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India in the world of yesterday

We shouldn’t be living in the reveries of the ‘American Century’, which is over

India in the world of yesterday

Tie-up: If Russia combines with India’s resources, vast market and manpower, it becomes the most natural partnership across Eurasia. PTI



MK Bhadrakumar

Former Ambassador

Prime MINISTER Modi finds himself appearing like a wandering minstrel beside the US President Joe Biden whenever he travels abroad — in Tokyo in May, Bavarian Alps in June. In July, Biden is travelling to West Asia where he, reportedly, plans to form a new quadrilateral called ‘I2-U2’ to prop up the moribund Arab-Israeli axis against Iran, in which, strangely enough, he has included India, a civilisational ally of Iran.

What the so-called liberal internationalists are promoting is effectively a Cold War strategy with a few more non-white countries added to the mix.

India is in high demand in Biden’s circuit. The choristers of Delhi establishment claim that it testifies to India’s presence at the high table in world politics. A more plausible explanation could be that Washington is not taking its eyes off India, which it considers to be a fence sitter on Ukraine. These are epochal times. The world of yesterday is drifting away. Biden is acutely conscious of the beating that American prestige has taken in recent years. He chaired two summits in the White House recently to press his case against Russia — with countries of ASEAN and the Organisation of American States. Both ended inconclusively. The non-western world is overwhelmingly refusing to sanction Russia, Washington’s entreaties notwithstanding.

The catastrophic failure of NATO and the US to defeat Russia in Ukraine is a fundamental reality. Russia’s financial system is ‘back to business as usual,’ according to the deputy chief economist at the Institute of International Finance, and those who thought that ‘cutting Russia from financing for a few weeks would stop the war have proven naïve.’ On the other hand, neither the Biden administration nor its European counterparts expected the economic pressure they now are experiencing. On the battlefield, the Ukrainian forces are losing ground. The CNN’s chief national security correspondent, Jim Scuitto, reported on Saturday that US officials close to the intelligence do not expect that the weapons systems recently supplied to Ukrainian forces, including the HIMARS multiple rocket launch system, would change the situation on the battlefield, and Washington and NATO already see the limit to their ability to send weapons to Kiev.

In effect, Russia is winning the war, and the signs of ‘war fatigue’ in Europe are appearing. The longer the war continues, the more the war fatigue will morph as ‘solidarity fatigue’. At the EU summit over the weekend, there was little or no discussion of a seventh package of sanctions, as leaders confronted the reality that punitive measures so far have had little deterrent effect on Russia, despite the heavy cost to European economies.

From the Indian perspective, what is pertinent would be that there is a profound awakening in Russia about the futility of casting its identity in European categories. Most of the themes of the interlude between the two World Wars are up for discussion today — whether Europe is indeed the future of Russia or the place of Russia-Eurasia in the hierarchy of development models in contemporary world. The recrudescence of the Nazi ideology in the West in recent decades reopened the cauterised wounds in the Russian psyche inflicted by Hitler’s invasion that took 27 million Russian lives. But the collective West now strategises to ‘erase’ Russia! Foreign minister Sergey Lavrov defiantly said, ‘We will make sure that we never find ourselves in a similar situation again and that no “Uncle Sam” or anyone else can make decisions that are aimed at destroying our economy. We will find a way to no longer depend on it, and it should have been done a long time ago.’

Indian analysts with a zero-sum mindset misinterpret the unusual character of the Russia-China partnership. Russia is endowed with scientific brilliance, technological prowess, abundant energy, rich rare minerals and metals — and global warming will increase the agricultural potential of Siberia. If Russia combines with India’s resources, vast market and manpower, it becomes the most natural partnership across Eurasia. India should be smart enough to discern where its interests would lie in the American proxy war against Russia playing out in Ukraine. This war is bringing about a decoupling of Russian and western economies. President Putin’s speech at the recent SPIEF conference (‘Russia’s Davos’) in St Petersburg messaged that the ‘decoupling’ will be irreversible for a very long period. Putin is navigating the Russian economy toward a ‘new normal.’ He has emphasised repeatedly in recent times that he prioritises Russia’s partnership with India.

India should also know that what the so-called liberal internationalists promote is effectively a Cold War strategy with a few more non-white countries added to the mix. India shouldn’t be living in the reveries of the ‘American Century’, which is over. This is a good thing, considering that the US foreign policy after 1945, predicated on a grand strategy of ‘armed primacy’, has caused an enormous amount of suffering in the death, displacement, and deracination of millions of people. In the past few years since the 2008 financial crisis, two other transformational events began reshaping the US’ place in the world — the emergence of China as an economic and military powerhouse, which decisively ended the ‘unipolar moment’, and secondly, the Trump presidency, which reinforced the growing perception that the US, finding itself increasingly grappling with internal strife and polarisation, is no longer able or committed to defending the geopolitical status quo.

Thanks to the inevitable rebalancing due to the Ukraine war, geopolitical circumstances are unlikely to allow another country to become as powerful as the US has been for much of the past seven decades. In a brilliant essay titled ‘What comes after the American Century?’, American historian Prof Daniel Bessner wrote recently, ‘Hegemony was an anomaly, an accident of history unlikely to be repeated, at least in the foreseeable future.’


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