India in Emerging Global Order
Dr Vijay Chauthaiwale,
In-charge, Foreign Affairs Department, BJP
Prof Aswini Mohapatra
Dean, School of International Studies, JNU
Dr Kuldeep RatnooOn behalf of India Policy Foundation, I welcome you all. Today, we have amongst us Dr Vijay Chauthaiwale to address us on the topic chosen for today's webinar, "India in Emerging World Order".
Prof Aswini Mohapatra
The topic that we have taken today is the post Covid-19 world order. Whatever we say today will be in the realm of speculation as we can’t say things with certainty. Because as it is, international system for the last couple of years has been in a state of flux. It has not been described or characterized either uni-polar, bipolar or multi-polar. Some would say it is a kind of power transition because of the intense rivalry between the dominant hegemon, i.e. the United States (US) vis-à-vis the challenging hegemon, i.e., the People’s Republic of China (PRC), popularly known as China.
But international relations have been quite chaotic because of the transitional character of the system itself. We have one declining hegemon being challenged by an ascendant or rising hegemon, i.e. China. Lastly, because of its economic capacity and of late it has been trying to translate its economic heft into military prowess. But so far, it has not been successful in matching up with the technology-based military hardware prowess of the US. It is a country that has over 170 bases in 100 countries and can undertake any kind of military operation between 12-13 hours. And the Pax Americana in terms of military hardware has been established since 1991. That is the end of the Cold War period. So, China of late has been struggling to catch up with this kind of military status a pre-eminent power like US has so far maintained.
So, what are the characteristics of the international order which are likely to emerge as and when the corona virus pandemic phase gets over? There is a heated debate going on in America among the Western scholars. Some would say it is going to non-polarity – there would be no polarity in international system; there could be a kind of pluralistic international system. You have a different regional grouping emerging. If at all that happens, the international system is likely to be more chaotic. Because you have various centres of power. It is not going to ensure the kind of semblance of stability or peace or what was called Long Peace which was the redeeming characteristic of the period of cold war.
Some would say that would be a group of countries coming together. That would be my proposition so far – what I call the DG, i.e. Democratic Group – group of democracies coming together to maintain the international system based on the rule-based system where all the member states would respect the rules which are evolved over a period of time and which have also been crystallised through the consensus in the international fora and various other international institutions.
Some would obviously emphasize on the multilateralism, but is difficult to say to what extent the multilateralism would sustain itself in the face of challenges coming from various power centres. It could be America, China, even India or Russia which is also an emergent military power. So, in a way what I see happening first of all depends on PRC. I have not so far given up on the option or possibility of a war. I am very sorry, I may sound a bit hawkish, but I am a hardcore realist. It may soon happen. If that happens, the whole international relations scenario would change because nobody knows which direction it will take. It could be worse than what the world has experienced at the end of World War II.
If this is avoided, there is a possibility of informal collusion. It could be larger multilateral forum or it could simply be a mini multilateral forum which is based on specific issues by a group of countries. It is not necessary that all the countries will join. Typical example of this is, Paris-based Solar Alliance. It would be theme-based, issue specific which would be acceptable to a group of countries with their shared interests.
So, given these kinds of dynamics that I just spelt out, it will be a challenging job for Dr Vijay Chauthaiwale ji to exactly predict what shape the international order would take in the next couple of months down the line. And thereby, how does he look at India which is an ascendant power and what would be the Indian foreign policy thinking.
Remember one thing, we have a change of government but we have not had a change of regime. It is well reflected in the continuation of foreign policy approach and which is best reflected in our China policy. Think for a moment, had there been no causalities in Galwan, it would have been business as usual. But now what happened in Galwan is a turning point. We have been convinced about attitude, approach and aggressive behaviour of China for a variety of reasons. So, we need to look beyond the conventional thinking of the set foreign policy approach. It would definitely be proactive but how do you see India being able to satisfy its multiple objectives through a kind of grand strategy. Because we have been often accused of lacking strategic culture. We have a strategic community which is quite limited, lastly based in India International Centre. You find the same people wherever there is a discussion on Indian foreign policy. So, we need to expand the strategic community. We need to have a pan Indian strategic community.
On top of all this, we are also often criticized for the difference between our accomplishment or power potential on one hand and aspiration. There is a kind of dichotomy. That has to be addressed and it largely depends on policy making and more than that the political leadership. Since Dr Vijay Chauthaiwale ji has been involved actively in terms of providing inputs, in terms of giving his ideas to the foreign policy formulation, he is the best person to throw some light on the contours of Indian foreign policy in the context of the changing international system which is likely to evolve in the next couple of months down the line.
Thank you and on this note, I would invite Dr Vijay Chauthaiwale ji to deliver his lecture.
Dr Vijay Chauthaiwale
I will put forward some practical issues that are being faced by India and also at a global level and try to see some things which are likely to emerge in the next months and years to come. As mentioned by Prof Mohapatra, it is amply clear that it is very difficult to predict the future especially in this uncertain world.
During Cold War, it was relatively simple. You stayed at the positions based on which side of the world you were. There were two major blocs. One is of capitalist countries and the other is of communist or socialist countries. And then there was another small group who were relatively under developed and who had very little or no say in the global affairs. And they came together in the form of Non-Aligned Movement. And as you can see that as soon as the Cold War is over, new multilateralism has emerged. Initially, it was in the form of total victory of the US. But later on, several new issues have emerged including Islamic terrorism that has collapsed the uni-polar world.
On the other hand, the economic powerhouse like China has emerged as a new power centre. Because of this dynamic situation, Non-Aligned Movement has relatively lost its relevance. What has happened is that the groups which were more based on ideological principles like socialism or capitalism have become more and more transitionary. Each country is trying to mend its fences or create new fences based on their self-interests and on clearly defined objectives.
One classical example was given by Prof Mohapatra himself when he talked about the Solar Alliance where diverse countries have come together for climate change and principle country reluctantly joined initially but under President Trump, they have virtually come out of it. On the other hand, the Arctic countries and the Nordic countries are actively supporting the green energy, clean environmental initiatives. They have shown the leadership in the world even though they are loosely tied up with EU (European Union) and other countries in EU are not that enthusiastic.
Again, if you take the example of RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership), number of countries that have come together for some economic benefit, have political differences that are very strong. The classic example can be China and Australia which are right now at loggerheads on several strategic issues but are also tied up by the same agreement which the Government of India had showed willingness to join but at the last moment walked out of it. Partly, because of the domestic compulsions and partly, because of the changing global scenario. And with hindsight, the experts are saying that we have taken the right decision of not joining RCEP.
Similarly, if you see the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) because of the very callous attitude of Pakistan, there was a need to bring the neighbouring countries on a different platform and the BIMSTEC platform has emerged and so on and so forth.
But the traditional kinhood is becoming less relevant and one of the classic examples is the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), which was formed for the security of the entire western world after World War II. But especially during the presidency of Mr Trump, NATO has been given less and less importance. Mr Trump has put enormous pressure on NATO countries to enhance their military spending and therefore saying that they cannot remain perpetually dependent on US for their security needs. And on the other side, you have seen that during Covid-19, a strong anti-China statement to be issued by the EU was diluted and criticism of China was actually removed from the EU statement under pressure from certain European countries.
So, these are the kind of fluxes that are happening in the world all over and Covid-19 has actually compelled everyone, almost like a reboot button in the term of IT, if I may say so for everyone to rethink their domestic priorities as well as their global interests. And because I come from healthcare background, I would say that in a post Covid-19 new world order, my sincere hope is that people will start thinking more about healthcare not as a luxury of few but also of quality healthcare which is affordable. In Europe, it was always there because of very strong public healthcare system. But their limitations have also come out very strongly especially in the countries like the United Kingdom (UK) where they simply couldn’t provide healthcare to several elderly people. And by their own critics, a lot of elderly people were “allowed to die” in order to save the younger population. In the large number of deaths that have happened in the old age care homes in the UK, it has shown the limitations of NHS as a system.
Similarly, in countries like India, there was enhanced emphasis on privatization of healthcare. We will have to rethink about our public healthcare system that is relatively good in India but is not adequate both in terms of quantity as well as quality. We will have to rethink how we should reshape the healthcare system in order to have both affordability as well as quality being the basic principle behind the healthcare system. My immediate thought is that people will start investing in quality healthcare system because if there is another pandemic like Covid-19 in the future and no one is denying that possibility, similar challenges will emerge, may be graver challenges will emerge and, in that case, it will be impossible to face that pandemic with the current infrastructure.
Second part is definitely an environment for climate change. People have become more conscious about climate change. They have become more conscious about protecting the environment and that is a good development. There will be lot of green movements that will take shape in the future. That is what I feel. On the other hand, as Prof Mohapatra had clearly stated, China will emerge as a major challenge not only to India but also to almost all the countries who believe and who would like to abide by the rule of law and certain principles of international relations in spite of differences.
Many of you must have heard the word, ‘wolf warrior diplomacy’. There is a movie called the Wolf Warrior and in the finance sector there are many such wolves always present who virtually try to decimate any potential rivals. And similar such wolf warrior diplomacy is now being played by China. If you see current international disputes of China, barring two or three countries, China has major disputes with practically every country, not only in its neighbourhood but also with far distant countries. Some disputes are very overt, some disputes people are not willing to define but these are there. Part of it is because of very aggressive pushing of Chinese agenda across the globe under the leadership of President Xi Jinping.
Initially people thought that it would create a lot of economic activities around the globe and would create an alternate financial system which was otherwise dominated by the West in form of IMF and World Bank which has so far served only the interests of western countries. As you know the presidents of IMF and World Bank come either from Europe or US. So, their mandate is very clear and the entire financial system which is governed by them will have an alternate in the form of China.
China has also invested very heavily and given long-term loans to every major African country and many Asian countries in the form of creating infrastructure. But Chinese model has always been that when they give this economic assistance, may it be in the case of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) or it may be in several countries like Kenya, Tanzania or in South America is that it is not only in the form of economic capital but it is also Chinese labour and it is also Chinese material. So, essentially, they are self-funding their domestic industries at the cost of some other country. And therefore, they not only bring a whole lot of money, but they also bring in the labour force in those countries and in many cases, not even a small piece of screw can be purchased from the local country. Everything is imported from China. When this enormous debt is unbearable to the country, China asks for the ownership or equity in those projects. Essentially converting those loans into equity and therefore becoming the owner of that infrastructure. The classic case is the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka and also the largest airport they have built in Sri Lanka which was termed as the emptiest airport. The infrastructure was so big and the number of flights coming there were so low that both the projects became economically unviable and China virtually bought it.
But people are becoming aware of it. Last month, Tanzania had rejected Chinese loans of USD 10 billion and the Tanzanian president said that “only a fool will accept such conditions”. There is some awakening but these are only exceptions. There will be many more countries including our neighbour Pakistan who will undergo tremendous pressure of Chinese debt and it will be a sovereign question of how to repay them. The only option they might have is to transfer ownership of the huge infrastructure they have created in Pakistan to China.
But Chinese interference does not limit to only infrastructure. They also interfere in the political system, they also interfere in the religious system and they also interfere in the social system. There are known clashes in certain African countries between the Chinese labourers who have settled there after the project is over and they have come in contact with local communities, local women and a new hybrid progeny are also emerging in some parts of the world. They are likely to change the demographic situation in the decades to come. So, definitely China is and will continue to pose an enormous challenge to practically every country in the civilised world which believes in democracy, the rule of law and in certain principles of coexistence among the countries.
And more to say about China is also its enormous and enhancing military power which is always keeping aggressive postures within all the neighbours in the periphery. And therefore, threatening all countries at all times including Vietnam, South Korea as far off countries like Australia with their military might. In that respect, if you come to major powers like America, even though as Prof Mohapatra has said that America still remains a major military power and its annual military budget is more than the aggregate budget of other ten most important countries who spend maximum on the military sphere. If you rank the countries based on their military expenses, definitely US comes on top. And if you add the budgets of the next two countries, that budget also remains less than the military budget of the US. And they continue to enhance their technology.
But at the same time, there are now trends within US to be less and less engaged with the global affairs. That kind of a situation again gives space for countries like China and Russia to spread their influence into other countries. The classic example is Central Asia and also a part of West Asia like Turkey and Yemen where very conflicting forces are right now playing their war games. Depending on who stands where, you can see the situation changing dynamically, sometimes overnight. One instance was when a Russian plane was shot down by Turkey and they were almost on the verge of war. But in last few months, you can see a new kind of cooperation between Russia and Turkey so that the American influence in that region goes down. Sometimes, such alliances defy all logic and they are emerging and they continue to emerge in the future.
Part of this whole game or puzzle is Europe. Europe is overall in a flux and I would say that their influence on the global affairs is definitely lowering in the last decade or so and it will continue to do so. They are also facing enormous challenges because of the flux of immigrants after Syrian war - mostly Muslim immigrants and also because of their open boundaries. Enormous demographic changes are taking place in Europe including in the UK and those changes are resulting in increased crimes, increased thefts and murders. The so-called tranquillity in Europe is being disturbed very rapidly in many countries and if you see the increased crime rates in those countries, they themselves will prove what I am trying to say.
Economically also the Western Europe is not doing great. Their growth rate is very minimal and their population is aging especially the working population is not there. Therefore, this influx of immigrants will partly substitute the working population. But it is creating a lot of social tensions and law and order issues in the European countries. It is not like it will change soon.
The last one, a very enigmatic country to an extent, is Russia. From one side, it is trying to reassert and reclaim its position as one of the alternatives to US, but at the same time their economy is not very strong. Their main supplies of export which is the natural gas and oil is also in trouble because of the falling oil prices. There will be political stability as in China as Mr Putin has been allowed to stay president for the next 12 years. But how Russia as a country will emerge economically strong is a matter to be seen. At the same time, they are very strong militarily and a nuclear power. So, it will continue to play a big role in the global affairs.
Lastly, I would touch upon the Middle East countries. There is big change that is happening in those countries also. It was again the oil prices which cost above hundred dollars per barrel just a few years back are now trading at some USD 30-40 per barrel. It is putting a lot of stress on their lavish spending-based economy. The oil prices are not likely to go high and will remain at USD 80-90 per barrel in the near future and it will cause enormous stress on their balance sheet.
But at the same time, they are very cash rich and are acquiring new areas and therefore, they will continue to have big money power globally. Even though their strategic power is in terms of controlling the oil supply or the energy supply. And therefore, enhancing their bargaining power with the rest of the world is clearly declining. Also, partly because of the new countries like Russia and the US who have now become the major suppliers of energy across the world because of the shale oil revolution in the US. As you know, in India, we are now buying close to 8 per cent of our oil from the US. So, our dependence is also relatively less on Middle East for oil supplies.
This is by and large the overall scenario as of today. It is very difficult to predict what will emerge as a new world order or will there be any new world order which is based on rule-based and mutual understanding which is of course based on competitiveness but also fair play. I don’t see that happening in a decade or so, partly because of the Chinese assertiveness which basically doesn’t believe in any rule of law. And also, due to the relative reluctance of major global powers to play a major and assertive role in the world affairs because they themselves are busy in their domestic affairs.
Overall, I see that the next decade or so will remain in a great flux. And in that situation, India in its unique and advantageous position can play a major role. Of course, India has limitations in terms of both economic power and the military power which is not as big as several developed countries in the world. Our resources are likely to be more and more consumed for the development of our own citizens which is quite natural. But India’s approach of cooperative development is likely to play a major role in countering the exploitative development model of China.
Therefore, India can create its niche space in the global affairs and put forward an alternative model. The political stability is also very well established in India. We have a leader like Prime Minister Modi ji who can play a major role not only because of his vision but also because of his leadership. We are quite fortunate to have someone like him at the helm of affairs at this critical juncture. Therefore, I am confident that India will be able to create its own space in this flux and give some stability to the world affairs.
Prof Aswini Mohapatra
The Chinese developmental model, which they have been trying very hard to pedal it abroad, supplemented by the Chinese philosophy based on their understanding of history, which they term as imperialism in Tianjin. Of late, they have constitutionalised it and said China will be in the middle of the world and all other powers will be assimilated. And those who refuse to be assimilated will be exterminated and they were branded by the Chinese as barbarians. Lastly, the barbarian term was reserved for the Europeans who they hold responsible for the ‘hundred years of humiliation’ – humiliation from about 1800 till about 1945. And this is what the Chinese school children have been taught since 1991 in the aftermath of the 1989 Tiananmen episode.
The Chinese undertook this program called the ideological education program which largely focused on the Chinese youth being taught about history. The history basically centred on not rise and fall of China but fall and rise of China. There was a great imperial China which was more of a civilization than a typical sovereign nation state – how it was battered and destroyed with invasion, occupation and the massacre of the Chinese by the Europeans, Russians and the Japanese. The Chinese children have been taught to remember those things. They are basically remembering the chosen trauma.
It is time to remind them of the chosen glory they experienced during the traumatic period. This remains Xi Jinping’s idea of national rejuvenation. It is encapsulated in his Chinese dream. It means China will be restored to its central place where it was during the imperial period. China would become the modern world power. All other powers would either become a part of China’s tributary system or they become vassals like Nepal and Pakistan. They would simply be kowtowing to Chinese authority without having any voice.
So, that is the kind of vision that the Chinese have. Since 2012, they have been trying very hard to replace America by saying that America is an outside power as far as Indo-Pacific region is concerned and Chinese have every right to rule. It is not rule based on consensus or democratic principle, but rules which they define and they dictate. So, that is one reason why Prime Minister Modi described without mentioning any name and said ‘expansionist’. I think that is a very good designation and no other country deserves this than PRC today.
Second most important is, even if they claim that they do not have any border dispute with many countries, it is simply a blatant lie. They may have resolved the differences with countries in the Central Asian Republic. But you have to study the agreements that were reached. That was ultimate net gain for China. This is what they have been trying to impose in India – by flexing the muscles, by bullying us but they have been unsuccessful.
When you look at the international system, everyone has been critical of the US-dominated international system. But there is certain scope and space for us to articulate our views. There is space for people inside America to oppose a particular policy. But there is no scope so far as China is concerned. China has in a way hijacked the democracy which is available to China as far as its external relations are concerned and internally, there is no democracy at all. It is a surveillance state par excellence. It is worse than the Gaddafi’s Libya or Saddam’s Iraq. The best example is the firewall. What does it mean? You simply block all kinds of information. You don’t share it with the people. And that is the country today monopolizing all resources and trying to translate it into its power overseas.
So, think of the long-term implications so far as international system is concerned. That is the biggest challenge being imposed by a rouge party state China. And that should be collectively challenged and should remain a source of concern. It is a source of concern for the entire humanity and the Covid-19 is nothing but a trigger. It is a real wake-up call and it is now or never. If we leave it now, China will again come back in a couple of years with vengeance. It will not spare us. This is what they have been taught historically. They don’t have religion. For them, history is their religion. They are in no way different from the Islamist terror. It is important to understand the Chinese psyche when it comes to policy making. They believe that the territories that they are claiming belong to them, it came to them from their ancestors. That is the kind of expansionist ambition they have. That is the point that needs to be brought home to the policy makers.
China is quite a different ball game. You can’t compare China with the US. US’ entire international system is based on rule of laws and principles which all of us subscribe to and that is liberal democracy. China represents opposite of it. That is why they have been trying to sell out to the world of late that Indian democracy is chaotic and Indian democracy model is a failure. Time has come to challenge the ideologically driven mission of a land hungry nation. We should challenge China militarily and not diplomatically. We should form an informal alliance if possible and ensure the breakdown of China. There is no other way. That will help India to retain its primacy. South Asia is essentially Indo-centric. Our strategists need to formulate a grand strategy to combat the Chinese influence in the years to come.
Dr Kuldeep Ratnoo: What changes have come in the Indian foreign policy or in India’s approach to the world since 2014?
Dr Vijay Chauthaiwale: There are four hall marks in Indian foreign policy since PM Modi ji has won the elections.
1) There is better integration between India’s domestic policies and foreign policies. Our foreign policy establishment is fine tuned to cater to our domestic interests.
2) There is a huge civilisational connect that we have re-established.
3) We have overcome several constraints because of which our hands were tied up. We have done air strikes and surgical strikes across the international boundary over Pakistan. We also had several historical hesitations like Indian PM never visited Israel and we have overcome those hesitations.
4) We have given a sense of belonging to our vast Indian diaspora spread across the globe and we have tried to make them a part of our developmental agenda. They have become a political powerhouse in their respective countries.
Prof Kapil Kapoor: I have tended to look upon China and India as affiliated civilizations. China is expansionist and the present-day China is itself a result of occupation of so many lands. But in spite of that, the Chinese people have an affinity with India and I am of the opinion that India and China should not be looked upon as foes but as rivals. And what is happening today is that a bully is being blocked by a well-intentioned friend.
I do not agree that India has to think of a military solution as everybody realizes the implications of such a step. It is more of a war game or a mind game. It is a question of who will wink first.
When India handed over Tibet to China in the 1950s, Nehru had no real understanding of international relations and took Mahatma Gandhi’s message of peace seriously. But China is uneasy about Tibet in relation to India. Because Dalai Lama came here and today Tibetans form a large population. To balance their uneasiness, they supported Pakistan on Kashmir and they are continuing to do so. China is opposing India on all international fora because they want to keep their screw tightened on India and destabilize it, if they can, so that the FDIs and foreign companies that are moving out from China should not opt for India. Intrinsically, the Chinese government knows that the Chinese people will not accept a war with India just as the Nepalese people will not accept the Nepalese government fighting with India.
Dr Vijay Chauthaiwale: Before the Ladakh incident, I would have agreed that India and China will remain as competitors as well as collaborators. When the Doklam standoff happened, trade between India and China had gone up by 30 per cent. We were able to keep trade and strategy separate till the Galwan incident. Now the equations are changed and it will have long-term and adverse impact on all fronts of India-China relations.
Second part, it would be a little naïve to assume that if we haven’t given shelter to Dalai Lama, Chinese would have been friendly to us. Their main aim is to kill all sorts of rivals and even potential rivals. Keeping them suppressed is part of their agenda and they know that India because of its geography, politics and international support can become a potential rival to them and they will do everything in their capacity to undermine India’s growth and stop India’s engagement in the global platform.
I do not agree with the geographical disintegration of China as it is not feasible and it will not ensure us tranquillity we are seeking for. After Galwan, unless there are major changes on either side, the situation will remain adversarial.
Prof Aswini Mohapatra: China is a party state and their people have no voice. For the last several years, CCP (Communist Party of China) has used nationalism as a source of legitimacy. The nationalism is embedded in the minds of Chinese youth to the extent that they have become insolent and hawkish. People to people relations will not yield the desired results because it is a country ruled by the CCP.
When we talk about the military conflict, what I mean is we should project that way. We are here to stand up to Chinese bullying. The international environment is quite conducive to come together and put sufficient pressure on the CCP. We can put sustained pressure for a regime change. You need to see the difference between nature of state.
Prof Kapil Kapoor: Putting pressure is not equal to fighting a war. China is only halo testing. If you are strong economically and militarily, you wouldn’t need to fight a war.
Brig Jeevan Rajpurohit: While China maintains the dual strategy of economic engagement on one side and military standoff on the other, we have to make ourselves economically strong.
Questions and Answer Session
Q: What should India do to rise in the global order when it is being pressed by both Pakistan and China?
Dr Vijay Chauthaiwale: As far as facing both adversaries are concerned, my understanding is that Indian military strategy is well prepared to deal with it.
Q: Is the 2015 blockade still a sticking point in India-Nepal relations?
Dr Vijay Chauthaiwale: It is a very difficult situation in Nepal. I think what we need to do is to segregate our civilisational relations with Nepal with the current political establishment there. But before that, we also need to whole heartedly accept that Nepal is a sovereign state, it has its own priorities and identity. At a political level, there are bound to be some differences between the two of us. Right now, what is happening is purely because of the domestic compulsions of the Chinese ruling party because of the severe differences they are having within themselves. Therefore, they are making India as a tool to cover and protect their own interests. India has taken a right stand to not allow the politicians to make India a pawn in their domestic politics by giving very restrained statements. Diplomacy will take its course without damaging our relations with the Nepali people.
Q: How can India counter China?
Dr Vijay Chauthaiwale: It is very difficult to have any unanimity as far as facing China is concerned.
Q: What is the relevance of UN in the changing world order?
Dr Vijay Chauthaiwale: I will not say it is no longer relevant but every organization needs to reform itself to address the changing needs. Otherwise, they become stagnant. Reform of UN Security Council is absolutely must. It is a big tragedy that almost two-thirds of the population is not represented in the UNSC. At the same time, some of the countries which were very powerful during the end of the Second World War but have significantly diminished their ability to influence global affairs in the 21st century are enjoying their veto power. It is a very unfair scenario and unless that is changed, effectiveness of UN as a mechanism will have enormous limitations.
Q: What will be the implications of developments in West Asia?
Prof Aswini Mohapatra: With respect to the alleged Israeli cyber attack on the Iranian site, there would definitely be retaliation. But Iranians themselves are not in a position to sustain prolonged conflict with any country. The latest reports suggest that Ayatollah Khomeini is not in proper health and he is not in a position to guide his people. So, very soon there will be a power transition in Iran itself. There may be conflict within the ruling radical elements. Iran is likely to plunge into a state of political chaos during the transition period. This possibility also raises hopes of the liberal forces prevailing over the conservative clerics. Keeping this in mind, I don’t think that this conflict could spread over West Asia. There are too many players in West Asia and they won’t do anything to de-stabilise the region at a time when they are also struggling with Covid-19.
Q: With the global supply chains being disrupted, what are the areas that India could take advantage of?
Prof Aswini Mohapatra: The supply chain to me as a student of international politics is more a myth. In international relations theory, there is something called complex interdependence. It is based on the theory of co-joining of international politics and economics which was earlier seen as two parallel lines. The debate started in the 1970s surrounding hegemons where the American hegemon was a challenge to the post cold war Japan.
So, there was a correlation which was established in 1988 with the book, “Rise and Fall of Great Powers” by Paul Kennedy between economic growth and military power. That was subsequently stretched to constitute the basis of the interdependence theory where China was accommodated. From 1971, America engaged with China so much so that the interdependence became over dependence on China. Everything except military hardware was exported from China. This marked a shift in dependence from America to China in the ASEAN countries in the 1950s and 60s. While the supply chain was subsequently controlled by the Chinese companies and it will be disturbed but it will not be the end. Alternatives will have to be worked out. Unfortunately, we are not going to benefit from this.
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(Transcription and editing by Lekshmi Parameswaran)