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The roots of a decentred international order


  • The primary geopolitical rivals – Russia and China may possibly provide the strategic and tactical counterbalance to the hegemony of America. The international order is under threat of the rising economic power of the BRICS nations, with China dominating in its economic and military capacity.
  • It is apparent that the future of global politics requires a significant programmatic agenda in the hands of the rising powers that are aggressively building a parallel economic order envisaging new centres of hegemonic power.


GS-II: International Relations (India’s Neighbours, Foreign Policies affecting India’s Interests)

Mains Questions:

In the post-pandemic period, developing economies should rise to meet the U.S.-led world order. Explain. Analyse the statement in the context of India US relations. (15 marks)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Present trends: Rising powers and an agenda
  2. Dents to American supremacy
  3. India US relations
  4. Irritants in India-US Relationship:
  5. Direction by China
  6. Conclusion

Present trends: Rising powers and an agenda

  • From the Renaissance period onwards, 14th-15th century Europe began its hegemonic ambitions through trade and commerce, taking almost 500 years to colonise and influence nations across the world.
  • The tectonic shifts in the postcolonial era saw the interrogation of Eurocentrism and its biased accounts of the East.
  • A meeting of Asian and African states – Bandung Conference of 1955 set the schema for the rise of Asia, politically and economically.
  • The confrontational stance was therefore the expected corollary in third world struggles to create a parallel order.

Dents to American supremacy

  • America will continue to play a prime role in international affairs though its image representing universal brotherhood has sharply declined under the Trump regime, particularly his foreign policy of threatening to withdraw from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and withdrawing from the Paris Agreement on climate change.
  • Other threats such as terrorism, ethnic conflicts and the warning of annihilation owing to climate change necessarily demand joint international action where American “exceptionalism” becomes an incongruity and an aberration.
  • The world is, as a result, witness to a more decentred and pluralistic global order, a rather compelling vision of the empowerment of liberal forces standing up for an international order incentivised by long-term structural shifts in the global economy, indicating the evolving nature of power and status in international politics.

India US relations

  • Economic relations: The United States seeks an expanded trade relationship that is reciprocal and fair. A burgeoning trade relation can be witnessed through:
    • Energy exports: In 2018 India purchased 48.2 million barrels of U.S. crude oil, a significant increase from 9.6 million in 2017.
    • Service exchange: In immigration, Indians continue to dominate the high-skilled visa category, at times making up over 70 percent of H1-B visa holders.
  • International Cooperation: India and the US cooperate closely at multilateral organizations, including the United Nations, G-20, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization.
  • Strategic Convergences: Balancing China’s rise in the international system, and more particularly in the Indo-Pacific region, is a clear strategic convergence between India and the United States. 
    • India and the U.S. seem determined to counter China’s maritime expansion, which is seen as a threat to their trade routes in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
    • Co-operation at Forums like QUAD (India, the United States, Japan and Australia), to secure the IndoPacific and countering Chinese accession in Asian geo politics.
  • Recognition of Indo-Pacific Realm: The term “Indo-Pacific region” has now replaced the term “Asia Pacific region” in the American diplomatic lexicon. 
    • The Trump administration has consistently described India as one of its major allies in the Indo Pacific region.
    • It renamed the former U.S. Pacific Command as Indo-Pacific Command, emphasizing the strategic linkage between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. 

Irritants in India-US Relationship:

  • India-Russia Relations: India’s decision to buy the Russian made S-400 Triumph missile defence system despite threats of American sanctions through the Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) is a case, where Washington’s priorities clash with India’s interests.
  • The US wants India to move away from Russian equipment and platforms, as it feels this may expose its technology and information to Moscow. 
  • India is wary of Pakistan’s deep-rooted ties with Pentagon, and Washington’s dependence on Rawalpindi for access to Afghanistan as well as its exit strategy.
  • Trade ties: Trade ties are also a source of tensions. India has been a huge beneficiary of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program of USA, which has been ended recently by the Trump administration.

Direction by China

  • The current raging novel coronavirus pandemic has retarded economic development and sent many economies such as Brazil, India, Turkey and South Africa into a downward spiral. However, with China spearheading Asian regionalism, a serious challenge is possible but there is deep scepticism about China’s self-enhancing economic and military greed reflecting its personal economic rise.
  • China must strengthen the opposition to the West through the promotion of regional multilateral institutions. Its self-centred promotion of building its own stature through the recent concentration on principle of the Belt and Road Initiative and the Silk Road project has provoked an understandable clash with India and Japan.
  • More than having individual partners or allies, China must embrace and give a push to multilateral affiliations in order to not further exacerbate regional tensions.

Shifting tides of Power

  • Regional military activity can be seen in Russia’s assertion of power in Georgia and Ukraine, Turkey in the east of the Mediterranean, India’s disputes with Pakistan and China’s infiltration into India as well as its rivalry within its periphery. History is a witness to nations beginning to flex their muscles once economic rise is assured and recognised across the world.
  • China and India clearly have the age-old potential to lead as, historically, they have been pioneers of some of the oldest civilisations in the world.
  • Economically China must spearhead the challenge to the established western world that has ingrained its superiority in the consciousness of the developing world for centuries. The fragmentation of global governance consequently can no longer be handled solely by America.
  • Thus, a more nuanced understanding of power in the circumstance of the declining authority of the West has to be arrived at especially when China is still far from approaching U.S. power in just about any area, particularly in its economic or military strengths.
  • However, China’s growing power has compelled the current U.S. Secretary of State to encourage NATO members to join the U.S. in viewing China as an economic and security threat.
  • Thus, a kind of dualism persists in the world order with no clear hegemony that can be bestowed on one single nation.
  • Global power gradually extends across a wider range of countries, restoring contestation necessary for the smooth working of a balanced world order, thereby allowing multiple narratives to co-exist on the international level.
  • This has implications for the functioning of a civilisation that is not controlled by the indomitable will of one.


  • The emphasis, therefore, would be a move towards restructuring and advancement, as well as adopting an oppositional posture as a robust replacement of subservience to western hegemony.
  • The challenges of the 21st century can be met head on through mutual sharing of knowledge and more ground-breaking inclusive treaties.
  • It is feared that there could be a possibility of a multipolar world turning disordered and unstable, but it is up to the rising nations to attempt to overcome territorial aspirations and strike a forceful note of faith on cultural mediation, worldwide legitimacy, and the appeal of each society in terms of its democratic values.

-Source: The Hindu

February 2024