New world disorder and South AsiaIndia’s peaceful growth principles are beckoning for all the good reasons.
‘O brave new world that has such people in't!’ Miranda said in Shakespeare's The Tempest, on first sighting the shipwrecked courtiers. Today, at the end of the second decade of the 21st century, most of us have a sense of it as the world is in a state of disorder. All about us is prominently chaotic. The world is ravaged to an extent by Covid-19 and the failure of governments and multilateral institutions, and an attempt to see the light at the end of the tunnel may be too simplistic. With the future of humanity threatened and uncertain, the ‘new world’ has failed to believe in a consensus-based approach to finding a mechanism to decode the global pandemic, and creating a common task force to save humanity from suffering an unprecedented crisis consecutively in the second year.
While reading The New World Disorder and the Indian Imperative by Shashi Tharoor and Samir Saran, one gets a very clear sense of the new world order in transition. The book prominently deals with the roots of the universal predicaments—from the inequity of the post-war international power politics to the fundamental causes of the new world’s illiberal leadership. In the South Asian region too, the wind of change is well felt. Yet the authors overlook India’s growing leadership issues and rightly believe in its potential in the long run where it has a major role to play in shaping future global trends.
Rise of the East
The rise of the East is wrongly viewed with scepticism and fear by the West, precisely so, as somewhere it is erroneously made synonymous with the ‘rise of China’. This may just be one of the factors of a serious perception gap, however, it is strong enough to be not undermined by the West’s strategic and economic thinkers. India’s peaceful growth principles are beckoning for all the good reasons. Notwithstanding its short-term precariousness on home turf and in the immediate neighbourhood, India’s potential is something that should be debated before writing off the ‘Asian Century Dream’ in haste. One can be incorrigible in maintaining a stand on this!
As the South Asian countries are facing a sort of humanitarian crisis amid the second wave of Covid-19, one can wonder whether they can explore the potential of ‘the new world order’ with the aim of gaining in the post-recovery phases. Sharing a broad mission can be helpful to India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Maldives. It would be crucial how these countries view China’s aggression in the South Asian region and its adverse implications for regional unity and bilateral relations. Not often discussed, though also not beyond the obvious, a very promising regional association like the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) could not do as well as expected with China’s territorial and market overreach. In comparison, India’s posture in the neighbourhood has been conciliatory, and its dominance in the region merits being seen through the same perspectives.
‘The international liberal order is facing a moment of crisis. With Darwinism (or the survival of the strongest and fittest) having guided the construction and management of international systems of governance for seven decades, it is no surprise that as sweeping change overtakes the world, there are no longer many takers for these arrangements. Globalisation is confronted by economic nationalism. Strong leaders are exploiting the grievances of citizens (whether imagined or real) to discard global ideals and champion local interests. And the prospects of a “global village”, of the world coming ever closer together, seem to be in reversal. A zero-sum approach to development and the securitisation of growth are creating new potential for conflict at a time when the institutions of global governance are weaker than ever before,’ write Shashi Tharoor and Samir Saran.
They make it amply clear how the newly disrupted world is not short on opportunities for the countries that have been hitherto given no due by a niche group of countries. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and as an aspirational country, India’ stake is certainly high as the world is reassured of seeing a complete reset.
Braving the new world order
There is no single multilateral institution including the United Nations that can exactly ascertain the level of losses the world has witnessed with the Covid-19 global pandemic. In fact, the UN’s failure in communicating the imminent dangers of unknown biological warfare disguised as a malady, and making a concerted effort to constitute an international task force for a global approach to save the world, is too big to be ignored. Today, we are already living in a ravaged world that can’t live in harmony if the old institutions find no new way to justify their existence.
At the cusp of a defining change, it is wishful that the South Asian countries come forward for reimagining South Asia and staking a claim in the new world order. To brave the challenges, some of the inherent weaknesses have to be addressed, especially on the bilateral front. Essentially, for finding a strong basis for regional and sub-regional economic and strategic integration, the bilateral hiccups and unhelpful baggage of the past have to be effectively dealt with. In South Asia, a new chapter of cooperation should be driven by regional unity rather than symbolisms of bilateralism and trilateralism. A shared vision for regional peace and prosperity will help bilateralism and trilateralism too. If the region gets a new lease of life through a renewed approach of cooperation, the new world disorder will be rather eventful after the crisis.