World Upside Down by Sujan Chinoy: Diplomacy in a world in flux : The Tribune India

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World Upside Down by Sujan Chinoy: Diplomacy in a world in flux

World Upside Down by Sujan Chinoy: Diplomacy in a world in flux

World Upside Down by Sujan Chinoy. HarperCollins. Pages 290. Rs 499

Book Title: World Upside Down

Author: Sujan Chinoy

Gurjit Singh

THE practitioners of the art of diplomacy believe that the world is flat or at least should be, implying that upheavals should be managed, unless they are instigated. They also believe that they calibrate geopolitics. Academia believes that geopolitics recalibrates and makes countries rethink their strategic options. They also believe that the world looks upside down if upheavals take place. These are two different perspectives of how international relations are managed, salvaged and led. Reading this book is therefore very interesting, written as it is by a former diplomat with an illustrious career.

Much of it is part of the author’s recent writings. He perceives the world in flux, and points out that the end of the Cold War, the rise of China ending America’s unipolar decade, their growing strategic rivalry, the impact of the pandemic and the Ukraine crisis have all been part of the emerging uncertainty.

He correctly notes that the power structure is fractured and there are state and non-state actors playing in a manner that causes disruption. The nature of contention has also changed, through what he calls the ‘weaponisation of trade and technology’. Globalisation is being redefined.

The book is divided into four thematic segments dealing with the reordering of the strategic landscape, the Indo-Pacific and the emergence of the Quad, the role of China, particularly with regard to India, and the compulsions of India’s neighbourhood, including an interesting chapter on Afghanistan.

The author was posted in China, Australia and Japan, which gives him a vantage point to write about the developments. Though titled ‘World Upside Down’, the book gives perspectives from several angles and helps understand the world whichever way one may look at it. To my mind, the weaponisation of trade and technology preceded many of the game-changing events of the last two decades. ‘Oppenheimer’, the film, makes you realise how technology was weaponised. World War-II was not only about strategy, but about geoeconomics. Today, infrastructure financing, supply chains, debt and 5G are part of strategic considerations. Japan is a lead player in these aspects as is China and the author covers the role of both.

I agree about the challenges of globalisation because with the WTO and climate change negotiations, the developed countries led the developing countries into believing that if they changed their outlook, they would be supported. Globalisation suffered not because the developing countries did not abide by their commitments. It is because those who promised the benefits would turn them off at will through unilateral sanctions, deeply impacting those who had committed themselves to change.

The current phase where efforts are afoot to bring the developing countries back into focus and not let big power rivalry erode the gains, not only implies an emphasis on multipolarity, but on greater engagement. This is visible when countries rush for membership of groups like BRICS, SCO or want to become ASEAN or Africa’s partners.

This flux will continue till there is a settled multipolarity because, other than China, nobody else seems to be in a position to be dominant. It is China which requires a recalibrated assessment most. The book is extremely useful on that count.