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Kailash asked: What is India's idea of a 'new world order'?

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  • Adil Rasheed replies: The term ‘New World Order’ has been bandied by many triumphant powers in history to enforce their hegemonic writ on the world through political, ideological, militaristic, economic, legislative and diplomatic means.

    The term first came into prominence after World War I, when US President Woodrow Wilson used its variant (new order of the world) while proposing the formation of the first global political organisation, the League of Nations, in order to “end all wars” and consolidate the victories of his European allies in the name of collective security and democracy.

    Seeking retribution, Adolf Hitler titled his second book New World Order (1928) and championed a fascist ‘New Order of Europe’ that eventually triggered World War II. Embarrassed by the collapse of League of Nations, the victors of World War II sparingly used the Wilsonian expression ‘New World Order’, but political experts have since used the term with reference to the birth of several international institutions in the mid-20th century such as the United Nations (UN), World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) which gave way to World Trade Organisation (WTO), International Court of Justice (ICJ), Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), etc.

    In recent decades, the term has been associated with the US-led neoliberal order of free-trade globalisation which followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. In fact, the term was popularised by President George H. W. Bush, when on the eve of the First Gulf War (1990) he unabashedly declared there is no substitute for American leadership after the Cold War and that this uni-polarity is about to herald a “new world order”.

    The Western globalised order is today facing a serious crisis with the rise of China, Russia and India on the international stage, and in the wake of several setbacks such as the Great Recession of 2008, trade wars initiated by Trump administration, unraveling of Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Brexit vote. In fact, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has announced a major shift in international system: The Western, liberal model of society is dying, and a new world order (led by Russia, China and India) is taking its place.

    Although democratic India embraced economic liberalisation in the post-Cold War era and improved relations with Western countries, particularly the US, it never fully aligned itself with the neo-liberal globalised order. In fact, its idea of a future world order has a polycentric construct, in which multiple actors with disparate political systems, cultural traditions and economic interests forge interdependent relations, in the absence of hegemonic polarities. Thus, India has pursued a policy of building multiple alignments – the G20, BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), even as it seeks a permanent seat at the UN Security Council.

    While India has called for reforms of global institutions such as the UN, World Bank and IMF in order to make them more relevant and reflective of the 21st century political and economic realities, it has also played a key role in raising non-Western institutional alternatives, such as the New Development Bank (NDB) and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Thus, India seeks partnerships with all the relevant actors in the world, while avoiding overly close ties with big powers or blocs. It also believes in forging de-hyphenated relations among rival countries and strategic groupings, even in the most fraught and conflict-ridden regions of the world, such as West Asia.

    Posted on May 15, 2019

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