After the bomb: The changing face of the world order 75 years on

World War II finally ended, in Asia, 75 years ago this month. After the death and destruction of two world wars in the first half of the 20th century, it was hoped a third might be avoided.

This analysis briefly examines three points, each with its origins in WWII, as a measure of a changing world order: gridlock in the UN; evolving great power competition; and nuclear weapons proliferation.

The institutional foundations put in place to prevent such a calamity from reoccurring are being choked and eroded by great power rivalries. The horrific final strategic act of the war – the use of nuclear weapons – continues to cast a mushroom cloud shadow over the future.

Today, the resulting strategic situation is, arguably, more dangerous than at any time since 1945. The international order is changing and, just as in August 1945, Asia is at the centre.

The institutional pillars that support the world order as we know it today are a construct of the final years of World War II. Ostensibly as a mechanism for looking after humanity and arbitrating international disputes from trade to international security, their purpose was to avoid another world war.

The foremost of these is the United Nations (UN). Other institutions set up to facilitate a more peaceful world after 1945 include the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

The most important appendage of the UN is the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The former Allies – the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and China – hold sway as the permanent five (P5) members. Each has, and willingly uses, veto powers over any resolution before the council.

Today, the UNSC is largely paralysed. Competition and disagreement between the permanent members are severely compromising its efficacy. Russia and China have frequently played their veto cards, most recently over Syria, to vex the US.

In a further challenge to the post-1945 institutions, other multilateral fora have been established by Russia and China that exclude other P5 members.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation was founded in 2001. A Eurasian institution spearheaded by Moscow and Beijing, its official languages are Russian and Chinese.

China’s growing confidence on the international stage has led the development of a new group of competing institutions and arrangements such as its Belt and Road Initiative, and the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). President Xi proclaimed the AIIB represented a new multilateralism. And yet, as tensions mount between them, the US is not a member.

And just as the United States has imposed tariffs and sanctions against China and Russia, it’s little surprise that they’ve pushed back with veto activity in the UNSC.

A further sign is the degree to which the World Health Organisation (WHO) has become a geopolitical pawn since the emergence of COVID-19. President Trump is adamant the United States will now withdraw from the UN body over what he claims to be Chinese interference. Needless to say, this hasn’t helped relations with Beijing.

Trump’s erratic behaviour fuels speculation that the US is stepping away from its willingness to lead the world through times of trouble, as it has done for the past seven decades.

If this is true, it’s another signal that the post-1945 order may be changing more rapidly than many people might think.

Behind the moves to recast the contemporary world order is a complex web of great power rivalries. Principally, these are between the US, China and Russia, but also, to a lesser degree, India. It’s the US-China feud that’s the most acute, but the situation is complicated because there are other states demanding a seat at the big table.

For some time, Russia has been agitating to regain its place as a great power – as its calculated moves against Georgia, Ukraine and, most recently, in Syria reveal. This comes as no surpise. Its resurgence was presaged by a statement made by Vladimir Putin in 2005, nostalgic to restore Russia to its former Soviet might. Since then, Russia has consistently acted out of self-interest on the world stage to position itself as a great power.

However, it’s the rise of China that has signalled the greatest fundamental shift in the post-1945 order – certainly since the collapse of the Soviet bloc that ended the Cold War.

Arguably, China represents a far more potent challenger to the US than the Soviet Union did. More recently, with the arrival of President Xi Xinping in 2013, China has taken a more assertive foreign policy line, as evidenced in its territorial claims in the South China Sea.

China and India, as we’ve recently seen, remain locked in tensions that have their origins in their own 1962 war. These issues continue to simmer as both seek to reaffirm their international reputations as world powers.

They continue to regard each other warily, with India developing its strategic capabilities to deny Chinese meddling in Delhi’s sphere of influence. India’s development of relations with the US since 2005 is further evidence that the allegiances and alignments of world power are shifting.

The 21st century is evolving as a strategically dangerous one, with Asia as the focal point. It’s the region where great power aspirations are colliding with the norms of a global order forged in the devastation of two world wars in a different century.

With this shift, the primacy of the still-formidable power of the US is no longer a given. The security umbrella it’s long provided its allies is being questioned across the world. America’s unipolar moment has passed, and the relative power gap between it and its competitors is closing.

Then there’s the special case of North Korea. By none of the typical measures is the “Hermit Kingdom” a great power, but it is unambiguously a nuclear weapon state. This gives it a chilling currency, a fact clearly revealed during its 2017 missile testing, and its willingness to engage in a serious game of nuclear brinkmanship with the US. Its unpredictability makes it a unique threat to the calculus of international relations.

As a result of this international competition, the 21st century is evolving as a strategically dangerous one, with Asia as the focal point. It’s the region where great power aspirations are colliding with the norms of a global order forged in the devastation of two world wars in a different century.

All of these power complexes reverberate against and through each other. In the Cold War, the great power rivalry was bipolar; today, power competition is multipolar. With more states pursuing their own agendas, it will be far more difficult for any one state to exert a controlling influence.

The crucial determinant in this global balance of power equation is the dynamic between Washington and Beijing. How this plays out will shape the other power relationships. The winner of the US election on November 3, Trump or Biden, will have a significant impact on how the next phase of this rivalry unfolds.

Ominously, the most existentially dangerous element inherent in the 21st century world order, one that has its origins in the late 1930s and has since been a great power staple, is the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

In recent decades, it’s been Asian states that have been racing to develop their nuclear weapons capabilities. China, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel all have their bombs. Iran and possibly Saudi Arabia want one, too.

This highlights the urgency of the situation. It should not be forgotten that the US and Russia are also players in Asia’s game of nuclear chess. All of these states are modernising their nuclear capabilities, and they appear to have no interest in discussing, much less developing, any sort of arms control framework.

Two principal factors are driving this. One is national security and the perceived need of a nuclear deterrent to ward off potential, or more powerful, aggressors. A second is prestige – the notion that developing a nuclear weapons capability signals a mastery of complex engineering, thus placing less powerful states on a more equal footing with the great powers.

Pakistan and North Korea, in particular, fit these criteria, just as India did in 1964 when it undertook to develop its own bomb in response to China’s first nuclear test.

Close-up picture of nuclear missiles

Disturbingly, a recent publication by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute warns that the nuclear weapons situation is only going to deteriorate. This is supported by the 2020 Federation of Atomic Scientists analysis that argues that the world “Doomsday Clock” is at a mere 100 seconds to midnight.

As the bomb is remembered for its macabre 75th birthday, it’s all the more important to seriously think about not only the human consequences, but the political and military implications, of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings in August 1945.

History shows that world orders have expiry dates. The post-1945 world order, ushered in 75 years ago this month, is in its late autumn. Its institutions are stagnating and struggling to maintain relevance as attempts to replace them are afoot. Great power rivalries are intensifying as the number of nuclear weapons states slowly grows, all of them striving to improve their strategic capabilities.

These are but a few signals of the many complicated drivers indicating that shifts are well underway to a new world order.

The passing world order was born under a mushroom cloud. By examining the lessons of the past and not becoming complacent, it just might be possible that the new one will have a more peaceful emergence.

This article was first published on Monash Lens. Read the original article

US election: Kamala Harris’ selection is both historic and smart

After months of speculation, Joe Biden last week announced that Kamala Harris will be his vice-presidential running mate to tackle the Trump-Pence ticket in November.

Once a favourite to win the Democratic nomination in her own right, Harris rose to national prominence after the first debate of the primary, where she delivered a scathing rebuke of Biden’s position on school bussing early in his Senate tenure. Yet, in a crowded field, Harris failed to stand out.

With Biden dominating the moderate lane, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar emerged to seize any remaining oxygen in this wing of the party. To the left, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren jockeyed for ascendancy among liberals.

With competition from all sides, Harris failed to gain traction, and her once-promising campaign fizzled out in December.

But withdrawing from a presidential contest early has one major upside – Harris didn’t compete with Biden for votes once balloting began in the Democratic primary, meaning she could endorse his candidacy as it gained momentum.

By consequence, Harris has long been the favourite to accompany Biden on the presidential ballot, not least after Biden’s commitment to select a female running mate at the final debate of the primary season.

And selected she was.

Picking a favourite may not, in some ways, seem notable, yet Biden’s choice is historic in several ways. Harris is the first African-American woman and the first Indian-American to be on a major party ticket.

Importantly, she’s the third woman to be a vice-presidential nominee, but the first with a realistic chance to ascend to the office in January.

Kamala Harris and Joe Biden

Neither Geraldine Ferraro in 1984 nor Sarah Palin in 2008 were ever likely to win the vice-presidency. It may sound cynical, but the selections of Ferraro and Palin (perhaps the latter to a greater extent) were designed as “Hail Mary” plays – desperate efforts to swing a flailing campaign’s fortunes.

In 1984, Walter Mondale was certain to be a distant runner-up to incumbent President Ronald Reagan even before his choice of Ferraro as his running mate. According to Gallup polling, Mondale’s candidacy leapt five points (from 38% to 43%) after he selected Ferraro, yet the Reagan juggernaut rolled to victory in November, winning 49 of 50 states.

Twenty-four years later, Barack Obama seemed destined for the Oval Office after defeating Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary. With the unpopular incumbent George W. Bush a liability to John McCain’s campaign, tapping Palin – the untested and largely unknown Governor of Alaska – for VP was a desperate move to slow Obama’s momentum. Despite McCain leading a few polls in early September, Obama cruised to strong victory.

Although there were likely elements of tokenism in both choices, each broke ground in their respective parties, paving the way for female candidates of the future. Indeed, prior to the Mondale-Ferraro ticket in 1984, the extent of demographic considerations was whether the US electorate could stomach their white male nominee being Catholic.

Today’s Democratic Party, which prides itself on racial diversity and the championing of women, has selected the most diverse major-party ticket in US history – a Catholic paired with a woman of colour.

Beyond the personalities, the Biden-Harris ticket is well-positioned for victory in November. Although far from a certainty, incumbent President Donald Trump’s low popularity and “handling” of the COVID-19 pandemic boosts Democratic hopes of reclaiming the White House. At present, statisticians are forecasting Trump to be the first incumbent president to lose re-election since 1992 (see fivethirtyeight, The Economist and Electoral Polls).

Consequently, Harris has a good chance to become the first woman to join the long list of men that have served as either president (44 men) or vice-president (48 men).

Many have considered that Biden was merely “pandering” to female voters when he pledged to “pick a woman to be vice-president”. This opinion certainly has validity, as the commitment could easily be considered an out-of-touch faux-benevolent grand gesture.

At the very least, however, Biden’s decision to campaign with a female running mate shows an awareness of his party’s supporters. Voting trends at presidential elections, according to exit surveys, highlight the majority support for Democrats among female voters. Per the Roper Center, Hillary Clinton won the female vote over Donald Trump 54-41 in 2016. Even more dominant numbers for Democratic nominees can be found when considering the votes of racial minorities.

Beyond the optics of Biden’s VP selection process, without doubt a vast number of viable choices could be considered. Seventeen Democratic women sit in the US Senate, 88 in the House of Representatives, and six hold governorships – this is not to mention previous officeholders, mayors and cabinet officials.

Looking at the Senate, where Harris currently serves, 11 of the 20 most prolific lawmakers in 2019 were Democratic women (judged by the number of bills they cosponsored) – among their number, Harris. Interestingly, the bottom 32 senators in this category were Republican – 31 of them male. With Harris (eighth) in the top 10, were Amy Klobuchar (second), Elizabeth Warren (third) and Kirsten Gillibrand (ninth), each of whom also competed for the Democratic nomination in 2020.

Harris is a career public servant. Before entering the Senate, she served as district attorney of San Francisco for seven years, before twice winning election as attorney general of California.

In 2016, she was elected to the Senate, where she’s proven to be among the most effective legislators in the chamber, known for her prosecutorial style during Senate hearings, and for championing a progressive agenda.

Some on the left of the Democratic Party may be disappointed that Harris, rather than a liberal firebrand of the Elizabeth Warren ilk, has joined the devoutly moderate Biden on the Democratic ticket. It would then surprise many that Harris was ranked the most liberal senator of the 2019 calendar year (by legislative behaviour), ahead of Bernie Sanders (second-most liberal) and Warren (26th).

Kamala Harris has all the requisite qualifications of a vice-presidential – or, indeed, a presidential – nominee, while her short but effective time in Washington should balance any criticism of spending either “too much” or “not enough” time in Congress.

Her tenure in elected office exceeds that of Obama before he entered the White House (two-thirds of a Senate term apiece, while Harris served 13 years as an elected official in California, compared with Obama’s eight in Illinois).

Perhaps an element of tokenism remains in Harris’ selection. But regardless of her gender, regardless of her race, she’s a strong choice for vice-president.

Harris, at 55, though not young, represents a new generation in Washington – one promised by the energetic candidacy of Barack Obama a dozen years ago. Her relative youth balances out Biden who, if elected, would take office at age 78, and would be the oldest president in US history. Indeed, Biden is older than all living former presidents, bar 95-year-old Jimmy Carter.

Balancing an older president with a younger running mate is an age-old tactic. Examples include Theodore Roosevelt, 15 years the junior of William McKinley; Richard Nixon, 22 years younger than Dwight Eisenhower; and Dan Quayle, also 22 years younger than the first George Bush.

Fair or not, however, there’s likely greater pressure for Harris – or any female VP nominee – to perform than a male counterpart. Indeed, where Geraldine Ferraro campaigned adeptly in 1984 in defeat, the inept Dan Quayle survived an embarrassing debate performance to win the vice-presidency four years later.

Gender in politics consists of many double binds. All at once, a female leader is expected to demonstrate typically masculine characteristics to display a classic leadership style while not shirking her femininity and, in all likelihood, she will be criticised regardless. Four years ago, Hillary Clinton was the object of countless sexist attacks in her pursuit of the White House.

Harris is already facing similar rebukes. Before her selection as the Democratic VP nominee, critics labelled her “too ambitious” – an attack line that, if attached to one politician, surely must be affixed to them all.

All at once, a female leader is expected to demonstrate typically masculine characteristics to display a classic leadership style while not shirking her femininity and, in all likelihood, she will be criticised regardless.

This kind of chastisement, however, is highly gendered, with ambition deemed a positive attribute for a man, but negative for a woman. Ambition, however, is a necessity for any candidate seeking elected office, but even more so for those seeking to break through societal barriers such as race and gender.

It’s also worth remembering the sheer ambition, blatantly visible, of presidents Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton (to name just the most visible examples) in their pursuit of office that went uncriticised.

With a view to November, Harris is certain to face gendered scorn from pundits and voters. Yet thanks to trailblazers such as Ferraro and Clinton, the American public is far more accustomed to female leadership in 2020 than a generation ago.

Harris, however, also has racial prejudice to overcome. Within days of her selection, President Trump targeted her with the same birther conspiracy with which he attempted to smear Barack Obama.

But as it stands, the Biden-Harris ticket is moderately favoured to flip the White House blue in November, and if successful, would be a historic victory.

This article was first published on Monash Lens. Read the original article

India’s Migrants Deserve More

For some, the extended lockdown is a perfect time to revive old hobbies like stitching or collecting knick-knacks or cleaning the dust off books which they were contemplating reading for years. It is also the ideal time to try out new recipes as witnessed on social media. But for a large section of India’s population, this lockdown means losing livelihood and staring at a bleak future.

As the health crisis became worse towards the end of march, the Centre decided to impose a total lockdown across the country. Since then, two more extended lockdowns have followed. However, this is adversely affecting migrants, labourers, farmers among other vulnerable sections of India. The financial assistance under the flagship Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana has come as some sort of relief. The assistance is very negligible.

Meanwhile, as we witness a large migration of people from the urban to rural areas, the latter needs much more resources to help the migrants. Mere assurances are not enough. The need of the hour is to come out with a comprehensive package for these people in the post- corona world.

Social Distancing

As the world grapples with the coronavirus outbreak, “social distancing” has become a buzzword of these times.
   Instead of stockpiling food or rushing to the hospital, authorities are saying social distancing – deliberately increasing the physical space between people – is the best way ordinary people can help stem the spread of the virus.
   Clothing has long served as a useful way to mitigate close contact and unnecessary exposure. In this current crisis, face masks have become a fashion accessory that signals, “stay away.”
   Today, it isn’t clear whether the coronavirus will lead to new styles and accessories. Perhaps we’ll see the rise of novel forms of fashion.
   Stay at Home, Stay Safe!!!

Chaos, Confusion and Anarchy – The 3 characteristics of “New India”

A few days ago, on a cold morning here in Mumbai, I was reading the newspaper, when I heard some strange noise outside my residence. I glanced outside the window and saw an Anti- CAA demonstration holding fairly large- sized placards and marching across the street.

   Demonstrations like the above are hardly surprising. Ever since the BJP has come back to power last year, the Prime Minister and his second-in command Home Minister Amit Shah have been pushing its agenda one after the other. The manner and aggression in which the government has framed legislations and policies in Modi 2.0 and forced it upon the people, have in a way forced the latter to come out on the streets and protest against the government.

Abrogation of Article 370

   On the 5th of August, 2019, the Centre carried out the abrogation of Article 370 and split Jammu and Kashmir into 2 Union territories. In order to carry out the same, the administration detained and arrested hundreds of Political leaders and activists, prominent among them being the former Chief Ministers of the erstwhile state – Omar Abdullah and his father Farooq Abdullah along with Mehbooba Mufti.

   Even as I write this piece, the situation in the valley is quite disturbing. Publication of print media is suffering, political leaders remain under detention, businesses have suffered huge losses and people in the newly carved Union Territories have no inkling of what their future is going to be like.

    Internet services that were banned in the union territory continue to remain the same way. In what has been seen as a good sign, the Supreme Court yesterday made it official that access to Internet is a fundamental right and cannot be suspended indefinitely. Yet, access to Internet will not help to win the confidence of the people. The Centre needs long-term confidence building measures.

NRC/CAA/NPR

   Having completed the long- pending demand of the abrogation of Article 370 by its ideological mentor – the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Centre embarked with yet another mission – to sort out the problem of illegal migration.

   On 31st August last year, the National Registry Citizens (NRC), which was mandated by the Supreme Court, was released for the North-eastern State of Assam. The final list for the state showed around 19 Lakh people who were excluded. What’s worth noting it that most of the excluded people belonged to the majority community, who constitute an important chunk of votes for the Bharatiya Janata Party. To give them citizenship, the government introduced the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019. The legislation promises to give citizenship to members of the Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Parsi, Sikh, and Jain communities who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan till December 31, 2014, whilst excluding Muslims.  

   What followed was a massive public outrage against the legislation. It was not just the opposition parties that protested, civil society groups also came out on the streets too. A sense of anarchy was visible in Assam for some time, where the vehicles and properties of the ruling BJP’s legislators were vandalized. Elsewhere, protests were visible in Tripura, Nagaland, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to name a few.

   Next, the Centre came out with the National Population Register (NPR), with the Union Cabinet announcing the allocation of Rs 3,500 crores late December. Since the announcement of the NPR has come in the middle of a controversy surrounding the NRC, widespread confusion has been visible. In states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal a sudden increase in demand for birth certificates has been reported.

   Let’s not discount the fact that this government has a little more than 4 years to complete its term. Yet, the Chaos, anarchy and confusion that has come about in the governments’ second term is disturbing. Our great Indian republic, which completes 71 years very soon, is in great danger of being eroded, if the situation remains the same. Perhaps, it’s time for the Modi- Shah duo to go back to the drawing board, before coming out with contentious policy decisions in future.

Antonio Costa 2.0

A week ago, Prime Minister of Portugal Antonio Costa, who is of Indian Origin secured another mandate to rule the European Nation. Here’s some information on the Socialist Stalwart

Early Life:

Known as “Babush” in Portugal, Costa was born in Lisbon in 1961. He also has several relatives living in Margao, Goa. His ancestral house lies on Rua Abade Faria Road.

Ancestry:

Costa is the son of Prominent Goan Novelist, Orlando Costa, whose writings included essays on Tagore. His father spent most of his early youth in Goa, then under the Portuguese

Career:

Costa has held several positions in previous governments and in the European Union. He was also the Mayor of Lisbon.

As Antonio Costa steps into his second term, we wish him all the best and hope that ties between India and Portugal continue to be strengthened with him at the helm.

EASTER GREETINGS 2019

He is not here, He has Risen.

Mark 16:6
  • E – Easter Eggs- symbolizes the empty tomb
  • A – Ascension of the Lord into Heaven
  • S – Salvation through Jesus
  • T – Truth and Life
  • E – Eternal Life
  • R – Resurrection of the Lord

            This is wishing you a blessed Easter!!!

Wayanad: Congress’ Southern Outreach

   With Congress President Rahul Gandhi filing his nomination for Wayanad Lok Sabha Constituency, all eyes have shifted towards the southern state of Kerala.
The Constituency was represented by Congress MP late MI Shanavas from 2009 until November 2018, after he passed away following a long battle with cancer. The seat has now hit the national spotlight after Congress decided to field its President. Thushar Vellapally of the BDJS is the NDA candidate, whereas the Left has fielded PP Suneer.
The Buzz is that Rahul Gandhi has chosen to contest from Wayanad, so that in the event of him being a prospective Prime Ministerial Face of the Opposition, he will have the support of the North and the South. The decision of the Congress will definitely have a spillover in the neighbouring constituencies.
Come May 23, we will know who wins Wayanad!

  

Hardik Patel – Gujarat’s Rising Star

Hardik Patel, the face of the Patidar quota agitation is all set to join the Congress party today in Gujarat.

Patel rose to fame after he spearheaded the community’s demand for reservation in government jobs and educational institutions. He is most likely to be fielded from the Jamnagar Lok Sabha Constituency by the Congress party. His decision to take the political plunge was taken last month, at a rally in Lucknow. 

With Congress currently holding four out of seven assembly segments in the Jamnagar Lok Sabha Seat, it is Hardik’s best chance to win the seat for the Congress, a seat that has long been its bastion.