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Quebec, Qingdao and the new age of multilateralism (Column: Active Voice)


The contrasting events that transpired in the cities of and over the weekend signalled the immediacy of the changing world order. At the meeting of the (G7) advanced nations in Quebec, Trump went beyond expectations in ensuring that multilateralism sees its early demise while some 10,000 kilometres away in the coastal city of Qingdao, new beginnings were made at the Cooperation Organisation (SCO) as if to negate all that was undone across the Pacific.

It is evident that Trump attended the in protest. He made no amends with his allies over escalating tariff wars but, instead, upped his threats. He arrived late for meetings, lashed out at other leaders and left early. He even pulled out of the joint statement and later berated his hosts over After the meeting of Trump with Kim Jong-un, the US might be on better terms with by the end of this week than it is with its allies.

By isolating himself so completely, Trump has possibly killed the as the US was the power holding the group together. Currently, it is the only platform for the Western countries that acts as a steering committee for the world economy. There was a reason that the second-largest economy of the world, China, was kept out of the group. Without America's support, will find it impossible to survive. The power vacuum can only be filled by and it is doing so, quite effectively.

Snubbed by the US, has been rolling out the red carpet for by enthusiastically participating in its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and other such multilateral and bilateral efforts. The was yet another successful attempt by to strengthen regional ties; this time in Central The group that started off as the "5" in 1996 (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, China, and Tajikistan), mainly for ensuring regional security, has evolved into the that now includes and within its fold and espouses a global vision with a strong economic mandate. The regional grouping accounts for about 40 percent of the world's population and 20 percent of its GDP.

By contrast, the G7 countries account for only 10 percent of the world's population but 50 percent of its GDP. Yet, the nations presented a more promising front this weekend. They stood for everything the G7 could not. While the industrialised nations were engaged in personality clashes, the Asian grouping was more proactive in engaging in dialogues of regional cooperation and development. In a veiled dig at the US for withdrawing from the deal, was also given a warm welcome at the SCO and the Asian leaders even promised to try and save the deal from meeting a premature end.

It is sometimes naively believed, or rather hoped, that the withdrawal of from the established global economic order is merely a passing phase and as Trump moves out of office, the idea of multilateralism will somehow revive itself. But it needs to be understood that Trump is not acting on his own accord. His voters have strongly come to abhor the idea of globalisation and free trade. They believe that they have been short-changed in the entire process and will not vote for anyone who promises to revert to the old days. So, the establishment of the Asian century is inevitable.

India, on its part, can have a greater role to play in this new world order. To its credit, the country has been at the forefront engaging vigorously with numerous world powers and regional groupings. However, its emergence as a global power will depend on its ability to decisively influence multilateral processes. For instance, has remained steadfast in its opposition to China's Belt and Road Initiative. At the SCO, even remarked that would welcome any connectivity projects that respect the sovereignty of other nations. But, expectedly, finds itself alone in its opposition to the project. India lacks the economic heft to sway multilateral agreements in its favour. That remains its Achilles heel.

The changing world order presents an opportunity for India to make its mark on the world stage. It needs to expedite the resolution of its economic shortcomings. It has the benefit of being the biggest democracy in and leverage it to its advantage. Surely, if India could present a viable alternative to China, the European nations would prefer siding with a liberal democracy than an iffy autocracy.

(is chair, The views expressed are personal. Chirag Yadav, senior researcher, Institute for Competitiveness, has contributed to the article)



(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, June 12 2018. 11:02 IST