India’s dilemmas in an Asian century

Source– The post is based on the article “India’s dilemmas in an Asian century” published in The Hindu on 2nd January 2023.

Syllabus: GS2- International relations

Relevance– Emerging global order and Implications for India.

News– The article explains the emergence of the Asian century and its implications for stability of global order. It also explains the dilemmas presented by emerging global order before Indian foreign policy establishment

What are important geopolitical developments taking place across Asia?

Emergence of the Asian century appears to be a certainty.

The geopolitical and economic rise of Asia coincides with several regional and global developments. These have potential to undermine the stability and prosperity India had hoped an Asian century would bring.

The withdrawal of the U.S. from much of continental Asia, aggressive rise of China and the Ukraine war appear to have ended the coexistence of Asia.

Today, Russia and China are trying to undermine the global balance of power. Several regional powers such as Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are in tow.

What will be the shape of the Asian century and its impacts on the stability of global order?

There can be no meaningful Asian century in a unipolar world. One Alternative to a unipolar world is a multipolar world with Russia, China, Japan, India and other smaller powers asserting themselves on the global stage. The other alternative is a China-dominated Asia.

It is clear that a China-dominated Asia won’t serve India’s geopolitical interests. A multipolar world with new and shifting alliances; and competing coalitions for dominance will take away the relative ‘stability’ of the current world order.

What is the Indian version of multipolarity?

For India, multipolarity is premised on the rule of law or peaceful coexistence. India values respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, resolution of international disputes through peaceful negotiations, and free and open access for all to the global commons.

What can be the implication of multipolar South Asia for global financial order?

It would lead to sharpening of opposition against the current global financial order.

The weaponization of  trade, sanctions against Russia will pose serious challenges to dollar-based trade and Western payment systems such as SWIFT.

The Ukraine war has led to a serious search in parts of Asia for alternative trading arrangements and payment mechanisms.

What is the dilemma created by multipolar Asia before Indian foreign policy establishment?

New Delhi has consistently campaigned for a multipolar world where key Asian powers have a major role in international politics. Yet it may hesitate to engage the emergent Asian century for various reasons.

The Indian establishment has a deeply status quoist view of the world order. It believes in a more democratic, orderly and rules-based world order. But, it recognises that major systemic changes could create chaos. Therefore, India likes peaceful and consensual transformation of the system. It is not happening today.

New Delhi’s biggest fear would be an Asian century without stable multipolarity. Even if it emerges, a multipolar world is most likely to be soon replaced by a bipolar world dominated by the U.S. and China. It would be a bad deal. In such a scenario, India will often be targeted by China.

If a bipolar world leads to great power accommodation between the U.S. and China, India’s situation could be worse off. It means the U.S. accepting China’s sphere of influence.

The Asian century dominated by China may lead to post-Indian South Asia that is under the Chinese sphere of influence, though not entirely inimical to Indian interests.

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