It is one of the tragedies of our time that just when the world needs good leaders, its two superpowers have produced the worst types to lead them.
The very fact that we now have two wars going, both with high possibilities of wider participation, is indicative of the quality of leadership provided by the current two superpowers, the USA and China.
One is led by a war-monger President, who is partially impacted by early stage dementia and whose interests seem more aligned with the US military-industrial complex than ensuring global peace.
His replacement could be an even worse President, whose personal attributes are unlikely to 'Make America Great Again'.
As for the other superpower, China, it has already established itself as a regional bully, an expansionist and oppressive regime whose foreign and defence ministers can simply disappear one fine day.
This superpower is not just oppressing its own people, but encouraging fundamentalist regimes in West Asia and South Asia to spread terrorism to those countries it considers a threat to its own hegemonistic ambitions.
Not that the superpowers of the Cold War era were any better. But the key difference is that before the fall of the Berlin Wall, their vassal states could be kept on a leash and not threaten global security.
The Cold War superpowers could limit the slide into hot wars with wider conflict potential.
Today, with technology and dangerous weaponry being made available to murderous non-state and state actors, the superpowers no longer have the ability to restrain the North Koreas, Pakistans, Syrias, Irans or various states in Africa from genocidal mayhem. Worse, it is not even clear that America and China want to avoid a global conflagration.
America could, if it so wanted, have prevented the Ukraine war if it had offered some guarantees to Russia that NATO won’t be expanded to its borders, along with some promises of autonomy to the Russian-populated parts of Ukraine. But it was more interested in damaging the Russian economy and military capabilities than in preventing a war.
Now, apart from the huge scale of destruction rained on Ukraine and its people, there is the possibility of a wider conflict in eastern Europe if Russia starts losing territory and contemplates using tactical nuclear weapons to protect itself.
In West Asia, a two-state solution is the best one possible, where both Israel and Palestine exist side by side. But such a deal can work only if the support actors are also willing to let this happen.
Any deal to create an independent state of Palestine cannot work unless all of Israel’s Islamist neighbours can guarantee that no attacks will happen on the Jewish state from their territories, or their client states.
This needs America to talk to Iran, not sanction it. It needs Russia and China to also promise that they will not instigate the Islamist regimes to target American and Israeli interests in West Asia.
All this cannot happen without both the US and China (and Russia) lending their collective weights to enforce a two-state solution for peace to prevail. But right now both superpowers seem to think their interests depend on a warring West Asia, not a peaceful one.
However, we must also contemplate a deeper reason why conflicts like the one in West Asia cannot end easily. They are not merely conflicts of interests, but conflicts between 'spiritual superpowers', a fight to establish whose god is the true one, the more powerful one.
Once you bring god into the picture, the West Asia conflict clearly has the potential to careen out of control and become a wider war where no one can predict a peaceful final outcome. Hamas is not a resistance group; it is fighting to establish Islam and push Judaism out into the sea.
This means the Ukraine-Russia war, which is between two combatants within the same religious group, is more amenable to a solution than Israel-Hamas. The fact that already other players, the Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis of Yemen, are eager to join the war tells us how this is not just a conflict of interests, but of gods.
The root cause is the Abrahamic approach to god, and not just a local difference of opinion over rights and wrongs. Otherwise, there would be no ideological clashes between those who support Hamas and those who support Israel even in Europe and America.
It should worry us that Abrahamics have reduced god to an insecure entity more worried about himself than the world he created.
On top of this, when we have two irresponsible superpowers working towards more strife and not peace, it presents us both with a problem and an opportunity.
Logically, the peace-mongers have to come from midi powers who are finding their own interests compromised by dangerous superpower rivalry, including the rivalry over god among their vassal states. Often, these midi powers are part of existing alliances, but these alliances no longer serve their overall interests.
Apart from India, which is a midi power seeking to negotiate its own interests without aligning with either the US or China, there are several other large powers both within NATO and outside it, who can be considered the likely leaders of this new global alliance. France, Germany, Japan and Indonesia are some of them.
Both Japan and Germany now see the need to remilitarise, not because they want to, but because they have to — one due to a rising China, and the other due to a faltering Europe amidst a never-ending war on their eastern side.
Both France and Germany would, probably, have been more willing to accommodate Russian interests in Eastern Europe as the price to be paid for peace and cheap energy from the east, but this did not suit American interests.
Net result: Europe’s economic interests have been made to suffer as the US wants Russia to crumble. The same would apply to France, which has never liked kowtowing to Uncle Sam.
As for Indonesia, as the world’s largest Muslim country and a moderate one at that, thanks to its Dharmic roots, it has to play a crucial role in mitigating the passions that ignite the Islamic world.
There are three claimants to global Islamic leadership, and these are Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia — and none of them worthy of it.
In 1947, Pakistan was also a claimant, but apart from being currently destitute, it has also been seen as an interloper from south Asia, not a genuine Islamic leader, by the other claimants.
Indonesia needs to play a larger role in not just South-East Asia, but in the Islamic world too in order to cool things down in the West Asian powderkeg.
More than BRICS, which will essentially have been an anti-Western alliance without India and South Africa in it, a sane new world order must start with India, Germany, Japan, France and Indonesia beginning to work together to reduce the US-China hegemony and warring ambitions that are making things worse.
Neither Uncle Sam (whether with Joe Biden or Donald Trump at the helm) nor Uncle Xi Jinping is going to like it, but without this tentative pressure grouping, which combines the population heft of India and Indonesia with the developed might of Europe and east Asia, the world is not going to become a saner place.
There will be no new world order, no reformed security and economic institutions, and no real solutions to common challenges like climate change and growth without new thinking and new leadership.
And new thinking cannot emerge from an old superpower which does not want to cede ground and a new superpower, which believes that its time to dominate the world has just arrived and this means keeping other claimants like India out of formal power structures like the UN Security Council or the Nuclear Suppliers’ Group.
We need a third group that sees the world differently, a tilting factor in superpower rivalry. India has to begin the process by engaging diplomatically with the above midi powers, and then including other countries like Argentina and Chile, Spain and Italy, South Africa and Egypt, into the embrace.
Work on the new world order will have to begin now if we are to save the world from Uncle Sam’s and Uncle Xi’s stupidities.
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