NEW DELHI: As part of our ‘Chinese Virus, Global Reset’ series, StratNews Global reached out to former diplomats and strategic analysts with a set of questions to essentially get their responses on what the world order will look like post Covid-19. Former Indian diplomat Talmiz Ahmad who is a West Asia expert tells Deputy Editor Parul Chandra that in a post-Covid-19 scenario, a Russia-China-Iran-Turkey axis is likely to emerge stronger:
Q: What do you think the global world order will be like after the coronavirus pandemic?
A: The earlier global order, characterised by the domination of western powers led by the US in world politics and economics, has already been under pressure due to a number of factors. We have seen the balance of economic influence shifting towards the East. We’ve also witnessed the rise of China and Russia as influential players in world affairs. Other countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America have also been asserting their role in regional and global matters. Another trend that’s apparent is that globalisation, which shaped economic and political engagements over the last two decades, has also been under pressure. This is best exemplified by the rise of populist governments and assertions of nationalism and sub-nationalism influenced by race, faith and ‘culture’. Again, just before the pandemic, the global economy was showing signs of strain.
Once the pandemic is contained, in the coming few years some of these trends are likely to be strengthened. In the first instance, countries are likely to emphasise the populist character much more than had been the case earlier. We will see assertions of nationalism and assertions by governments of their authority and influence. We’ll feel that globalisation is in retreat. But the world is already so deeply networked in terms of economic connectivity — production, distribution and marketing — that it will be difficult to roll back all aspects of these global linkages.
Over a period of time, with greater stability, we’ll go back to a certain dilution of nationalism and towards a more engaged world order. Overall, after an initial spurt of governmental authority and emphasis on nationalism, in the longer term we may find a reassertion of the globalised world order.
An important point to note is that the West-led economic order shaped by rampant capitalism is under siege and stands discredited. Amidst concerns relating to increasing inequality, rising poverty levels, and greater sense of exclusion among large sections of local populations, the capitalist order, as it has evolved over the last few decades, is being seriously questioned by economists and it will continue to be questioned by European peoples. Western nations are struggling for fresh ideas to re-shape their economic system. This will pose a major challenge to western intelligentsia and political leadership.
Q: Will the supremacy of the US be threatened? Do you believe that we will see the beginnings of a China-led world order?
A: The US remains the world’s principal economic and military power. I don’t see this changing in the near future. What we need to look at is not just US power but how it intends to exercise its power and influence. Under the Trump administration, what we’re witnessing today appears to be a retreat of the US into ‘continental America’. We see a reluctance on the part of the US to embroil itself militarily in the world’s trouble spots.
Looking at the future, what we need to know is: What will be its vision, its policy, its strategy? How does it wish to define its role in world affairs? We have little clarity on these important points. If the Trump administration returns to power, the administration is likely to be both dysfunctional and discredited, one that has no global vision, no strategy. However, the administration will continue to be both disruptive and destructive, particularly in West Asia, largely due to Trump’s visceral hostility towards Iran and total support for Israel’s maximalist agenda.
China will recover well from the pandemic and, over time, it will again mobilise itself to pursue its economic and political interests. China has the capacity, the leadership and the discipline to manage the post-pandemic scenario far better than many western nations. We are likely to see a strengthening of China-Russia relations—there will be greater coordination between the two in asserting their influence in world affairs. Iran and Turkey are also likely to see their future interests tied with Russia and China. So, we could see a scenario of Russia-China-Iran-Turkey, along with the Central Asian countries, constituting a significant alignment that will be a major influence in regional and world affairs.
Q: How do you see the EU’s standing on the world stage post the coronavirus pandemic?
A: The European Union (EU) is expected to take many steps backwards. They have hardly recovered from the body-blow inflicted by Brexit and now seem to be floundering in terms of handling the pandemic. The economic impact of the pandemic on Europe will be devastating. We’re therefore likely to see a surge in right-wing nationalism. Right-wing elements, who are at present electorally on the margins in certain countries, will enjoy increasing appeal. They will seek to discredit existing governments and assert their role in national affairs. Whether they form governments remains to be seen, but European countries collectively, will be incapable of playing any serious role in world affairs: managing domestic political and economic challenges is what will preoccupy them.
Q: What is India’s role likely to be in this new global order?
A: Over the last two decades, Indian foreign policy has been animated by the vision of an India that is active in world affairs, is seeking to set the new global agenda and, over time, shape the emerging global order. In his first term, Prime Minister Modi, with his extensive and enthusiastic bilateral and multilateral engagements, appeared to have continued this approach. However, in its second term, the Modi government has made it clear that it has little interest in this global vision or policy approaches: while pursuing a narrow, communitarian approach to re-define the national order and ethos, it has abandoned all serious interest in foreign affairs; its focus is entirely domestic.
These policies have alienated India from its neighbours and large sections of the international community that had, till now, admired India’s democratic order defined by pluralism, economic and technological achievement, and an international role that upheld the interests of the developing world and sought to achieve a new global order. While India remains mired in pursuing its narrow domestic agenda, the responsibility to shape the new order will be assumed by other emerging players, led by China.