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Suchak Patel asked: What does ‘post-West world order’ mean? Is it possible any time soon? What will be India’s role and position in it?

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  • Adil Rasheed replies: The coinage may be new, but not the concept. The phrase ‘post-West world order’ refers to the gradual shift in the economic and political balance of power from Western countries (European states and the United States) to the so-called developing world and the consequent change it brings to the management of global affairs.

    For more than a century, the Western world virtually determined the global economic and security order, despite representing only a small minority of the human population, with non-Western actors playing a marginal role in shaping the international system. However, the frequent setbacks to Western military missions in recent years and the steady deflation of their debt-ridden economies, in stark contrast to unprecedented economic growth witnessed in non-Western countries, is said to have upset the proverbial applecart.

    In fact, leaders and senior officials of countries — like Russia and Iran — have already started calling upon the world at various international forums to finally accept and even embrace the idea of a ‘post-West world order’.

    Although the phrase has been borrowed from Oliver Stuenkel’s brilliant book, titled Post-Western World: How Emerging Powers Are Remaking Global Order (2016), the subject has been the staple for many other scholarly works produced recently, most notably Henry Kissinger’s World Order: Reflections on the Character of Nations and the Course of History (2014), Graham Allison’s Destined for War: Can America and China Escape Thucydides' Trap? (2017), Niall Ferguson’s Civilization: The West and the Rest (2011), Charles Kupchan’s No One’s World: The West, the Rising Rest, and the Coming Global Turn (2012),and Amitav Acharya’s The End of American World Order (2014).

    Many scholars in international relations believe that the decline of the West would lead to confusion, if not chaos, in the global order and threaten the cherished values of liberalism and rule of law. They contend that the emerging powers are still not as politically evolved or committed to an open, stable and rule-based international system. On the other hand, the rising powers object that it is the West that is more culpable of undermining the international system, is in the habit of ignoring international institutions (like the United Nations) and has turned its back on free trade and globalisation. In fact, the emerging economies have already started establishing the building blocks for a parallel order, such as the BRICS-led New Development Bank (NDB) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to complement the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

    India, alongside China and Russia, is set to be one of the key players in effecting the geopolitical shift. With the advantage of being a stable and democratic country, its economic and political ascendance is likely to outlast the meteoric rise of totalitarian polities. However, it is generally believed that post-West world order will come about gradually and will be more globalised or multi-polar in nature, as the instance of the domination of one region at the expense of others may not be repeated in history, and rightly so.

    Posted on March 25, 2019