Geopolitical Notes From India
M D Nalapat
MANY in Israel regard themselves as a European country rather than a part of Asia. Although it ought to have been made a member decades ago, the only reason why this small but dynamic country has not been admitted to NATO is perhaps because of a lingering prejudice in the minds of several Europeans who have yet to get over the hangover of 1936-45, the period when Adolf Hitler made it his primary mission to commit genocide against a people whose contributions to Germany were substantial. Bill Clinton and his successors presided over the eastward march of NATO.
Now that Donald Trump has been elected the President of the United States, the chances for Israel to be admitted to NATO are brighter than they ever were. Of course, while both culturally and largely ethnically Israelis are indeed European, the same cannot be said for Japan. which is the only Asian member of that Atlanticist club, the G-7. Although the Japanese justified their victories over the UK, France and the Netherlands in the South-east Asian theatre by painting themselves as liberators of the local inhabitants from European colonisation, their subsequent rule was at least as bad as that of the powers they replaced. In India, the Nicobar islands came under Japanese control during the 1939-45 war, and upon taking over, executions and other acts of cruelty became the norm against the peaceable community there, so much so that the earlier period of servitude (to the British raj) seemed much better than rule by the Japanese, who conjured up a racial theory similar to that peddled by their wartime allies, the Germans.
After their 1945 defeat by the US, Japan became a willing member of the US alliance network, and within the G-7, sought to act more “western” than the actual “westerners” ie the Europeans and the Europeanists elsewhere, for example in the US and Canada. Japanese aristocracy has often wandered the globe in top hat and tails, trying to look as much like their peers in Europe as possible, shedding the elegant dress of traditional Japan, a country with a long history and civilisation. In the 21st century, because Asia is becoming more consequential than Europe, Japan’s effective status as a “European country in Asia” is becoming not an advantage but a handicap, shutting it out of Asia Only solutions. In the Korea talks, for example, Tokyo is only a bystander and not a player. For a time, Russia was made a part of the “G-7” club, at least on the record.
However, the presence of this huge, brooding once superpower disconcerted France and Germany. Once Vladimir Putin threw off the obsequiousness towards the US and western Europe of Boris Yeltsin (and a similar eagerness to please the Atlantic alliance on the part of Dmitry Medvedev), an excuse was found to expel Russia from the club. Not that it mattered, for the centre of gravity of the world economy had moved from the Atlantic to the Indo-Pacific, and the discarding of the welcome mat to Russia by the EU resulted in Moscow becoming deeply involved in other parts of the world, including in the Middle East, where it has now become the second-most important outside power, after the US. When Moscow under Putin is being treated as an enemy, it is no surprise that on several issues, Russia is taking a stand in opposition to NATO, an alliance that was explicitly set up to battle it, a task that still seems its primary goal, despite the 1992 fall of the Soviet Union.
From Saudi Arabia to Turkey, countries in this fissile region are turning to Russia, usually at the expense of the NATO powers, specifically the UK and France (which country is not finding it easy to sell its expensive fighter aircraft to air forces beyond India). Although Trump pledged to voters in the US to work towards cooperation with Russia, he has been forced as President to continue with the Russophobic Atlanticist policies that have held sway within both sides of the North Atlantic. However, it would appear that despite such guided Trump-seeking missiles as Robert Mueller, the 45th President of the US is slowly regaining his confidence. The reaching out to Kim Jong Un is evidence of this. The best chance for a short, low cost (in human lives) war was during the Clinton and early Bush administrations.
A decapitation strike now would result in millions of casualties in Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and parts of US territory. Neither Clinton nor Bush nor Obama would have had the self-confidence to reach out to North Korea and seek to convert an enemy into a friend. If the military option is off the table, only a “bright sunshine” policy of comprehensive engagement with North Korea can ensure that the feisty upper half of the Korean peninsula act like a good global citizen. This is clear to RoK President Moon and clearly to President Trump. If a Nobel Prize gets awarded for eliminating the risk of another Korean war, it should be shared by Kim, Moon and Trump.
—The writer is Vice-Chair, Manipal Advanced Research Group, UNESCO Peace Chair & Professor of Geopolitics, Manipal University, Haryana State, India.