Covid-19 and the contours of a new world order | Analysis – analysis
The world is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. People die in large numbers. Healthcare and the economy are under severe stress. Countries are turning inward, closing borders, to protect their people. As historian Yuval Noah Harari wrote, more and more countries are becoming nationalist and protectionist, even, in some cases, even authoritarian.
But coronavirus disease (Covid-19) has taught us a different lesson, a lesson in interdependence. The pandemic is global. The battle to combat it must also be global. We depend on each other for our healthcare teams, services, transportation facilities, and ultimately vaccines, as they are invented. India has imported masks and test kits from some countries, while exporting critical drugs such as hydroxychloroquine to many countries, including the United States (USA). Global supply chains have become critical not only for health care products, but also for food and other supplies.
In fact, a great understanding for pandemic countries has been that closed nationalism will not work. Donald Trump’s “America First” nationalism did not work. He had to turn to China, India, and South Korea for supplies. A recurring theme by many political scientists about American exceptionalism is shattered today. Isolationists in all countries, including India, must realize that the post-Covid-19 world will be more integrationist than isolationist.
For some time, it has become a fad with political scientists to talk about multipolarity. But the 21st century world is no longer being run by countries alone. We have corporations that have a higher GDP than many countries in the world. We have out-of-state players who exert enormous influence on people across national borders. More importantly, in the era of social media, a number of power groups have emerged around the world that challenge national borders. While nationalism as a political ideology is returning, the world is also falling into what the author Parag Parag has described as heteropolarity. It may be premature to predict the post-Covid-19 world order, but it can be conclusively said that we are moving into a heteropolar world, with multiple state and non-state power players actively crossing each other.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has to bring India to that world after the pandemic. Modi described the situation as “similar to the world war”. That has catalyzed the construction of a narrative around World War II. Comparisons are being made between Modi and Franklin D Roosevelt, who led the United States to World War II.
Incidentally, both Roosevelt and Adolf Hitler came to power in the United States and Germany, respectively, in the same year (1932). While Hitler became a despot, subjecting European neighbors to domination and aggression, Roosevelt focused on rebuilding the United States. His “New Deal” led to the massive construction of infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, and railroads in the United States, and helped the country emerge from the Great Depression of the 1930s. Expectations are that Modi will also do something similar.
The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941 forced Roosevelt to go to war. At the end of the war in 1945, EE. USA It emerged as the main world power that replaced Great Britain. But Roosevelt’s contribution to the war was not just about defeating the Axis powers. Roosevelt was instrumental in building two global institutions. Through the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944, it laid the foundation for the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The US dollar emerged as the global currency. In April 1945, the United Nations (UN) was born with the USA. USA And his allies in the driver’s seat.
At a time when this post-Covid-19 world order appears to be in disarray, it will be tempting to wait for Modi to put on the Rooseveltian mantle and lead the building of new global institutions. Institutions of the WWII era, such as the World Health Organization and the United Nations Security Council, have become overtly partisan and have lost their credibility today. “The United Nations is much less credible today than it has been throughout its history,” said S Jaishankar, India’s foreign minister, recently. With the United States facing its worst nightmare and the credibility of the Chinese leadership at its lowest point of all time, the assumption that Modi should take on the role that Roosevelt played 75 years ago seems logical.
Perhaps Modi should go back, not 75 years, but a century, and see the role Woodrow Wilson had played at the end of World War I. “Wilson viewed the United States’ mission in World War I not as a material aggrandizement but as a nation leader in a new international community organized to achieve its proper ends,” wrote political scientist Joseph Nye. Wilson’s famous 14-point letter to world peace, described in his speech to the US Congress in January 1918, underscores America’s moral leadership.
20th century Wilianism was represented by liberal internationalism, democracy, non-intervention, collective security and humanitarian cooperation. In the past six years, Modi has demonstrated his commitment to all of these political ideals. In fact, during his Covid-19 consultations with G20 partners and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, he presented his humanism-focused model as “human-centered development cooperation.”
Covid’s post-21st century world idiom may stem from the democratic and humanistic credentials he has shown in the fight against Covid-19.
Ram Madhav is National Secretary General, BJP, and a member of the Board of Governors of the Indian Foundation.
The opinions expressed are personal.