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The (new) World Order – Shifting Paradigms – Changing Narratives

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Bengaluru. With the new World Order taking shape at the International Stage, India has a great opportunity to lead the world. How is the new World Order? How is India placed in it? What should India do? Is India ready? What are the priorities? What could be the next steps? What are India’s strengths and challenges in this new World Order?

These are some of the key points discussed and debated – over an interesting and intellectual feast program – at the launch of the new book: The (New) World Order – Shifting Paradigms – Changing Narratives, which was launched online.

The book was launched by an elite panel of Prof. Madhav Das Nalapat (Director – Department of Geopolitics and International Relations @ Manipal Academy of Higher Education), Ram Madhav, Dr. Nanda Kishor (Associate Professor- Department of Politics and International Studies @ Pondicherry University). Scores of people attended the program online over Zoom. Selected questions from the audience were also answered as part of the panel discussion.

The program began with the introduction of the panel by Dr. Raghoth Sundararajan, a scholar who studied at MIT – USA. Editor of the book, Prashant Vaidyaraj, set the platform for the discussion by introducing the book and also reading out interesting notes from the pages within.

Prof. Nalapat spoke passionately about the book and said, “This is a fascinating book as an alternative to what we are fed for a decade about India’s possible role on the international stage. The book does not claim to be the only view. It gives room for the reader to subscribe to multiple views”.

Prof. Nalapat, commenting on the international situation, mentioned that USA’s unipolarity is over and that Chinese unipolarity is confronting the world today. In his initial address to the audience, Prof. Nalapat mentioned – “India had a good opportunity to lead the world stage in the 1950s. India missed the opportunities. Today is the new world of new multi-polarities. India has a new opportunity and it should not miss now”. He found the book will ensure that India does not miss the opportunity. India to not just stand tall but also to remain stall, in the new world order.

Ram Madhav mentioned that the book is about two topics: the emerging new World order and that India has a role to play. He mentioned, “The last time the new world order was set around World War-II, which was centred around Europe. Internationalism became the new thing soon after. That world order will take a back seat now. With the Pandemic and the after-effects, we will have the new world order”. He also listed parameters that will define the new Emerging World Order: Climate change, Health Care issues, Technology – how and why to use it and the new paths and trends in International Relationships.

Ram Madhav then touched upon the role India has to play and 2-3 handicaps that India has. Indians to reticent people. India does not express their thoughts. India punches below the weight. India had an opportunity post-WWII. India played some role but did not really make a big impact – that it was capable of. India tried to ally with countries. But this alliance involved countries that were not aligned anywhere. We completely turned inwards. As a second handicap, he said, “we need to have a strategic outlook. India did not anticipate the world’s happenings. For example, India invested in Afghanistan but when the Taliban came and overtook Afghanistan, we cried about what will happen to our investment now.” As a third handicap, he highlighted a lack of economic power. He said, “It has to become an economically strong power. India is ranked at 152 – Per capita GDP. We are not in a position to invest heavily in the military. Today we need a mix of both soft and hard power.” Ram Madhav also said, “China is an emerging economy now. The next 10 years are crucial for India. If we overcome our limitations, India can step in and play our role.”

Dr. Nanda Kishor congratulated Prashant Vaidyaraj for editing the book. He said, “The book carries interesting articles in the form of precise capsules. This helps because the new generation does not have time to read long articles.”. He mentioned that the book has three advantages: Its relevance in today’s situation, the language used in the book and the precise information it carries. He mentioned that the readers will be able to read and reflect their thoughts over the book. Talking about India, Dr. Nanda Kishor mentioned that India has no more apologists. It only needs to introspect on where it needs to go, and that this book will help in doing so. Books will bring out the best from the youngsters. This book will go in a long way in inspiring the young generation.

During the Question & Answer session, Dr. Raghotham asked questions raised by the audience. The questions were from a wide range of topics including China, the Middle East, India’s strengths and what it needs to do.

Answering the question “How are we handling China?”, Prof. Nalapat said, “There is no freedom of thought in China. Our strength is in freedom of thought. If we genuinely culture this freedom of thought, it would greatly help. The right to have different views is central to the economy.”

Appreciating the intellect-quotient of Indians, he said, “Any kind of innovation today in the world has a contribution from Indian brains. We need to harness that brain culture.” Today’s new World Order is an opportunity for India to play a key role on the international stage. And, this is much bigger than the opportunities in the 1950s. Finding a balance in what India has done and that there is much to be done, he said, “We seem to be doing so, also seem to be not-doing-so. We need to understand this and India will emerge as one of the top three centres in the next 8-9 years”.

Answering a question on Europe and the Middle East, Nanda Kishore said, “Hostility associated with India, due to Kashmir and other reasons, is now put into different perspectives by these countries. We were having unfounded fears. Regime changes in West Asia are also important. There is now more maturity in the relationships between India and these countries.” He also said, “India has now moved out of appeasement towards these countries and we can put across our thoughts very clearly. India now has a good relationship with these Middle East countries.”

Nanda Kishor was of the opinion that Europe is still in the old world order of the pre-1950s. They are still in the old thought that they are leading and those other countries will fall in line. But, things have changed now. India is more confident and has come up with new narratives. India is in a situation now to push for a rule-based new order. He said, “With West Asia – we are better off. But, with the EU, we need to handle it even better. But we have learnt the grammar now.”

Answering a question on What does India need to Change, Ram Madhav said, “Many things have to change; First is the mindset. International Relationships should be based on what we want.” Dr Nanda Kishore called for balance in India’s approach to International Relationships. He said, “India needs to balance its business relationships at the international stage. Today, 45% of Indian imports are from Russia. We need to balance it well.”

He continued, “Diplomacy with other countries plays a key role when we want support from countries internationally. We should build international relationships irrespective of which countries it is. It does not matter whether it is a black cat or a white cat, as long as it can catch a mouse.” The panel also shared that the Think Tank culture has to come in a big way. We should build a think tank. Think tanks can build an Indian-thought oriented narrative on the international stage.

Prof. Nalapat was categorical in saying, “Let’s remove romance. Politics builds one-sided romantic stories. China took advantage of Cold War 1.0. We should take advantage of Cold War 2.0. We should look at today’s situation from an Indian perspective. Look at the good picture. We have a gigantic opportunity at the new World stage now. We need to siege the opportunity. We need to build a mindset to do so. There must be a strong security construct.” He then said that there should be a balance in international relationships. He called for going with the strength to the international table, by building local leadership within the region. He asked, “Did we tell the US that, if you do not invite Sri Lanka and other countries, we will not come. When we say such things, we can become local leaders. We should have our priorities. We should send across our people with key positions, like our Chief Ministers, to visit Taiwan.” There was also a discussion on the basis on which international approaches are to be defined.

Dr Raghotham summarised the discussion by saying that this was an interesting discussion with a wide range of thoughts being expressed on a vast topic.

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