You are here

Abhishek Kumar asked: Is the concept of ‘balance of power’ still relevant in the present world?

  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Email
  • Whatsapp
  • Linkedin
  • Print
  • Ashok K. Behuria replies: The concept of Balance of Power (BoP) is at the heart of realist theory in international relations. It is the most common strategy states/countries adopt to ensure their security in the face of threat from external sources. The practice of BoP is as old as human civilization itself. When human beings started living in groups and faced threats to their existence, they would either strengthen their capability, or ally with other groups preferably those who would have adversarial relations with their enemy, to balance their enemy.

    This practice characterised the defence and security policies of various states both before and after the Westphalia Treaty that laid the foundations of the modern state system. While states have resorted to neo-realist (international structures) and neo-liberal (complex interdependence) principles to deal with the basic issue of security, the quest for balance of power against a potential enemy remains central to their response to any threat situation.

    An example of this can be the way some countries in South Asia, perceiving a rising India as a hegemon and a threat to their strategic autonomy, have sought to improve their relationship with China as a balancer against any possible Indian threat. China, on the contrary, looks at its improved relations with South Asian countries as a balancing act vis-à-vis both India and the US, especially because the latter two countries have struck a strategic partnership between them in recent years. The re-balancing strategy adopted by the US to respond to the Chinese assertion in South China Sea also has elements of the principle of BoP. Thus, BoP is not an obsolete concept and very much visible in the affairs of the states in the post-Cold War, neo-liberal context.