Geopolitical notes from India
M D Nalapat
In the 20th century, countries that were Dominant Powers in the 19th shrank in importance, but to the still considerable level of powers that exercised primacy over substantial parts of the globe, with relatively few constraints on their writ. However, the 21st century is seeing a “flattening out” of technology, such that trained individuals in a much larger scatter of countries are able to access high tech and its defence and civilian spinoffs. India may be a relatively poor country, but it is the world leader in inexpensive generic medicines, and despite efforts by multiple countries ( including the US, Switzerland, the UK, South Korea and Japan) to smother to insignificance its industry, has continued to supply the world with cheap yet effective medicines.
It is ironic, if not laughable, that Bill Clinton claims so much of the credit “for ensuring cheap medicine for HIV-infected” in the globe, when his administration (during 1992-2001) did so much to try and destroy India’s generic drugs industry, and indeed succeeded in blocking the access of several markets to medicine from Indian companies such as CIPLA, whose visionary chairperson, Yusuf Hamied, merits a Nobel Peace Prize if only the committee would look not only at those who are darlings of the North
Atlantic powers and ignore those who have mapped out their own path. Of course, it is not certain that Hamied would wish to share an honour with the likes of Henry Kissinger, who got the Nobel Peace Prize presumably for his success in population control in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, three countries he bombed in a manner that gave zero strategic benefit to the US but which satisfied his craving for revenge on those who dared to challenge his 18th century vision of the globe.
Events in Syria since 2011 demonstrate the change which has taken place in global geopolitics. After having first ensured that Saddam Hussein and later Muammar Kaddafy surrendered their Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), they destroyed first both of them and later, much of their countries. Given the fact that the GCC is a steadfast ally of NATO, it was a given that Washington, London and Paris would seek to finish off Bashar Assad as well, as desired by Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other allies of the Atlantic powers. By 2011, Syria was on a pathway to liberalisation, with the citizenry enjoying a far broader menu of rights than was the case when Hafez Assad was the master of Syria (and Lebanon).
Bashar withdrew from Lebanon, expecting a change in attitude from the NATO powers, which of course never came, as for the alliance, the world is binary. Either it is 100% or it is zero, and the Assad regis was zero, no matter how hard he tried to befriend the US and the EU. The regional allies of these powers are determined to replace the Alawite leader with an individual responding to their commands. As a consequence, from early 2011, a well-funded movement was begun to ensure that the streets of Damascus, Aleppo and other Zyria cuties erupt in the way Cairo had earlier done, also causing regime change. However, such manifestations failed, and subsequently a flow of weapons and trained fighters were inserted into Syria, thereby starting the armed conflict that has fractured the country and led to a flood of refugees into Europe and a rash of terrorism across several corners of the globe, including in the US and the EU.
Western power is in decline, but the cause of that is not the economy or technology. Despite the most modern technologies, including in weaponry, and the bigger economies as compared with most rivals, why have the Atlantic powers lot the imitative, often to ragtag groups of fighters? The reason is bad policy. Experts and officials in the larger countries of NATO ( especially the US, the UK and France) seem to be basing policy on the writings of Rudyard Kipling and his implied recommendations on how to deal with the natives.
Whether in Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Libya or Syria, policy errors have led to a winning hand getting converted into a losing bid. An example is the reaction to what Ankara is doing on the border with Syria and in locations such as Aleppo. Perhaps because of a lack of knowledge about their provenance, Turkey is accepting as allies the very fighters who just days earlier were part of IS. Most of these, in fact almost all, are “leaving” IS only to rejoin tat organisation later, after getting refreshed and replenished. NATO’s efforts to block Assad’s campaign
against IS in Aleppo and elsewhere is playing into the terror group’s goals, as also the fact that Turkey is battling the Kurds in a manner far deadlier than any moves against IS, which anyway refuses to fight against fighters whom they know are their own, albeit in camouflage for the moment. Because if the way in which the US and its allies have been assisting Ankara against the Kurds, that ethnic group is turning hostile to the West. Additionally, Shia across the rein are seeing NATO as hostile to them, a factor that could ignite a similar variant of terrorism against the US and the EU as has been faced by Israel since its 1982s involvement in the Lebanese civil war.
Wrong policies lead to disaster. Had London given India Dominion Status in the 1930s, the subcontinent may still have remained united, and Queen Elizabeth may have been the Head of State, as she is in Ottawa and Canberra. Of what avails the superior technology and the bigger economies of the western powers, if so many of the geopolitical the policies they are fashioning ad implementing are faulty to the point of idiocy?
—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.