiv Gandhi in 1988 in the much publicized first visit of the Indian Prime Minister after the Sino-Indian War of 1962 that next century would be that of Asia, and both China and India should be together to lead. He famously stated, “My young friend, forget the past and think of the future”.

In the last thirty-three years much, water has flown through the rivers of Ganga, Brahmapautra, Yangtzekiang and Hoang Ho. In the world with spectacular economic growth in China and in India, the debilitating global financial crisis in 2008 with collapse of Lehman Brosand many more iconic financial behemoths sparking a cavalcade of bankruptcies in the West, while China and India having famously escaped the world’s unprecedented financial contagion, both the political thinkers and economic experts started asserting more vigorously than before that balance of power would shift to Asia in the 21st century.

In 2001, Goldman Sachs economist, Jim O’Neil had coined the expression BRIC, Brazil, Russia, India, and China, later known as BRICS with the inclusion of South Africa meaning that this group of countries with their mammoth GDP by 2050 would dominate the global economy.Notwithstanding the Group’s lack of geographic contiguity, or any other identifiable binding factor this association of countries has come into existence and established the New Development Bank with HQ in Shanghai in China. Since then, China has taken initiative in establishing of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank with participation of both India and China apart from others. BRICS has been lobbying towards change in voting rights in IMF and World Bank.

Since then, there have been two major developments within political and economic domain of the most populous Asian giants, China, and India. First in China, Xi Jing Ping has arrived with more muscular political leadership who has got a lifetime mandate. He has been pioneering an ambitious programme of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) having a large geographic over-reach. Apart from BRI he has been trying to bring in a doctrine of exclusivity over South China Sea with nine-dash line after losing an award in international tribunal annoying many countries in the neighborhood a part from getting displeasure of USA.

His policy in Jinjiang has alienated global public opinion including in the Islamic world as my erstwhile colleague from UN system Francois Frochaux again reminds me that with internet, social media , and live television the global public opinion counts a lot in the 21st century which was inconceivable fifty years ago. With iron hand the Hong Kong autonomy under one China and two system principle of 1997 has been strangled. Now Taiwan is having rough time with avowed bellicosity of Xi Jing Ping.

In India after almost five year of near double-digit growth, the country was saddled by what is widely referred to as “policy paralysis” and consequential “trust deficit” after series of widely publicized scams ,real or doubtful resulting in the growth of economy being hamstrung by rising global oil price and disenchantment of foreign investors after more than one hundred twenty telecom licenses also involving foreign players were cancelled by a judicial verdict and imposition of retrospective tax, based on a highly retrograde and regressive law .

This was followed by emergence of an iconic charismatic leader, Narendra Modi advocating ideology of minimum government and maximum governance. First time in quarter of a century the Central government was free from what is pejoratively and popularly called any “coalition compulsion.” Slew of policy announcements were made starting from flagship programme called, make in India, start up India and Stand-Up India, Digital India and Swastha Bharat etc. and this was followed by innumerable high-profile visits to USA, Canada, UK, Australia, and Europe and Middle East to woo investors and project India as a investors’ paradise.

Since then, within the country in some States popular mandate has not gone in favour the new political dispensation with cleavage in the social fabric caused by alienation on religious, caste and on other consideration. Economy has not produced any noticeable sparkle beleaguered by mammoth rise in non-performing assets in the banking sector with collapse of non-banking financial institutions and now with pandemic contraction has caused large-scale unemployment and with bleak hope of success of Make in India in immediate future.

After a brief period of bonhomie between India and her arch rival Pakistan with a surprise visit of Prime Minister of India to Pakistan relations have deteriorated with surgical strike and air attack on Balakote. Cross-border terror sponsored by Pakistan has not waned. With Taliban take over in neighbouring Afghanistan the security situation may even worsen. India’s relations with its neighbours are not spectacularly warm.

Similarly, after high hopes of détente in political front and closer economic cooperation between China and India, after Dokhlam and Galwan the Sino-Indian political relationship is at the lowest ebb since 1988 when Deng and Rajiv met and imagined ushering of an Asian age of two great civilizations.

Pandemic has affected economy globally. China’s export-oriented growth would be impinged by this phenomenon which has compelled China to look inwards particularly after series of aggressive measures taken by USA under Trump like tariff hike and campaign against its telecom behemoth Huawei for its 5G technology transfer to different countries including detaining Meng, the daughter of the owner of Huawei for almost for two years in Canada by an American extradition warrant.

With newly announced policy “prosperity for all” and followed by a string of regulatory measures and investigations which have affected the market capitalization of the large tech giants like Ten cent and Alibaba wiping out wealth of one trillion dollars and uncertainty of Hongkong and warlike movements against Taiwan (whose companies have invested heavily in mainland China) there is also danger of flow of investments to China

Although a large number of US companies who have their strong foothold in China have not exited from there despite tariff wars and political confrontations between USA and China with promotion of QUAD and conceptualization of AUKUS , hopes have been raised in India that they would move to India with their exit from there.Interestingly despite Sino-Indian border armed confrontation, trade between India and China has reached all time peak even after announcement of Atmanirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India ) to be less dependent upon China for imports.

China by its overt acts is isolating itself from the traditional Asian region and increasing its political distance from USA still a global superpower notwithstanding its disastrous performance in Afghanistan.

These events also indicate both China and India cannot be together in the near future and undoubtedly would not be able to lead Asia.

If India’s economy weakens with hostile Pakistan and China, it would not have either military weight or economic clout to lead in Asia by itself.India is in QUAD but excluded from AUKUS. By this India must depend upon West. As it is Russia is against QUAD. It has a cozy economic and political relationship with China and its relationship with Pakistan is improving more so after Pakistan’s influence in the Taliban led Afghanistan has increased and since Russia’s growing interest in Afghanistan after exit of USA.

India’s lackluster performance under other economic and social parameters like hunger level, child mortality, public health infrastructure as exposed during the pandemic, and happiness index etc. it may not be able to muster economic and social clout to enjoy a political leadership in Asia and also in the developing world in spite of its huge growing middle class creating phenomenal market which has traditionally attracted the West.

Europe has suffered immensely with Brexit and indifference of US under Trump in security matters neglecting NATO. Although the continent has all the economic, and social technological advantages to play a vital leadership role in the current century to take effective measures towards arresting global warming etc., its political unity is under cloud exposing its traditional and historic fault lines, more so with ultra-nationalism getting increasingly pronounced by ‘not mining the present but chewing the past.’Merkel’s exit may show more of disunity.

Russia is wooing Iran, growing closer to China and with the traditional hold in the Central Asia can form an anti-American coalition.

Turkey under Erdogan is neither here nor there.Losing its secular and democratic credential it has not been able acquire Islamic outfit.It is neither in Europe nor able to create Sunni Islamic Caliphate as long the ruling monarchies are in seat of power in their respective countries in the Middle East.US has lost its credibility among its traditional allies in Europe first during the mercurial kakistocracy of Trump and demonstrative pusillanimity during the Afghan withdrawal. No wonder it is clinging on to the Anglo-Saxon alliance of AUKUS disappointing Japan and even South Korea who were not hopeful even during the Trump regime.

From the above elucidation and analysis, it would appear the world in the remaining phase of the decade would be floundering for clear leadership. UN if veto remains in decision-making process will always remain under seize. The present uncertain multi-polarity would continue unless there is some vital change of circumstances with arrival of new messianic leadership either through democratic process or through coup d’état.

Will a cataclysmic event bring catharsis?

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