Paradigm shift to global policy; Is it Trump, Xi or Modi?


The world politics and economy is changing. East Asia is becoming the hub of activity and along with the Indian subcontinent, Asia is becoming the epicenter. The Koreas – North and South – come together after seven decades. India tries to rub shoulders with China as Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Wuhan and holds at least six meets with Chinese president Xi Jinping.

None the less US president Donald Trump fires salvos at India for stealing jobs and does not mind South Korean and Chinese help to start a dialogue with North Korea.

It is a complex world. It all happens on one day – April 28, 2018. The same day French President Emmanuel Macron visits the US and told the Congress of dangers of narrow nationalism being based on anger, isolation and fear. Would that make Trump more liberal?

So is it the enlargement of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) that China aims at or is the BRICS intended to be strengthened by Modi? Well, it is happening simultaneously despite India’s cautious aversion to China’s Belt and Road Initiative. China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, says Chinese dragon and Indian elephant “will no longer fight with each other, but dance”. Modi says India and China can dream together.

Despite not so soft words by Trump against India on job-snatching his defence secretary Jim Mattis wants US to separate Russia from India even as US plans sanctions against Kremlin.

It is politics laced with economic juices all around. Everyone – Xi, Trump, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, South Korea’s Moon Jae-in, Macron and Modi – wants to have the maximum of the juices for the survival and sustained growth of each of their countries.

Some more economies are emerging like Vietnam, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.  Would Maldives and Nepal now also dance with the elephant and dragon?

There are too many cross-currents sweeping Asia. Wuhan despite its official “informality”, points to a lot of preparation. The informal talks are preceded by the visits of external affairs Sushma Swaraj, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and concluded with high-level delegation meets.

The Koreas coming together leads to the truce being replaced with treaty, moderation of nuclearisation of the Korean peninsula and the possibility of the US-Korean summit. Does it exemplify that nuclear muscle flexing worked in favour of North Korea? Or was it all stage-managed to give the world a belief that nobody has bowed – given concessions – to anybody? Is it the gain of the South Korea, the North or is it the masterstroke of the Trump administration? Whatever, a new trade regime begins with all the three.

It relieves China, where Kim had gone on a luxury train ride for talks, of a hot spot developing next door. Despite the trade war with Trump, Xi has won a battle. It ends the threat of sanctions against North Korea and that could have hit Chinese trading not only with the North Korea but also with European Union (EU). The EU was also in the background for easing of the Korean situation. Yes, the EU has significant gains to make by delving into East Asian economies.

For India, it may be the beginning of the second Panchsheel that was started by the first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru during the 2500th anniversary of Gautam Buddha on April 29, 1954. Modi gave five new positives – soch (thought), sampark (contact), sahyog (cooperation), sankalp (determination) and sapne (dreams) just two days before the Budha jayanti and a day before signing of the Panchsheel, which has been relegated to history.

Now a new history is sought to be written. India and China have done well economically in recent years. Despite Chinese economy five times larger, India is trying to slowly catch up though its population is set to overtake China’s shortly. The advantage, India says, is its young and energetic population. It hopes to become the beneficiary as this might outdo many economies.

So this might mean more imports of chicken legs and other consumer goods from China, crash of prices in India and high Bollywood movie treatment to China. Despite the anti-China lobby, India is bound to see closer trade but also intends to increase its exports and close the trade gap. They want to work in the neighbourhood together, including in Afghanistan. In other areas like Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka too will they vie together? In the course of time the region could become a Sino-India market.

China’s Communist party’s official People’s Daily commented, “There is reason to believe that this Wuhan meeting will increase mutual trust, manage and control disputes, deepen cooperation and lead to a new phase in China-India relations,” it said.

How that would shape up may be known after the next meeting when Xi comes to India. But all the above developments, is a sure pointer to an increasing role of Asia. The West it would be futile to imagine would give in so easily. The tussle between EU and US is also being seen. The US wants to have a big brotherly relation with China. The EU wants to continue a tie that would help it boost its economy with China’s cooperation and also may help EU expanse to other East Asia regions.

India too is eyeing beyond China and Korea to Mongolia for trade and strategic reasons. It is having arms deals with Russia. With China, it wants to increase Indian visibility in Afghanistan, where India is pouring liberal assistance.

Each of the countries has yet to quantify tangible gains. There is freewheeling to ensure none of them lose the future bus. India has one of the largest stakes as do have China. They would like to sail together as in many issues in WTO vie also in competing markets with each other.

Dimension of the world market would definitely change. The UN and World Bank would have to recalibrate their strategies. It does not mean the US or EU would collapse but there would be many rearrangements, the currency market may reflect in a different manner. There would be many expectations and many changes. The next few years may see gradually opening up new challenges provided the new Panchsheel shapes up the way it is intended. A change in the world order is not unlikely.

(Views expressed are personal)

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