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No matter how chaotic the world  today might look, the liberal  world order is the only way forward

The recent meeting between US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Indonesia underscored the importance of the liberal international order. Both countries made a firm commitment to work together on a range of issues and emphasized the healthy spirit of competition. This development, apart from concurrent events, do indicate that although the liberal order appeared to be showing signs of fatigue, earlier this year, it has found relevance once again.

In February this year, when the world was slowly emerging from the horrors of Coronavirus and its ensuing global economic disruptions, the international community found itself grappling with a monumental challenge. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with tacit support from China reignited a recurrent theme in the international relations discourse. And how can one forget China’s spectacular failure and futile attempt to bully Taiwan after Nancy Pelosi’s visit which raised global alarms.

Then Xi Jinping’s self-awarded third term as President added to the woes. In the G20 summit, China highlighted a range of issues, but stressed that Taiwan is the very bedrock of the bi-lateral ties between the US and China. America will take cognizance of China’s views but it will align its interest with other allies.

Proponents of the liberal order who frequently emphasise that the international regime is rule based found themselves in a quandary. With Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine, a euphemism for war, raised questions about the validity of the liberal order. Its theoretical underpinning was weakening.

Russia may have ratcheted up tensions but its ability to do so for a prolonged period always had constraints. The Russian withdrawal from Kherson has been humiliating for Moscow. With Ukraine regaining lost territory, systematic weaknesses in Russia’s purportedly expansive military apparatus have come to light.  Veiled threats of a ‘nuclear option’ are cowardly. 

Both the US and China understand this position but the latter has not mentioned it explicitly in the joint statement issued in Bali. The perils of such a scenario are clearly catastrophic but the aftermath will be debilitating and hasten Russia’s global isolation further.

The world has changed considerably since the height of the Cold War, where we lived in a bi-polar world. The economic interdependence between countries is substantial and there is clearly a limit to the unabated abuse of power by Russia other nations can tolerate. The drone strikes on civilian areas, the destruction of energy infrastructure all point to an incoherent approach Russia adopted which seems to be crumbling now. With winter approaching Russia’s military personnel will begin to feel the added pressure of a prolonged invasion. The domestic support for the war is waning.

America is clearly the shining light in a world beset by war and conflict. Beijing seems determined to question the world order. What it clearly lacks is legitimacy. Its internal working apparatus is opaque and human rights violations in Tibet, Hong Kong and Xinjiang are rampant. The issue of human rights was emphasized by the US in the G20. A country with blatant disregard to the democratic ideals the world cherishes cannot fulfil the role of a true power. The image Beijing portrays is one of fear and tyranny; not respect and responsibility.

When Russia launched devastating strikes, the realists, who argued that nation states are in constant struggle with each other to defend their own economic interests, found themselves in a comfortable position to spearhead their arguments. They felt emboldened. Many nations found themselves in a veritable dilemma. Who should they side with? Should economic interest like energy, which Russia produces in colossal amounts, take the backseat?

There is also no need for India to choose sides. We have our own independent foreign policy which is tailored to the needs and aspirations of a burgeoning economy. But will the prominence of Russia fade in India’s calibrated decisions? It does seem plausible.

For now, it is safe to assume that the recent overreactions to global events in no-way undermine the legitimacy of the liberal order. But if history is an indicator, international relations have always been fraught with surprises. They have always been chequered. The lingering debate between those who espouse a liberal order and the ones who call the international environment anarchic seems to be favouring the former; at least for now.

(The writer is a socio-economic commentator)

Source- The pioneer

Published by- Ishaan Saxena

Publish date- Wednesday, 16 November 2022