The world is in a roil, especially after the February of 2022.The Russian invasion of Ukraine, colloquially dubbed as a special military operation, is now in its 15th month. On the fourth of February of that year, China and Russia released a joint statement on “International Relations Entering a New Era and the Global Sustainable Development”. It outlined their alternative construct to the United States-led rules-based global order. Given that it happened 20 days before the Russian transgression into Ukraine is significant in itself.
Separately but concurrently, the transgression by the People’s Liberation Army of China across the line of Actual Control (LAC) with India is now in its 36th month. Despite confabulations at various levels, the Chinese are showing no signs of letting up on their belligerence.
Pakistan is on the cusp of an internal implosion due to the stand-off between one of its principal political parties and the military establishment. In the Middle East, there has been a unique rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia brokered by China. In Saudi Arabia, the national security advisers of the United States, India and United Arab Emirates met with the Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman to try and flesh out a shared vision for the region. A while back the Abraham Accords between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco paved the way for normalisation of relations between these nations and had a salutary effect on the larger Middle East.
In Turkey, the two-decade-old rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdoan is being strongly challenged by his main rival Kemal Klçdarolu in the presidential elections leading to a run off that is scheduled now for the 28th of May now. In Europe, Finland has officially joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) as a reaction to the developments in Ukraine ending decades of neutrality and deference to the erstwhile Soviet Union and Russia in its security and strategic policies while Sweden is waiting for Hungary and Turkey to unblock it’s accession to Nato again ending decades of neutrality that stretched back into World War Two.
In the United States of America, the Republican primary race for Presidency includes an American-Indian entrepreneur, Vivek Ramaswamy, and former governor of South Caronia Nicky Haley, born to immigrant parents from Punjab. This celebrates the diversity that is now intrinsic to American society where the incumbent Vice-President Kamala Harris is of Indian extraction. In the United Kingdom, a gentleman of Indian descent, Rishi Sunak, became Prime Minister.
Are these transformational changes or the regular stir of events that takes place at any point of time in the onward march of Westphalian nation states and the human civilisation, is a moot question that needs to be asked and answered analytically.
Some trends seem clearly visible. While authoritarian rulers seem to be hell bent on trying to rework the global order on their terms, the pushback is now equally strong. The two important cases in point are the resistance and resilience that Ukraine has demonstrated to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Led by the redoubtable President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and ably assisted by a unified Nato, Ukraine has ably held out against the might of the Russian state, notwithstanding the initial doomsday predictions that Ukraine would collapse like a house of cards in the face of the Russian onslaught.
Whether the Russian neo-apparatchiks like it or not, the past 15 months have undermined Russia’s international standing exponentially. While some nations may continue to stand with Russia because of historical reasons, even in those countries, people’s sympathies are with Ukraine.
Similarly, the manner in which India has also stood eyeball to eyeball with China, notwithstanding the loss of access to patrolling points detailed in the previous column , it has sent a clear message to the quintessential apparatchiks in Beijing that expansionism would be resisted whatever the cost maybe.
However, the irony is, those who are facing hostile authoritarian impulses abroad must ensure that liberalism and democracy are allowed to flower and bloom in their respective lands.
The other distinctive trend that is emerging very clearly is the re-militarisation of Europe. The long peace of Europe has been shattered. What has become a given post the massive destruction that the Second World War caused can no longer be taken for granted. While the United States of America continues to underwrite the security of Europe, the assault on Ukraine is making the European powers rethink if not reboot the European security architecture.
The third distinctive trend is the happenings in the Middle East. While the Chinese footprint in the region seems to be expanding the other players in the Middle East are hedging their bets. Old adversaries seem to be reconciling and new alignments seem to be manifesting themselves. If the news reports about a major infrastructure push to connect West Asian Countries through a network of Railways to Indian seaports is correct it would represent a major counter to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), incubated and spearheaded by China at least in a regional context.
The fourth distinctive trend is the increasing space that immigrants are finding in the political space of democratic countries at the highest levels of governance. This is a marker of the grit and determination of these communities have demonstrated to make a place for themselves in the countries that they decided to call home.
The fifth distinctive trend is how technology, especially the Internet, social media and means of instant communication have, become a great leveller in democratising the public discourse at times even in the most crass and toxic ways possible. A balance between free speech and proscribing the weaponisation of the virtual civilisation remains a challenge. However no longer is the power of the broadcasting networks and the print conglomerates insurmountable.
Does this political and social churn represent the underpinnings of a new social and political order emerging whereby more multipolarity would prevail, coupled with a strong pushback against totalitarianism and right wing populism that would provide a renewed impetus towards an enhanced liberal and democratic world order that prioritises economic progress and reduces the glaring income inequality gap that has widened post Covid-19?