Month: June 2018

In rising e-Commerce storm, India protects its ship

MNC, investor, institutions, Swadeshi, disconnect, ownership, regulators, geostrategic, data, economy, platform, data, technology, companies, Silicon Valley, algorithms, Economic rights, civil liberties, autonomous, privacy, safeguards, MSME, FDI

The debate on the global governance, ownership and management of data is today confronted by three new realities. The first is that the custodians of data – technology companies in Silicon Valley that famously promised to bring the world together and solve most of its problems through innovative algorithms — have been found wanting in the protection of economic rights and civil liberties that accrue to their users in developing countries. Not only have digital platforms serially misused the data that their consumers hand over in trust, they have also done little to generate local value that can create jobs, contextual content and/or spur secondary and tertiary innovation.

Second, it is increasingly clear that local jurisdictions, however flawed or premature their regulatory ambience may appear today, are the most effective forums to guarantee even a semblance of protection to users of digital platforms. No longer can emerging markets seek refuge under foreign laws that promise enhanced privacy safeguards on paper, but in practice ignore the mischievous harvesting of such data by intelligence or law enforcement agencies of states in which technology giants are incorporated. Put simply, the hypocrisy of “autonomous” and responsible self-regulation stands exposed.

And third, digital markets don’t accurately drive valuations of technology. While IPOs may determine the growth expectations of a tech company, their worth must also be driven by the ability (or not) of their peers to provide the service at competitive rates. The debates on data localisation, done to death, appear to have altogether ignored this reality. The fact is that that India’s entry into the “data storage” market will exponentially bring down price points. The Y2K, BPO and Euro conversion episodes have proven that India is capable of providing digital services at a fraction of the cost sought by others. If India is a financially sustainable destination for data, should hackneyed arguments on localisation be revisited in the light of new economic realities?

All three realities are implicated in the debate on India’s e-commerce policy, which will define how the country trades, transacts and consumes in the coming years. E-commerce is where big-ticket investments are likely to happen; generating jobs, supporting MSMEs and incubating e-product creators along the way.

E-commerce is where big-ticket investments are likely to happen; generating jobs, supporting MSMEs and incubating e-product creators along the way.

Look at the facts as they appear. India has the world’s largest population in the 18 to 35 age group at over 440 million. An estimated half of this population is already in the workforce. As income levels rise, so will purchasing power, which in turn will implicate their choices ranging from clothes to shoes to books to gadgets to news to entertainment to food and beverages.

Affordable access to internet and smartphones (no more in the realm of possibility but already a reality) will facilitate both access to information (for instance, comparing prices and features) as well as greater agency (buying what meets your need at the best price). This is the ‘millennial opportunity’ that India is betting on and e-retail does not want to miss. It is unsurprising then that this sector has proven so controversial—and has become a flashpoint for debate about digital rules, policies and globalization around the world. India is not immune to these either and is witnessing a heated debate on some of its recent policy maneuvers.

Just over two years ago, it seemed like India was willing to fully integrate its emerging e-commerce market with the rapidly expanding global digital commerce, allowing 100% FDI via the automatic route. Big ticket investments by e-commerce giants like Walmart and Amazon were then seen as an endorsement of India’s continuing push towards globalisation and rejection of protectionist nationalism propounded by organisations like the Swadeshi Jagran Manch and practiced by previous governments through their decisions.

Global investors and institutions saw this as a natural consequence of India’s rise. After all, the assumption was that a $3 trillion economy aspiring to become a $5 trillion economy by its next elections cycle of 2024 must acquiesce to the financial and commercial logic of globalization. India, as all other capitalist democracies, would welcome the innovations and efficiencies of global MNCs, even though it ran the risk of their displacing or buying-out local peers.

Yet, last year-end’s revised rules — which the government claims have only elaborated and reasserted the terms set in 2017 — have proved that rising industrial powers with sense of sovereignty and alive to their size, rarely make such simple trade-offs.

First came a new FDI Press Note, which limited online retailers from selling the products of vendors that they had invested in and offering heavy discounting on selected products. Next came a new draft e-commerce policy, which tightened rules in relation to online retail practices (including intermediary liability) along with imposing a raft of new data sharing mandates.

With the e-commerce market set to grow from $35 billion to $100 billion by 2022, it is unsurprising that the stakes are high and that the Indian government has received flak from some quarters for what they perceive as an attempt to ‘protect’ local industries. All of a sudden, India is seen as abandoning its commitments to free trade and investment.

With the e-commerce market set to grow from $35 billion to $100 billion by 2022, it is unsurprising that the stakes are high and that the Indian government has received flak from some quarters for what they perceive as an attempt to ‘protect’ local industries. All of a sudden, India is seen as abandoning its commitments to free trade and investment.

What explains this disconnect between the expectations that some in the global financial community have of India and the realities of its political economy and India’s choices?

The answer lies in the underlying shifts in the structure of the global economy and India’s own rising aspirations. Simply put, the global economy is undergoing a new industrial transformation, with digital technologies spearheading this change. A small group of technology platforms, largely based in the US and China, is increasingly mediating billions of dollars of global trade and trillions of bytes in information and communication flows.

Access to personal information and ownership over data infrastructures have allowed these firms to entrench their dominance in markets around the world. In the process they have restructured existing economic and even social relations in a manner that better suits their commercial interests. Unsurprisingly then, there is great uncertainty about how data flows, technology platforms and digital ecosystems will implicate market and state power in the international system.

India is emerging as a global power amidst these realities. It certainly does not aspire to re-orient the moorings of the liberal international order; having benefited from an extended period of peace for its own development. Nevertheless, there is a growing consensus in India that even as the United States and China pry open markets abroad, they are neither interested in creating value for those markets nor nurturing sustainable economic development in these destinations. Around the world, nation states are reassessing frameworks of law, regulation and industry practices that have governed the digital economy.

India’s objective with regards to its digital economy is three-fold:

First, to create regulatory stability (a precondition for investment that scores over other determinants) and a level playing field for all market actors. Agnostic or ambivalent regulations that merely preserve of the value generated by foreign technology companies will not help Indian consumers in any way. If India’s regulatory policy for digital technologies appears in flux, it is because the exact determinants of value creation are uncertain. Regulators around the world are currently attempting to quantify the digital economy and map out the disaggregated set of economic activities that comprise it. However, any sensible policy is likely to have a bias that offsets the current uneven playing field developed and controlled by a handful of transnational corporations.

Second, to create opportunities for local enterprise and value chains. For an economy that is aspiring towards a $5 trillion GDP, this is a natural compulsion—both for electoral reasons and for geostrategic ones. This does not necessarily imply relying on China’s techno-nationalist playbook. India does not seek to expel foreign firms from its markets in order to create domestic champions. Rather, it is attempting to create local value through digital supply chains that have high scale and increasing presence. India must respond to the demands of jobs, social mobility and domestic enterprise. It has a once in a century opportunity to use the “data economy” to transform from a mere collective of billion consumers to a large economy.

Finally, it has to create a globally competitive digital market. This is probably a central challenge of our times. Proprietary data sets have allowed a handful of technology companies to dominate existing and new markets through sheer information asymmetry. Even domestic competitors in the US and EU are questioning the relevance of competition jurisprudence and theory. It is only to be expected that India should develop its own policy propositions for the same.

The great industrial powers of the previous centuries have protected cutting edge industries in one form or another. In the late-19th and early-20th century, the United States ranked amongst the most enthusiastic levelers of tariffs on British goods. Japan’s then infamous Ministry of International Trade and Industry protected domestic industries through the 1950s and 60s until it became a cause of concern in the US. The rise of China’s internet giants was enabled entirely by keeping American technology firms out of the domestic economy. India will not follow that same playbook — it does not have the luxury of creating exceptions for its rise while trying to impose a different set of rules for its peers in the international system.

Instead, India will focus on creation of value for the Indian consumer, who is the primary producer and consumer of data. Foreign technology companies wanting to do business in India should sidestep shrill debates on data localisation .Their primary objective ought to be the elevation of the Indian digital economy from a high-volume, low-intensity engagement to high-volume, high-intensity engagement. The interaction of Indians with data in all its forms — audio, visual, text-based — will catalyse the creation of a new cadre of data scientists capable of tailoring platform engagement in multiple languages and cultural contexts. The value so generated, by jobs, experience and improved digital services, will not only benefit Indians but also the bottom lines of these companies and their ability to do business in any other part of the world. Fair and sophisticated rules on the management and ownership of data will follow subsequently.

Today’s reality is that globalization is increasingly being driven by voluminous flows of data. These flows are generating enormous value for those individuals, industries and geographies that can analyse and monetise them. It is also these very actors who well set the terms of this new globalization—the new rules of trade, commerce, investment and security.

Today’s reality is that globalization is increasingly being driven by voluminous flows of data. These flows are generating enormous value for those individuals, industries and geographies that can analyse and monetise them. It is also these very actors who well set the terms of this new globalization—the new rules of trade, commerce, investment and security.

India’s policy shifts must not be an attempt to choose between globalization and protectionism—the choice is obviously the former, even though electoral compulsions certainly do push political parties towards the latter. Instead, home to the world’s largest surplus of data and the largest cohort of consumers, India must attempt to ensure that it emerges as a beneficiary and rule-maker of the digital economy once this period of churn settles. The road to this would be paved with regulatory stability, policies that bias growth to cater to its size and specific needs and having the political courage to remain outside of popular herds and hashtags as it undertakes the above.

 

इतिहास का बदला: यूरेशिया का उदय

Samir Saran

क्या भारत 21वीं सदी को परिभाषित करने वाले यूरेशिया और हिंद-प्रशांत के दोराहे पर खड़ा है?

भारत, 21वीं सदी, यूरेशिया, हिंद-प्रशांत, समीर सरन, चीन, संतुलित, सहमति, एशिया, एकीकरण, सांस्कृतिक, आर्थिक, सैन्य, बीआरआई

नासा का ब्ल्यू मार्बल प्रोजेक्ट

“हिंद-प्रशांत” खबरों में है। अमेरिका ने अपनी प्रशांत कमान का नाम बदलकर “हिंद-प्रशांत कमान” रख दिया है, भारत और इंडोनेशिया द्वारा रेखांकित साझा क्षेत्रीय विज़न इसकी केंद्रीयता को प्रमुखता देता है और भारत के लिए इस क्षेत्र का राजनीतिक महत्व सिंगापुर में प्रधानमंत्री नरेन्द्र मोदी के विदेश नीति से संबंधित भाषण का केंद्र था। ये सब चीन के हैरान कर देने वाले उदय का जवाब है। यदि ये सब क्षेत्र में चीन के प्रभुत्व को संतुलित करने के लिए विभिन्न ताकतों की भविष्य में बनने वाली सहमति का संकेत है, तो यह उपाय महत्वपूर्ण भले ही हो, लेकिन एशिया और यूरोप में फैले चीन के प्रोजेक्ट के लिए नाकाफी है।

धरती की सतह के 35 प्रतिशत भूभाग को कवर करने वाला यूरेशिया 90 से ज्यादा देशों में रहने वाले 5 बिलियन बाशिंदों का घर है, जो वैश्विक जीडीपी के 65 प्रतिशत के लिए उत्तरदायी हैं। सहस्त्राब्दि भर से फतह, व्यापार और प्रवासन ने एशिया और यूरोप को मूलभूत रूप से बांध रखा है — इस विशाल भूभाग में फैली महान सभ्यताओं का उतार-चढ़ाव अनगिनत राजनीतिक और आर्थिक गतिशीलताओं का परिणाम है।

अभी हाल तक, ऐतिहासिक संदर्भ में, यह सब निर्बाद रूप से जारी था। यूरोप की औद्योगिक क्रांति और उसके बाद एशिया और अफ्रीका में उपनिवेशवाद ने ‘पश्चिम में’ आर्थिक और सैन्य ताकत एकत्र करते हुए क्षेत्र में एक ऐसी कृत्रिम दरार उत्पन्न कर दी जिसका कोई भौगोलिक वजूद नहीं था। यह समुदाय दूसरे विश्व युद्ध का विजेता बनकर उभरा, जिसने केवल सत्ता के इन ढांचों और क्षेत्रों को संस्थागत रूप प्रदान कर दिया।


एशिया का समकालीन आर्थिक उत्कर्ष और उसके अपने समुदायों तथा बाजारों का एकीकरण तेजी से इस यथास्थिति को तितर-बितर कर रहा है। मौजूदा दौर में एक बार फिर से पूरे यूरेशिया में लोगों, वस्तुओं, नवाचार और वित्त का प्रवाह अपेक्षाकृत मुक्त रूप से हो रहा है। लेकिन इस सुपर कॉन्टिनेंट का नए सिरे से उदय टकरावों से अछूता नहीं है। ये नई एकीकृत भू-आर्थिक ताकतें नए राजनीतिक तनाव अपने साथ लेकर आईं हैं।


जिस तरह इतिहास खुद को दोहरा रहा है और यूरेशिया एकजुट हो रहा है, ऐसे में नई विश्व व्यवस्था की रूपरेखा इस आधार पर परिभाषित होगी कि इसका प्रबंधन कौन करेगा और इसका प्रबंधन किस तरह होगा। इसी सुपर कॉन्टिनेंट में लोकतंत्र, मुक्त बाजारों और वैश्विक सुरक्षा प्रबंधों का भविष्य तय होगा और इस परिदृश्य में तीन प्रमुख कारक आकार ले रहे हैं।

पहला, रॉबर्ट केपलान का यह कथन उद्धृत करना होगा कि यह भूगोल का बदला है। हालांकि यूरेशिया का एकीकरण स्वाभाविक है, लेकिन उसका वर्तमान ‘अवतार’ निश्चित रूप से चीनी है। यूरोप और एशिया के बीच की दरार को कृत्रिम, आधुनिक और “पश्चिम” द्वारा बनाई गई मानने के बाद चीन ने यूरेशिया को समझने, परिभाषित करने और फिर उसका प्रबंधन करने जैसे ऐसे कदम उठाए, जिन्हें करने का उत्साह किसी अन्य ताकत ने नहीं दिखाया।

यूरेशियाई सुपर कॉन्टिनेंट का विचार अपने आप में नया नहीं है: 1904 में, हेल्फोर्ड मेकिंडर ने अनुमान व्यक्त किया था कि पश्चिमी नौसैनिक श्रेष्ठता का युग ताकत कायम करने की राह तैयार करेगा, जिसमें यूरेशिया — “मुख्य केंद्र” — विश्व वर्चस्व का आधार होगा।

ब्रिटिश, अमेरिकी, जर्मन और रूसी रणनीतिकार लम्बे अर्से से इस विचार द्वारा प्रभावित रहे हैं। ज्बिगनीव ब्रेजजिंस्की ने लिखा कि सोवियत संघ को नियंत्रित करने का आधार “यूरेशिया की बिसात पर” अमेरिकी प्रभाव का विस्तार करना था। जबकि रूसी दार्शनिक अलेक्सांद्र दुगिन का विचार था कि रूस के नेतृत्व वाला यूरेशिया नेटो की “अटलांटिकवाद” की साजिश को प्रभावशाली ढंग से नाकाम कर देगा। प्रत्येक मामले में, विषय स्पष्ट था: भूमि आधारित सैन्य आपूर्ति श्रृंखलाओं के माध्यम से प्रतिस्पर्धी ताकतों को संतुलित करना।

चीन की योजना अलग है — भूराजनीतिक ब्लॉक्स की बजाए सुविधा पर आधारित गठबंधनों द्वारा परिभाषित परस्पर निर्भर वैश्विक अर्थव्यवस्था में, चीन का विस्तार ऊर्जा की आपूति, कच्चे माल और बाजार की तलाश में मल्टी डॉलर वाली भूराजनीतिक प्रेरणा से परिभाषित है।


चीन की पसंद बेल्ट एंड रोड ​इनिशिएटिव है, जिससे कनेक्टीवि​टी प्रोजेक्ट्स का विशाल नेटवर्क तैयार हो रहा है—उनमें से प्रत्येक की इस सुपर कॉन्टिनेंट के भूगोल में चीन की अर्थव्यवस्था पर अंतर्निहित निर्भरता है।


चीन की प्रेरणा का आधार विचारधारा नहीं, बल्कि दोबारा प्रचलित होने तथा विश्व में सांस्कृतिक, आर्थिक और सैन्य केंद्र होने की अपनी ऐतिहासिक स्थिति का विस्तार करने की इच्छा है। चीन के आर्थिक महत्व के साथ ही साथ यह अभियान साधारण रूप से संतुलन बनाने वाली रणनीतियों के स्थान पर अपने यूरेशियाई विजन को महत्वपूर्ण रूप से और ज्यादा प्रबल, दूरदर्शी तथा स्थायी बनाता है।

ऐसे में कोई हैरानी नहीं कि बीआरआई उप-क्षेत्रों के भूभाग का महत्व कम करता है, इस प्रकार स्थापित सत्ता संतुलनों को अस्थिर करता है। मिसाल के तौर पर भारत और यूरोपीय संघ (ईयू) यूरेशिया की राजनीतिक, आर्थिक और सुरक्षा वार्ताओं में चीन के धीरे-धीरे बढ़ते प्रभाव पर काबू पाने की जद्दोजहद कर रहे हैं।

मुक्त और खुला” हिंद-प्रशांत विजन और क्वाड्रीलैटरल इनिशिएटिव जैसे नवविकसित मंच सामुद्रिक मोर्चे पर चीन के उदय को संतुलित बनाने के लिए प्रयास कर रहे हैं। महासागर, हालांकि चीन का महज एक मंच भर है और ऐसे में विशुद्ध रूप से सामुद्रिक जवाब नाकाफी है।

चीन बेहतरीन तरीके से इस प्रोजेक्ट: बुनियादी ढांचे का निर्माण करने और व्यापार को सुगम बनाने तथा वैश्विक संस्थाओं का विकल्प तैयार करने में अनवरत रूप से जुटा हुआ है। चीन लुके-छिपे ढंग से अपने राजनीतिक मॉडल: “चीनी विशेषताओं से युक्त पूंजीवाद” — सरकारी पूंजीवाद और अधिनायकवाद के अनोखे मिश्रण का निर्यात भी कर रहा है। जब तक उदार लोकतंत्र यूरेशिया में — एशिया और अफ्रीका में बुनियादी ढांचे और शासन की जरूरते प्रभावी ढंग से पूरी करने वाले ​विकल्प को प्रस्तुत नहीं करते, तब तक चीन का प्रस्ताव कामयाब होता रहेगा।

यहीं दूसरे कारक की बारी आती है: लोकतंत्र का बदला। चाहे अमेरिका हो या यूरोपीय संघ या भारत, लोकतंत्रों का पहले से कहीं ज्यादा ध्रुवीकरण हो चुका है। द प्यू ग्लोबल एटीट्यूड सर्वे लगातार यह दर्ज कर रहा है कि लोकतांत्रिक सरकारों का विश्वास अब तक के सबसे निचले स्तर तक पहुंच चुका है। ऐसा लगता है कि पहली बार उदारवादी लोकतंत्र इतने जटिल हालात में पहुंच चुके हैं कि उनके पास रणनीतिक योजनाएं बनाने के लिए ज्यादा ऊर्जा ही नहीं बचती। ऐसे समय में जहां एक ओर चीन का दस साल का घटनाक्रम है, वहीं लोकतंत्र अपने अगले चुनावों के लिए संघर्ष कर रहे हैं।

और अंतिम कारक, जनसांख्यकी है, जो समूचे क्षेत्र, खासतौर पर चीन के लिए एक दोधारी तलवार की तरह है। बहुत से यूरेशियाई देशों में, बीआरटी के आर्थिक लाभ जाहिर हैं। हालांकि ऐसे दौर में, जब राष्ट्रवाद राजनीति का मूड परिभाषित कर रहा हो, ऐसे में चीन की मौजूदगी अप्रिय हो सकती है। चीन का श्रम निर्यात युवा आबादी वाले मेजबान देशों में तनाव उत्पन्न कर रहा है, जो अब रोजगार के अवसरों के लिए प्रतिस्पर्धा कर रहे हैं। इस बात का खतरा है कि बीआरटी अस्थिर देशों में केवल उग्र और कट्टर संगठनों के लिए बुनियादी सुविधाओं के नेटवर्क तैयार करेगा।

घरेलू स्तर पर, जनसांख्यकीय दबाव चीन को अपेक्षाएं पूरी करने की उसकी योग्यता पर पुनर्विचार करने के लिए मजूबर कर सकते हैं। जैसे-जैसे चीन की युवा आबादी आमदनी की सीढ़ी चढ़ेगी, अपनी सरकार से उनकी अपेक्षाएं बढ़ेंगी। साथ ही साथ, शहरी क्षेत्रों में अकेले युवाओं की अधिकता और उम्रदराज होती गांवों की आबादी के कारण चीन के समाज में हिंसा और अशांति का खतरा उत्पन्न हो जाएगा। ये जनसांख्यकीय दबाव यूरेशियाई एकीकरण के प्रोजेक्ट के लिए क्या पूर्वाभास देंगे? क्या चीन के पास दुनिया भर में प्रभाव को अंधाधुंध खरीदने के लिए राजनीतिक पूंजीवाद या पॉलिटिकल कैपिटल होगी? क्या जनसांख्यकीय जटिलताएं अन्य देशों को बीजिंग सर्वसम्मति से निपटने की जल्दी से कोई व्यवस्था तैयार करने की इजाजत देंगी?


भारत में, यह बात इससे ज्यादा स्पष्ट नहीं हो सकती कि भारत का विकास का मार्ग जटिलता से यूरेशिया से बंधा है। भारत 21वीं सदी को परिभाषित करने वाले यूरेशिया और हिंद-प्रशांत दोनों क्षेत्रों के दोराहे पर है।


भारत, हालांकि ऐसे देशों के समूह में से एक होगा और उनके विजन के अनुसार खुद को ढालने, और तो और उस विजन को आकार देने की उसकी योग्यता आने वाले दशकों में यूरेशियाई वार्ताओं को प्रभावित करेगी।

रूस, जो अपनी आर्थिक जरूरतों और अमेरिकी ताकत के प्रति साझा नफरत के कारण चीन से कमजोर स्थिति में है, चीन के प्रति प्रतिकूल संबंध रखता है। इस वास्तविक यूरेशियाई सुपर पॉवर की हैसियत इस समय गौरवशाली पुलिसकर्मी — या ज्यादा उदारता से कहें तो चीनी विस्तारवाद के लिए चतुर जोखिम प्रबंधन सलाहकार — से ज्यादा नहीं है।

जिन दो आर्थिक विजनों को वे एकीकृत करना चाहते हैं वे — बीआरआई और यूरेशियाई आर्थिक संघ हैं, जो विविध तर्कों के अंतर्गत ऑपरेट करते हैं। इनमें से पहला चीन को व्यापार के वाहक के रूप में स्थापित करने की मंशा से बाजारों को नए सिरे से स्थापित करना चाहता है, जबकि दूसरा रूस के सीमित आर्थिक प्रभाव का विस्तार करने के लिए एकल बाजार का निर्माण करना चाहता है। साथ ही, रूस की चिंता का सम्मान करते हुए, चीन अब तक क्षेत्र में कड़ी सुरक्षा प्रतिबद्धताओं को टालता आया है — जिसका दीर्घकाल तक टिकाऊ रह पाना मुश्किल है।

रूस की साधारण क्षेत्रीय क्षमता और चीन की बहु-महाद्वीपीय महत्वाकांक्षा के अंतर से यह प्रश्न उठता है : क्या हो अगर दोनों स्वायत्तता और भौतिक रूप से यूरेशिया के दो अलग विजन्स तक पहुंचे? या उन दोनों के बीच प्रतिस्पर्धा पहले से ही अस्थिर क्षेत्र में जटिल सुरक्षा गतिशीलता की रचना कर दें?


दूसरी ओर, यूरोपीय संघ यूरेशिया को मुश्किल मान रहा है। एशिया की राजनीतिक अस्थिरता से अलग-थलग, यूरोप ने सत्ता की राजनीति को छोड़ दिया है और अमेरिकी सुरक्षा की छाया तले बहुसंस्कृतिवाद का अपना विजन विकसित कर लिया है।


हालांकि पश्चिम एशिया में फूट के कारण, शरणार्थियों की भीड़ पहले से कर्ज में डूबी ​अर्थव्यवस्थाओं में जा पहुंची है, जिसने यूरोपीयनों को महाद्वीप के साथ अपनी निकटता याद दिलाने के लिए बाध्य कर दिया है।

अब यूरोप भीतर और बाहर से टूट चुका है। यहां तक उम्रदराज होते यूरोपीय समाज प्रतिक्रियावादी लोकप्रियता और सुस्थापित राजनीतिक और आर्थिक सर्वसम्मति के विघटन से जूझ रहे हैं, उनकी सीमाएं बेल्ट एंड रोड इनिशिएटिव द्वारा धीरे-धीरे नष्ट हो रही हैं। यूरोपीय संघ को अब हर हाल में कुछ मुश्किल फैसले लेने होंगे: या तो अपनी एजेंसी के संरक्षण और विस्तार में जुटना होगा या एक समय पर एक ही काम करना होगा।

अमेरिका ने, अपनी ओर से पिछले नौ दशकों के दौरान, इन दोनों क्षेत्रों में अपने लिए विशिष्ट स्थान बरकरार रखने के लिए रक्त और धन बहाया है। हालांकि, रूस और चीन को संतुलित करने के प्रयास और “आतंकवाद के खिलाफ युद्ध” करने में उसकी ताकत और प्रभाव नेटो, केंद्रीय कमान और हाल में नए नाम पाने वाली ‘हिंद प्रशांत’कमान के बीच बिखर कर रह गए हैं, जिनकी अपनी रणनीतियां और विरासत हैं। क्या अमेरिका, अब अनपेक्षित रूप से आर्थिक राष्ट्रवाद के साथ खिलवाड़ करते हुए, जवाब देने की अपनी संस्थागत क्षमता से ज्यादा तेजी से संयुक्त और एकीकृत हो रहे विश्व में नेतृत्व का दावा कर सकता है?

महत्वपूर्ण होगा कि सभी और ​खासतौर पर भारत और अमेरिका, हिंद-प्रशांत से परे यूरेशिया के केंद्र में व्यवस्था की कल्पना करें। यह कल्पना लोकतंत्र के मानदंड संबंधी विचारों को नजरंदाज करते हुए, यूरेशियाई भूराजनीति वित्त और प्रौद्योगिकी के प्रावधानों, सम्पर्क तथा व्यापार तथा विविध राजनीतिक व्यवस्थाओं को समायोजित करने की इच्छा द्वारा परिभाषित होगी।

ये लेखक के निजी विचार हैं।

Liberal world must stand up and be counted, or step aside and watch Pax Sinica unfold

Samir Saran

“Indo-Pacific” is in the news. The US has renamed its Pacific Command to the Indo-Pacific Command, the shared regional vision outlined by India and Indonesia has emphasised its centrality, and the region’s political importance to India was at the core of the expansive foreign policy speech delivered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Singapore. All of these are a response to the spectacular rise of China. If this points to a future concert of powers in the region to balance Beijing’s power play, it will be an important yet insufficient measure in reaction to the Chinese project that connects Asia and Europe.

Covering 35% of the earth’s surface, Eurasia is home to five billion people living in over 90 different countries and producing nearly 70% of global GDP. For millennia conquest, trade and migration have organically bound Asia and Europe – the ebb and flow of great civilisations across this vast landmass spawned myriad political and economic dynamics of global history.

Only in the recent past, in historical terms, have these been interrupted. The Industrial Revolution in Europe and the subsequent colonisation of Asia and Africa created an artificial divide, concentrating economic and military power in ‘the West’.

Asia’s contemporary economic ascendance allows people, goods, innovation and finance to flow relatively freely across Eurasia again. But the re-emergence of the supercontinent is not frictionless. New integrative geo-economic forces bring with them new political tensions.

As history repeats and Eurasia coheres, the outlines of a new world order will be defined by who manages it and how it is managed. It is in this supercontinent that the future of democracy, of free markets and global security arrangements will be decided. And there are three key factors influencing this.

The first, to borrow a phrase from Robert Kaplan, is the revenge of geography. As much as Eurasian integration is organic, its current ‘avatar’ is decidedly Chinese. Having assessed that the divide between Europe and Asia was an artificial, modern and ‘Western’ construct, China is doing what no other power had the appetite for: conceive of, define and then manage Eurasia.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Beijing’s choice of instrument, is creating sprawling networks of connectivity projects – each designed to embed dependency on China’s economy into this geography. Simultaneously, BRI dilutes the importance of the landmass’s sub-regions, thereby upsetting settled balance of power arrangements.

India and the European Union (EU), for example, are struggling to curb China’s creeping influence on their sub-regional political, economic and security conversations.

A “free and open” Indo-Pacific vision, and nascent coalitions like the Quadrilateral initiative seek to balance China’s rise on the maritime front. The oceans, however, are but one of China’s platforms – and a purely maritime response is inadequate.

China is relentless in pursuing this project: building infrastructure, facilitating trade, and creating alternative global institutions. Surreptitiously, China also exports its political model: “capitalism with Chinese characteristics” – a unique blend of state capitalism and authoritarianism. Unless liberal democracies propose an alternative in Eurasia that effectively addresses the infrastructure needs of countries in Asia and Africa, China’s proposition will succeed.

Here lies the second factor: the revenge of democracy. Whether it is the US, EU or India, democracies are more polarised than ever before. The Pew Global Attitude Survey consistently records that trust in democratic governments is at an all-time low. More than ever it appears that liberal democracies are bogged down by domestic crises, leaving them little energy for strategic planning. At a juncture when China’s timelines are decadal, democracies are struggling to look past their next election.

And the final factor, demography, is a double-edged sword for the entire region – especially for China. For many Eurasian countries, BRI’s economic benefits are obvious. However, in an era when nationalism is the defining mood of politics, China’s presence can be unwelcome.

China’s labour exports create tensions with younger host country populations who must now compete for employment opportunities. There is the risk that BRI will merely create infrastructure networks for extreme and radicalised organisations in unstable countries.

At home, demographic pressures might force Beijing to reconsider its ability to deliver. As younger Chinese move up the income ladder, their expectations from their government will increase. Simultaneously, the preponderance of single young men in urban regions and ageing rural populations makes Chinese society susceptible to violence and unrest. What will these demographic pressures portend for the project of Eurasian integration? Will the Chinese state have the political capital to recklessly buy influence across the world? Will demographic complexities allow others to cobble together a viable counter to the Beijing consensus?

Sitting in New Delhi, it cannot be more obvious that India’s development and security is inextricably tied to Eurasia. India sits at the crossroads of continental Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific – the two regions that will define this century.

The US has expended blood and treasure over the past nine decades to maintain its privileged position in these two regions. Russia, the original Eurasian superpower, is reduced to a glorified policeman, or more charitably, a crafty risk management consultant for Chinese expansionism. And EU can either choose to be an actor or be acted upon, one slice at a time.

It is critical that all of them, and more particularly India and the US, imagine an arrangement beyond the Indo-Pacific, into the heart of Eurasia. China’s continental-sized poser requires a supercontinental answer. It is for the liberal world to stand up and be counted, or step aside and let Pax Sinica unfold.


This commentary originally appeared in The Times of India.

Eurasia: Larger than Indo-Pacific – Liberal world must stand up and be counted, or step aside and watch Pax Sinica unfold

Original article 

“Indo-Pacific” is in the news. The US has renamed its Pacific Command to the Indo-Pacific Command, the shared regional vision outlined by India and Indonesia has emphasised its centrality, and the region’s political importance to India was at the core of the expansive foreign policy speech delivered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Singapore. All of these are a response to the spectacular rise of China. If this points to a future concert of powers in the region to balance Beijing’s power play, it will be an important yet insufficient measure in reaction to the Chinese project that connects Asia and Europe.

Covering 35% of the earth’s surface, Eurasia is home to five billion people living in over 90 different countries and producing nearly 70% of global GDP. For millennia conquest, trade and migration have organically bound Asia and Europe – the ebb and flow of great civilisations across this vast landmass spawned myriad political and economic dynamics of global history.

Only in the recent past, in historical terms, have these been interrupted. The Industrial Revolution in Europe and the subsequent colonisation of Asia and Africa created an artificial divide, concentrating on economic and military power in ‘the West’.

Asia’s contemporary economic ascendance allows people, goods, innovation and finance to flow relatively freely across Eurasia again. But the re-emergence of the supercontinent is not frictionless. New integrative geo-economic forces bring with them new political tensions.

As history repeats and Eurasia coheres, the outlines of a new world order will be defined by who manages it and how it is managed. It is in this supercontinent that the future of democracy, of free markets and global security arrangements, will be decided. And there are three key factors influencing this.

The first, to borrow a phrase from Robert Kaplan, is the revenge of geography. As much as Eurasian integration is organic, its current ‘avatar’ is decidedly Chinese. Having assessed that the divide between Europe and Asia was an artificial, modern and ‘Western’ construct, China is doing what no other power had the appetite for: conceive of, define and then manage Eurasia.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Beijing’s choice of instrument, is creating sprawling networks of connectivity projects – each designed to embed dependency on China’s economy into this geography. Simultaneously, BRI dilutes the importance of the landmass’s sub-regions, thereby upsetting the settled balance of power arrangements.

India and the European Union (EU), for example, are struggling to curb China’s creeping influence on their sub-regional political, economic and security conversations. A “free and open” Indo-Pacific vision, and nascent coalitions like the Quadrilateral initiative seek to balance China’s rise on the maritime front. The oceans, however, are but one of China’s platforms – and a purely maritime response is inadequate.

China is relentless in pursuing this project: building infrastructure, facilitating trade, and creating alternative global institutions. Surreptitiously, China also exports its political model: “capitalism with Chinese characteristics” – a unique blend of state capitalism and authoritarianism. Unless liberal democracies propose an alternative in Eurasia that effectively addresses the infrastructure needs of countries in Asia and Africa, China’s proposition will succeed.

Here lies the second factor: the revenge of democracy. Whether it is the US, EU or India, democracies are more polarised than ever before. The Pew Global Attitude Survey consistently records that trust in democratic governments is at an all-time low. More than ever it appears that liberal democracies are bogged down by domestic crises, leaving them little energy for strategic planning. At a juncture when China’s timelines are decadal, democracies are struggling to look past their next election.

And the final factor, demography, is a double-edged sword for the entire region –, especially for China. For many Eurasian countries, BRI’s economic benefits are obvious. However, in an era when nationalism is the defining mood of politics, China’s presence can be unwelcome. China’s labour exports create tensions with younger host country populations who must now compete for employment opportunities. There is the risk that BRI will merely create infrastructure networks for extreme and radicalised organisations in unstable countries.

At home, demographic pressures might force Beijing to reconsider its ability to deliver. As younger Chinese move up the income ladder, their expectations from their government will increase. Simultaneously, the preponderance of single young men in urban regions and ageing rural populations makes Chinese society susceptible to violence and unrest. What will these demographic pressures portend for the project of Eurasian integration? Will the Chinese state have the political capital to recklessly buy influence across the world? Will demographic complexities allow others to cobble together a viable counter to the Beijing consensus?

Sitting in New Delhi, it cannot be more obvious that India’s development and security is inextricably tied to Eurasia. India sits at the crossroads of continental Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific – the two regions that will define this century. The US has expended blood and treasure over the past nine decades to maintain its privileged position in these two regions. Russia, the original Eurasian superpower, is reduced to a glorified policeman, or more charitably, a crafty risk management consultant for Chinese expansionism. And EU can either choose to be an actor or be acted upon, one slice at a time.

It is critical that all of them, and more particularly India and the US, imagine an arrangement beyond the Indo-Pacific, into the heart of Eurasia. China’s continental-sized poser requires a supercontinental answer. It is for the liberal world to stand up and be counted, or step aside and let Pax Sinica unfold.

Author: Samir Saran, President of Observer Research Foundation.