The Confusing Mechanics Of New Global Realignments
What on earth is going on, and where are we headed?
The profits and primacy of the old colonial powers are at stake. And there is no turning back.
It’s been a hectic month for the diplomatic world, with the oddest of important official visits taking place in the oddest of locations.
So, who’s meeting whom?
It all began with a series of important, multilateral G20 ministerial meetings in India between the end of February and early March, in which the Western nations tried to usurp the platform to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. They failed.
These were bookended by state visits to India by the heads of Germany and Italy, and by Australia shortly thereafter.
Then, there was a brief lull until 10 March, when the world was stunned to hear that Iran and Saudi Arabia had held secret talks in Beijing of all places, and decided to bury the hatchet.
The Beijing round, we learnt, was preceded by a set of secret meetings in Iraq and Oman (See here and here for detailed analyses).
It’s been a flurry after that.
Syrian President Basher Al-Assad visited Moscow last week. A few days later, he flew from Damascus to Abu Dhabi, for formal talks with the United Arab Emirates on the restoration of diplomatic relations. This was an equally momentous development, as Syria had been suspended from the Arab League in 2011.
This was followed by a formal invitation from the King of Saudi Arabia to the President of Iran, following their Beijing accord, for further substantive talks in Riyadh on bilateral cooperation and regional stability.
If that was not enough, hours before Chinese President Xi Jinping’s plane landed in Moscow on 20 March, more staggering news broke:
The Turkish Foreign Minister was in Cairo, to mend ties between the two nations who became estranged in 2013, after Egyptian President Sisi wrested power in a military coup from the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood government of President Morsi.
The significance was not lost on Indians, who, on the one hand, have had to draw a firm line for Turkey’s opportunistic associations with Pakistan after the withdrawal of Western forces from Afghanistan, and who, on the other, hosted President Sisi as the chief guest for this year’s Republic Day parade in New Delhi.
Simultaneously, legislators from 40 African nations gathered in Moscow for a Russia-Africa parliamentary conference, where Russian President Vladimir Putin made two important points.
One, that if Ukraine continued to twist the Black Sea grain deal (meant to ensure food security for Africa) by diverting the bulk of their grain shipments to the West, then Russia would pull out of the deal and provide the promised grain to Africa for free.
Two, he announced that Russia would be investing heavily in Africa, across sectors from energy to medicine to education, to make it a key part of a multipolar world which stood stoutly against a “neo-colonial ideology imposed by foreign states”.
Interestingly, this Russian engagement comes at a time when India has been quietly doing its bit to ameliorate the food shortages in Africa; our grain exports to Africa have risen to record levels.
Meanwhile, Europe remains gripped in the clasp of inflation. America still seeks to fight Russia to the last Ukrainian. Paris has seen three consecutive nights of rioting, looting and violent clashes between protesters and the police, over proposed pension plans. The Polish Ambassador to France valiantly announced that his country would enter the war against Russia if Kiev fell.
And bringing up the tail of this swirl were three more dots.
One, the Japanese Prime Minister landed in New Delhi on 20 March for a two-day visit.
Two, a spokesperson of the American Defence Ministry announced that they would not allow Ukraine to join a China-led peace summit with Russia.
And on cue, three, press reports appeared that American President Joe Biden wants to host Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a state dinner this summer.
What on earth is going on, and where are we headed?
There are no clear-cut answers as on date, not least because we have no idea about outcomes, or any information on other secret parleys in progress. Yet, we can but try.
First, the current attempts by multiple Middle Eastern countries (all of whom are major oil and gas exporters), is a concerted push to regain market share which they lost to North American ‘shale oil’ in the past two decades.
Second, efforts to overcome long-standing divides created during the era of petro-colonization, to bring stability to that region, shows that these countries finally realizethe necessity of working together.
Third, readers may note that these hectic diplomatic engagements are taking place not only without America’s blessings, but against its wishes.
More pertinently, they are being guided by large powers like Russia and China, with participants fully cognizant that the more they seek to bring order to their region, the more they will incur America’s wrath.
Fourth, according to Swarajya’s Jai Menon, the parleys should lead to a reduction in the state patronage of radical Islam. At the same time, he believes that this push for stability will attract disruptive efforts from the Anglosphere.
Fifth, the geography covered by the recent engagements isn’t restricted to the Middle East.
Everyone is fed up with trade disruptions, shortages, price rise, and uncertainty caused by the West’s proxy war in Ukraine. The rest of the world wants to get on with its recovery form the Wuhan virus pandemic.
The big question here is, how long will Europe’s patience (or, obedience) last, before the obduracy of one country finally forces a wrenching dissonance in the trans-Atlantic alliance?
Sixth, it is curious that three leaders have been extremely measured in their comments during this period of heady flux — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, and Narendra Modi.
The Iran-Saudi Arabia meetings in Beijing were conducted by the National Security Advisors of both countries, and the Saudi invitation to the Iranian President was sent by the King of Saudi Arabia, rather than Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. These distinctions are important.
Similarly, under normal circumstances, we would have heard howls of alarm from Tel Aviv if any two large Muslim nations in that region attempted to improve ties. Instead, surreally, the Israeli government is busy battling official American interference in some domestic judicial reforms it wants to undertake.
And India is busily engaging with all corners, maintaining its standoff against China on the border, while forcing indigenization, industrialization, and infrastructure building at a pace not seen before.
In their own way, each of these three leaders are quietly providing balance.
The worth of their roles will become more apparent only in due course, as the mechanics of this global realignment strengthen. But there is no turning back.
The past year has shown that Russia cannot be sanctioned into fealty by America and Europe without the concurrence of other large powers like India and China.
And that is the only route available, since a military option is futile. If they tried, the ruins of Europe would glow in the dark for decades.
The West cannot contain China economically because the former is too dependent on supply chains originating in Tianjin, Guangzhou or Shanghai.
On the strategic front, no material military pressure might be brought to bear on China unless India is part of that alliance. The reason is that sans India, the Atlantic alliance can only hurt China, not defeat it. This is the bald truth no one speaks.
And but for Russia and India, the West would have been accused of stealing Africans’ food, and plunging the world’s poorest continent into starvation.
These are the many facets of a changing world; more will emerge. Each will be stiffly contested because the profits and primacy of the old colonial powers are at stake.
An era, which began when Vasco da Gama landed at Calicut on 20 May 1498, is starting to draw to a close.
As you are no doubt aware, Swarajya is a media product that is directly dependent on support from its readers in the form of subscriptions. We do not have the muscle and backing of a large media conglomerate nor are we playing for the large advertisement sweep-stake.
Our business model is you and your subscription. And in challenging times like these, we need your support now more than ever.
We deliver over 10 - 15 high quality articles with expert insights and views. From 7AM in the morning to 10PM late night we operate to ensure you, the reader, get to see what is just right.
Becoming a Patron or a subscriber for as little as Rs 1200/year is the best way you can support our efforts.