The political and cultural arrangements states and communities arrive at will be heavily implicated by the one major transition Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar identified: that a rule based order is no longer limited to the developed world.
‘Managing Disruptive Transitions’ was the theme this year at the Raisina Dialogue, and while more than a few disruptions were discussed over the past week, India’s Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar articulated four key ones: the rise of China; the current churning in United States global posture and Asia strategy; “non-market” economics; and terrorism from governed spaces.
While India’s top diplomat exhibited customary refrain, General David Petraeus was more candid in his assessment about the last two trends, “let’s be clear who we’re talking about: China.”
India’s Foreign Secretary articulated four key ones [disruptions]: the rise of China; the current churning in United States global posture and Asia strategy; “non-market” economics; and terrorism from governed spaces.
First, the normalisation of state capitalism and the rise of non-market economies threaten to upend traditional understandings of economic relations. Complete control over industry by the party-state, and utilisation of markets to maximise state power and legitimacy with disregard for corporate independence form the essence of “capitalism with Chinese characteristics.”
For some time now, China has attempted to leverage this model to script a relationship of dependency with smaller nations, while it has used coercive economics with larger ones. 2017 was testament to this new normal: Across Asia, Africa, Latin America and even in parts of Europe, smaller economies are now straddled with high levels of debt payable to Beijing’s state-owned enterprises. Countries like the United States, Germany and Japan, on the other hand, must now contend with China’s targeted and state-led or promoted investments in sensitive high technology sectors.
The advent of non-market economics and the rise of the Beijing Consensus may mark the end of a golden age of entrepreneurship, and the free flow of ideas and technology which flourished under transparent free markets for nearly three decades. Beijing’s opaque and distorted whole-of-government approach to market power will likely have ripple effects as China’s economy makes its way towards nearly US $20 trillion by 2030. Along the way, this transition will undoubtedly influence the economic choices of smaller states that are heavily dependent on Beijing, with destabilising consequences for the world economy.
Second, terrorism emanating from and protected by governed spaces will imperil global peace and security. To some extent, conventional military power and diplomacy can address the threats originating from ungoverned spaces. When states use terrorism as an instrument of state policy, especially under a nuclear umbrella or the protection of sophisticated firepower, a comprehensive approach towards regional and global security becomes arduous.
When states use terrorism as an instrument of state policy, especially under a nuclear umbrella or the protection of sophisticated firepower, a comprehensive approach towards regional and global security becomes arduous.
Again, the fact that China seeks to curry favour with such states — as it has with Pakistan —and intends to build parochial relationships with these actors significantly muddies the waters. More importantly, China believes that through some complex political formulation, it will be able to strike a deal with non-state groups. In fact, where responsible powers see adversity and risk, China sees an opportunity — its connectivity projects pass through some of the most unstable regions in the world.
Without dedicated and targeted policing measures, which Beijing is reluctant to undertake, such projects will ultimately make it easier for terrorists and other criminal groups to expand their outreach, find new avenues for rent-seeking, create insidious partnerships and recruit additional members. China’s subjugation of morality for petty self-serving geopolitical gain will create a new — conceivably malicious — dynamic in the fight against radicalisation and terror.
In these trying and chaotic times, perhaps Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement at the Raisina Dialogue that states must choose between hard power and soft power was more prophetic than intended. While Netanyahu was clear in his support for the former, many states around the world will struggle to find a suitable balance between the two. At the same time, countries will have to defend another aspect of power that the Prime Minister identified — one that binds India and Israel to each other and their strongest partners: democratic values.
China’s subjugation of morality for petty self-serving geopolitical gain will create a new — conceivably malicious — dynamic in the fight against radicalisation and terror.
The political and cultural arrangements states and communities arrive at will be heavily implicated by the one major transition the Foreign Secretary identified: that a rule based order is no longer limited to the developed world. The shifting balance of power, from the Atlantic system to the Indo-Pacific, will determine the future of the 21st century. “The old order is expressing its limitations through both policy and posture,” said External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, capturing the essence of this evolution. “The new order, however, is far from being clear,” she cautioned.
The Indo-Pacific will be ground zero for the economic, political and cultural disruptions that are shaping a new world order and will determine if it will be defined by democracy or autocracy. By foreign policy design and inadvertent geopolitical trends, India will form the lynchpin of this transition.
This brings us to what is perhaps the most prescient observation the Foreign Secretary articulated: that one part of the answer to many of these disruptions lies with India. A vibrant democracy, a flourishing multicultural society, a rapidly growing economy and increasingly confident on the global high table, the choices India will make implicate the future of our world. The remaining answers will be found in the partnerships it choses, the success of its economic journey and the narrative it ultimately frames around its rise.
Indeed, former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt’s tweet perfectly sums up the ethos of the Raisina Dialogue, organised by the Ministry of External Affairs and Observer Research Foundation: “Bringing the debates of the world to India — and the perspectives of India to the world.” The conversations that take place at this Dialogue play an important role in shaping India’s narrative and, as the Foreign Secretary rightly believes, will ultimately complete the answer to the many predicaments that afflict the world.