Foreign Policy Watch: United Nations

Multilateralism in the new cold war

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : G7 countries

Mains level : Paper 2- Challenges the current form of multilateralism faces and opportunity for India to shape the new multilateralism.

The world is going through turmoil. The new world that will emerge will be different from what we have known. This provides India with some unique opportunities. This article explains the changes that are taking place and gives the outline of the changing order. So, how can India set and shape the global response? And what should be the principles on which the new multilateralism should be based? Read to know…

Opportunity for India to set the global response

  • As chair of the Executive Board of the World Health Assembly – India can set the global response in terms of multilateralism, not just medical issues.
  • How can India set a global response in terms of multilateralism? Consider the following- a rare alignment of stars for agenda-setting.
  • 1) In September, the United Nations General Assembly will discuss the theme, “The Future We Want”.
  • 2) In 2021, India joins the UN Security Council (non-permanent seat).
  • 3) And chairs the BRICS Summit in 2021.
  • 4) Also hosts the G-20 in 2022.
  • New principles for international system: At the online summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, in May, Prime Minister Modi called for new principles for the international system.
  • His new globalisation model based on humanity, fairness and equality has wide support in a more equal world as, for the first time since 1950, everyone is experiencing the same (virus) threat.

Changing global context

  • China is losing influence and the dynamics in its relations with the United States.
  • And Asia again is emerging as the centre of global prosperity.
  • The global governance, economy, scientific research and society are all in need of being re-invented.
  • India should use this opportunity to recover our global thought leadership.

The US-China powerplay and its consequences for multilateralism

  • The clash between China and the U.S. at the just concluded World Health Assembly in May marks the end of the multilateralism of the past 70 years.
  • The donor-recipient relationship between developed and developing countries has ended with China’s pledge of $2-billion.
  • The agenda-setting role of the G7 over UN institutions and global rules has also been effectively challenged by WHO ignoring the reform diktat of the U.S. leading to its withdrawal, and characterisation of the G7 as “outdated”.
  • The U.S. has also implicitly rejected the G20 and UN Security Council, for an expanded G7 “to discuss the future of China”.
  • Important shift in the UN: After World War II, the newly independent states were not consulted when the U.S. imposed global institutions fostering trade, capital and technology dependence.
  • This was done ignoring the socio-economic development of these countries.
  • But social and economic rights have emerged to be as important as political and procedural rights.
  • Against this backdrop, China’s President Xi Jinping deftly endorsed the UN Resolution on equitable access to any new vaccine.

Emergence of Asia and China: Challenges for the US and the West

  • The U.S. faces an uphill task in seeking to lead a new multidimensional institution in the face of China’s re-emergence.
  • The re-emergence of China is based on technology, innovation and trade balancing U.S. military superiority.
  • At the same time, there is a clear trend of declining global trust in free-market liberalism, central to western civilisation.
  • With the West experiencing a shock comparable to the one experienced by Asia, 200 years ago, the superiority of western civilisation is also under question.
  • The novel coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the shift of global wealth to Asia suggesting an inclusive global order based on principles drawn from ancient Asian civilisations.
  • Colonised Asia played no role in shaping the Industrial Revolution.
  • But, the Digital Revolution will be shaped by different values.
  • It is really this clash that multilateralism has now to resolve.

World is questioning both U.S. and China’s exceptionalism

  • China has come out with alternative governance mechanisms to the U.S.-dominated International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Trade Organization with its all-encompassing Belt and Road Initiative.
  • The U.S., European Union and Japan are re-evaluating globalisation as it pertains to China and the U.S. is unabashedly “America First”.
  • The world is questioning both U.S. and China’s exceptionalism.
  • For India, the strategic issue is neither adjustment to China’s power nor deference to U.S. leadership.

Opportune moment for India to propose new multilateralism

  • The global vacuum, shift in relative power and its own potential, provides India the capacity to articulate a benign multilateralism.
  • It should include in its fold NAM-Plus that resonates with large parts of the world and brings both BRICS and the G7 into the tent.
  • This new multilateralism should rely on outcomes, not rules, ‘security’ downplayed for ‘comparable levels of wellbeing’ and a new P-5 that is not based on the G7.

India in a important role

  • China, through an opinion piece by its Ambassador in India, has suggested writing “together a new chapter” with “a shared future for mankind”.
  • The U.S. wants a security partnership to contain China.
  • And the Association of Southeast Asian Nations trade bloc — with the U.S. walking out of the negotiations — is keen India joins to balance China.
  • With a new template. India does not have to choose.

Three principles the new system should be based on-

1. Peaceful coexistence

    • First, the Asian Century should be defined in terms of peaceful co-existence, freezing post-colonial sovereignty.
    • Non-interference in the internal affairs of others is a key lesson from the decline of the U.S. and the rise of China.
    • National security now relies on technological superiority in artificial intelligence (AI), cyber and space, and not expensive capital equipment, as India’s military has acknowledged.
    • Instead of massive arms imports, we should use the savings to enhance endogenous capacity.
    • And mould the global digital economy between state-centric (China), firm-centric (the U.S.) and public-centric (India) systems.

2. New principles of trade

  • A global community at comparable levels of well-being requires new principles for trade, for example, rejecting the 25-year-old trade rule creating intellectual property monopolies.
  • Global public goods should include public health, crop research, renewable energy and batteries, even AI as its value comes from shared data.
  • We have the scientific capacity to support these platforms as part of foreign policy.

3.  Civilisational values

  • Ancient civilisational values provide the conceptual underpinning, restructuring both the economic order and societal behaviour for equitable sustainable development.
  • Which is what a climate change impacted world, especially Africa, is seeking.

Consider the question-“The global order is going through serious churn, and it provides India with an opportunity to shape the new multilateralism based on humanity, fairness and equality. Comment.”

Conclusion

In the new cold war, defined by technology and trade not territory, non-alignment is an uncertain option; India should craft a global triumvirate.

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