We need greater global cooperation


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- Greater global cooperation


Our thinking about the international system is focussed on a new era of great power competition. An assertive China is seeking to refashion the international order and exercise greater regional hegemony.

Refashioning the international order

  • Recently, Secretary Antony Blinken outlined the US approach to China: “Competitive when it should be, collaborative when it can be, and adversarial when it must be.”
  • This pretty much describes the approach of every country in the world to this geopolitical moment.
  • The big question is whether the competitive and adversarial dynamics are now so deep that the space for “collaboration” is diminishing fast.
  • There is now bipartisan consensus in the US that China needs to be contained; just as China is convinced that the US will not only not tolerate China’s further rise.

Great power competition between the US and China

  • Two dynamics were supposed to counteract the risks of great power competition.
  • Global economic interdependence: The first was global economic interdependence.
  • Global trade has rebounded to its pre-pandemic levels.
  • The logic of interdependence is now under severe ideological stress.
  • Interdependence has not led to greater convergence on political values or a more open global political order.
  • Common challenges fostering global cooperation: The second dynamic counteracting competition was the idea that common challenges like climate change, the pandemic and the risks posed by technology will foster greater global cooperation.
  •  All the global crises that should have been occasions for global cooperation have become the sites for intensifying global competition.

Climate and global health: Indicator of lack of global cooperation

  • It is hard to convince anyone that most countries of the world were willing to treat the pandemic as a global public health crisis.
  • The shift in the climate change discourse is about intensifying technological competition and maintaining national economic supremacy, rather than solving a global problem.
  •  It is not entirely clear that all the innovations induced by this competitive dynamic will, in fact, limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • It also leaves the question of a modicum of justice in the international order entirely unresolved.
  • We have also learnt over the last couple of decades that the international system, and all global public goods, including security, can be made extremely vulnerable even by small groups carrying a sense of grievance.
  • So, the distribution of technology, finance, and developmental space will matter.
  • India, in the context of what other countries are doing, takes a very well-judged stance at the international level.
  • But it is difficult not to wonder whether a country that lets its citizens breathe the foulest air, and cannot get its head around a solvable problem of stubble burning, can project seriousness.
  • So, climate and global public health, rather than acting as a spur to global cooperation are going to be symptoms of a deep pathology.

Global risks and declining multilateral institutions

  • Areas where global risks are increasing include-Cyber threats, the possible risks of unregulated technology, whether in artificial intelligence or biological research, competition in space, a renewed competition in nuclear weapons and an intensifying arms race.
  •  In not a single one of these areas is there a serious prospect of any country thinking outside of an adversarial nationalist frame.
  • The old multilateral system was undergirded by, and partially an instrument for, US power.
  • The term multilateral has also been deeply damaged by a cynical use, where it simply refers to a group of countries rather than a single or a couple of countries acting together.
  • It is high time the term be used only in a context where there is agreement on global rules or an architecture to genuinely solve a global public goods problem.
  • These may still reflect power differentials, but at least they are oriented to problem-solving at a global level.
  • In this sense, one would be hard-pressed to find any genuinely multilateral institutions left.

Consider the question “What are the challenge facing global order in the present context? Suggest the measures to preserve the global order aimed towards greater global cooperation.”


The real choice for the world is not just navigating between China and the United States. It is fundamentally between an orientation that is committed to global problem-solving rather than just preserving national supremacy.

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