NEW DELHI: As part of our ‘Chinese Virus, Global Reset’ series, StratNews Global reached out to former diplomats and strategic analysts with questions on what the world order will look like post Covid-19. Former Indian Indian Ambassador to Bhutan, Pakistan and China and currently Distinguished Professor, Symbiosis International University Gautam Bambawale tells Opinion Editor Ashwin Ahmad that while the pandemic will lead to a re-ordering of nation-states in terms of importance it will also lead to a new thinking among the world order that will no longer think in traditional “balance of power” terms or “national strength” but in new concepts such as “collective good”, “sustainable power and strength”, “collective action” and “good of humanity”.
Q: What do you think the global order will be like after the coronavirus pandemic?
A: There can be little doubt that the Corona Virus or Wuhan Virus pandemic is one of those Black Swan events which will lead to a brave, new world as well as a changed international order. As you know, this pandemic has not merely locked down many societies but its economic implications will only become apparent some months after we have weathered this initial storm. Hence, I visualize a re-ordering of existing nation-states in terms of importance.
Furthermore, each country will revise and re-calibrate its national priorities and interests based on this one significant event. In turn, this will lead to a realignment of forces. Also, what we have been calling multi-alignment will not merely be reinforced but will gather momentum. Finally, the Wuhan Virus has clearly shown the bankruptcy of international organizations including the United Nations and particularly the WHO. Over time, there will be a reform of the UN system and new international organizations with clearly focused objectives and with powers to deliver on their goals will come into existence. That will indeed be a brave, new world!
Q: Will the US’s supremacy be threatened? Do you believe that we will see the beginning of a China-led world order?
A: There can be little doubt that the United States is no longer the powerful nation it was in the second half of the 20th century. It has huge domestic problems and issues which it needs to work out. That is why it has turned inward over the past few years. However, the United States will continue to have the world’s most powerful military. What it will require even more urgently after the Wuhan Virus is important and significant partners who think as it does. Similarly, while there is little doubt that China has been rising and this rise will continue, she does not have the moral authority to lead.
The Wuhan Virus and its spread across the globe, which could have been slowed down with earlier notice, has further dented China’s credibility amongst the international community. If these two countries continue their trade, technology and strategic battle, the world will look for other nodes or alliances of middle powers to provide it the lead towards a cleaner, greener and sustainable global order which will meet the needs and requirements of all humankind.
Q: How do you see the EU’s standing on the world stage post the Corona Virus?
A: As you know, the EU has been the hardest hit by the Corona Virus or the Wuhan Virus. In particular, Italy and Spain have seen the highest number of casualties from the Virus. Also, the EU has been unable to assist or help its constituent nation-states in this emergency situation. So, the credibility and viability of the EU is in question. I cannot see the EU continue to remain as one unit in its current shape, size and form. A smaller grouping of European nations is quite possible which may perhaps have greater strength and say in international affairs. How and when such a transition will occur is difficult to predict, but happen it will. Such a leaner and meaner EU (or whatever nomenclature it gets) may turn out to be an important pole in the coming multipolar world.
Q: What is India’s role likely to be in this new global order? Do you see it having a more prominent and assertive role on the world stage?
A: We still have to wait and see how India is affected by the Wuhan Virus and how it weathers it. Similarly, as a developing nation we also have to wait and see the economic impact of the Wuhan Virus on India. In this coming brave new world, there is every likelihood of India being an important node or pole in the global order. However, I am afraid that you are still thinking of the international system in balance of power terms and by comparing the comprehensive national strengths of different countries. Your question itself reflects this ‘old think’.
In the new world order, such ideas and concepts will have to be replaced with new terms such as “collective good”, “sustainable power and strength”, collective action and “good of humanity”. Prime Minister Modi put it well when in the G-20 video conference meeting he spoke of steps and measures for the good of humankind. The future global order will have to think on these lines. The ravages of the Wuhan Virus, as well as climate change, will force us all to rethink these old shibboleths. In India, our ancient wisdom has always done so by putting humanity ahead of the individual, by talking of the collective good rather than individual profit, and by thinking of the poorest of the poor rather than the rich. Therefore, I believe, that the world will look to India to be one of the leaders of this new world.