Asia Finds Voice in a Multipolar World

By N. Gunasekaran

Global domination by the US was coming to an end as George Bush handed the reins to Barack Obama. The world was subjected to the US domination after the end of the Cold War, following the fall of the Soviet Union.

“Global Trends 2025: A World Transformed” was a study by the US government’s National Intelligence Council (NIC). The report, which is available at, predicts the emergence of a multipolar world, in which new players — Brazil, Russia, India and China — assume superpower status. While forecasting the decreased clout of the European Union and Japan, the NIC report identifies three other Asian nations as up-and-coming powers: Indonesia, Iran and Turkey. These countries with major Muslim populations will contribute further to the shifting of the global balance of power towards the East.

This change in global polarity is mainly connected with economies. China’s military will increase as it becomes the world’s second-largest economy. The US and Europe, affected by the current global crisis, may find it difficult to maintain 3% growth rate. In spite of the negative impact of the crisis, China and India may retain 8% and Russia and Brazil would also do well. The Gross Domestic Product of the developing countries has now reached 48% of global GDP, up from 38% in 1990. It may surpass the GDP of developed countries in the next decade.

NIC predicts the transfer of wealth from West to East. It must be recalled that the passage of wealth from East to West in the past was done through brutal colonial exploitation. NIC fails to address the question whether such transfer benefits the working people living in the Eastern countries. If the fallout of the transfer is “trickle down” improvements, then the emerging multipolarity would again benefit the global multinational corporate powers.

While predicting India’s impressive economic growth, the report said that India is expected to follow the course of developing close ties with the US, “apparently as a hedge against any development of hostile ties with China.” The authors of the report seemed to be endorsing the policy of the Bush administration that sought strategic cooperation with India to “contain” China.

Indian elites have favored the US as a strategic partner. Now, relying on the diminished American power in strategic areas is not only least prudent for India but it also is harmful for the Asian region. While maintaining bilateral relations with the US, India has to concentrate on creating new partnerships to tackle the basic problems of survival, security and prosperity of the region. And, with their increased economic resources, the emerging economies, including India, have to take on the problems of poverty and the growing deterioration in the lives of the poor due to neoliberal policies that unleased market forces, causing the pauperization of the peasantry and the destruction of local industry. Since China and India would be the new players with “increasing weight” in the global economy, improved political and economic relations between India and China would be beneficial to the vast populations living in these two countries.

However, US engagement in the affairs of South Asia and the Middle East is expected to last into the coming decade. Consequently, tensions would persist in this region. Geopolitically, Pakistan is important for the US to deal with the internal affairs of Afghanistan. Terrorists trained on the soil of Pakistan have carried out many terrorist attacks inside India, including the gruesome Mumbai attack. That has renewed tensions between India and Pakistan. Such developments in South Asia and the persisting involvement of the US in the region would be detrimental to the evolution of fruitful multipolarity. Also, the US has 761 active military “sites” around the world, according to the Pentagon. Existence of such a military force obstructs the process of evolving a representative and effective global system.

As popularly understood, a multipolar world features the emergence of many alliances of nations as power centers. It is a progressive response to the US-led unipolar world. But developing a situation where many power centers are competing for world domination is unwarranted. Regional unity of nations to safeguard peace and prosperity of their people is a worthwhile multipolar goal, which will pave the way for the realization of the larger goal of equality of nations.

Many commentators detest the idea of multipolar world. NIC predicted that multipolar systems would be more unstable than bipolar or unipolar ones, citing the “19th Century-like scenario of arms race, territorial expansion and military rivalries.” If the systems, unilateral or multipolar, are committed to the protection of the interests of the wealthy elites, who are driven by profit motives and indulging in corporate plunder, there certainly would be chaos and wars. The new system of multipolarity must ensure that global working people rule instead of the corporate hegemony.

NIC vaguely predicted the emergence of new “rules of the game.” Truly, the old institutions are unable to deal with the new challenges. The current financial convulsions prove that the policy prescriptions given by the International Monetary Fund were disastrous. International institutions, including WTO and the UN, have to be restructured radically so that all countries have a greater say. Instead of acting as the agents of big powers, they have to undertake the tasks of fulfilling the needs of common people across the world.

The Asian multilateral groupings like the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum, the Asian Regional Forum, ASEAN Plus Three (China, Japan, and South Korea), the East Asia Summit and other groups existing in Latin America and other parts of the world have to be strengthened to evolve a meaningful multipolar system. All these groupings have to strive for creating a new world based on social justice and equality. Only the assertive power of the united, organized working people can achieve such a global system.

N. Gunasekaran is a political activist and writer based in Chennai, India.

From The Progressive Populist, Feb. 15, 2009

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