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March 05, 2006
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March 05, 2006

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Home > 2006 Issues > March 05, 2006

The Moving Finger Writes
Slipping unipolarity

By M.V. Kamath

Are America?s days as the world sole superpower over at last? Yes, says the British newspaper The Guardian. The crises over Hamas and Iran, says the paper, underline the end of a one-superpower world. According to Jonathan Steele, writing in the paper, ?the post Cold War era, when there was only a single superpower, is over now (and) the United States is being forced to enlist Russia and, to a lesser extent, China, as partners in finding a compromise.? Furthermore, he adds, ?with this, the economic rise of India and the resurgence of anti-Yankee nationalism in several states in Latin America, we have clearly entered a multipolar world.?

Observers who have been watching George Bush?s many public statements and, in very recent times, listened to his annual ?State of the Union? address have been noticing changes in the US approach to international issues that cannot be ignored. Gone is the aggressiveness that once was George Bush?s forte. The State of the Union address certainly showed, in its tone, a ?chastened, deferential and modest? President, in the words of the Los Angeles Times.

Wisdom at last seems to be dawning on the President that bullying weaker nations is not a paying proposition. That much, in recent times, had been pointed out by French President Jacques Chirac. But Chirac went largely ignored. Chirac had been saying in the recent past that the world currently has many power centres that cannot, and should not be ignored. Few would openly admit to it for fear of offending the United States.

As Chirac saw it, it is no longer a case of ?The West versus the Rest?. He might as well have said that it is no longer a case of ?The White versus the non-White? but few would dare to identify the rise of, for example, China and India, in terms of pure racism. But that is the truth.

The days of White, European and by inclusion American, hegemony are slowly getting over. The nineteenth century was the century first of European and then of American hegemony over the rest of the world. Especially in the first half of the twentieth century, from 1900 to 1950, Europe could dictate to the rest of the non-White world that included all of Africa and large parts of Asia as well. In the second half of the 20th century, from 1950 (or the end of the Second World War) to 2000, it was the United States that was running rampant and telling everybody what they should do. First it was Japan that had risen from the ashes to assert itself economically. Next came China?s turn. And now India also is raising its head, much to the discomfiture of both Europe and the United States.

Economically and militarily speaking, both China and India have a long way to go to compete with the European Union and the United Sates. But both now realise that Asian nations are getting to be more assertive and cannot be dictated upon. The situation has reached to such a stage that Bush says that the United States must move to create over 70,000 teachers of mathematics in the US schools in order to keep abreast of China and India!

Economically and militarily speaking, both China and India have a long way to go to compete with the European Union and the United Sates. But both now realise that Asian nations are getting to be more assertive.

George Bush sounds scared, but he has reason to. India is developing by leaps and bounds, especially in the field of Information Technology. It will not be long before India leads in other technological fields as well as its economic growth vaults to ten per cent per annum. The United States is only too conscious of that.

And then there is the case of U.N.Secretary General, Kofi Annan who has also been calling for a new recognition of the dispersal of international power. The western news agencies did not deign to report it in full but in a speech in London early in February, the UN Secretary General took issue with even the concept of a 5-nation power centre made up of the permanent members of the UN Security Council. ?Do not underestimate the slow erosion of the United Nations? authority and legitimacy that stems from the perception that it has a very narrow power base, with just five countries calling the shots?, he pleaded. And very wisely, too.

The world has changed since the UN was first established, following the end of the Second World War in 1945. Neither Britain, nor France, are the powers they were in 1945. They can no longer call the shots. Whether the US is willing to accept India as a Permanent Member of the Security Council or not, India today looms larger than either Britain or France-a fact that they better learn to accept with grace.

With a growing India, we do not need even to look up to European Union. India is India. And consider what the Saudi Arabian ruler did the other day. He became the first Saudi ruler to visit China-China, of all countries! And he accepted India?s invitation to be its Chief Guest at its Republic Day Celebrations. And, surprise, surprise, he said that India is his second home! Not Egypt, not Syria or Jordan and most certainly not Pakistan! It was India that he named as his second home. And should the United States as part of its heroics ever try to destabilise the Saudi king, surely it is India he would turn to, as did the Dalai Lama when his position was threatened by the Chinese. Besides, it was from the Saudi ruler that we heard the words that high petrol prices are hitting developing countries hard.

There is a mistaken notion that oil prices are hiked up by countries, mostly in the Middle-East and that they and they alone are to be blamed. The truth is that prices are hiked by oil companies that are largely owned by western powers, or their company surrogates. The Middle-East countries have no other option but to obey the dictates of western oil companies. For far too long have Middle-Eastern countries lived in submission to western powers. It is time the latter are shown their place. And in this exercise India and China must take the lead. And if Japan cooperates, so much the better. Western powers led by the United States should not, in future, be allowed to dictate terms to anybody.

As it is, Iran has become a hot issue and if Russia and China are willing to see it brought to the Security Council, for all we know it is there that they may want to exercise their veto and tell the United States where it gets off. But what needs to be shown is that in the years to come, the United States must learn to listen to other nations and not seek to impose its will on others, as it has been doing in the last four to five decades.

We don?t need Koreas, Vietnams and now Iraq. One would have thought that the US had learnt its lessons having burnt its fingers in Korea and Vietnam. Obviously it hasn?t. It is time it is shown its place, as just a rich nation with much to give, it has been reluctant to give unless it is seen to further its ends.

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