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Preparing For A New Year Global Shake-up

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With changing geo-politics in US-Russia relations, which are moving towards a new phase of cooperation, New Delhi must find itself a welcome partner by both, as the largest cementing force for a new global order

From the long-term hope of a developing country like India to completely go digital and cashless to the incoming US President Donald Trump seeking to re-shape global geo-politics as well as making the American economy self-centered, the New Year promises to be exciting as well as eventful.

At the global level, US President-elect Trump has already planted a cat among the world’s political pigeons by announcing his Secretary of State to be. Against all “informed sources” in Washington speculating over known politicians and strategists as the likely candidates, Trump has amazed everybody by naming a businessman for this key job.

Rex Tillerson is oil giant ExxonMobil’s current Chief Executive Officer. His main qualification for a job, that only a politician/academic could handle, is his insight into oil business and capacity to deal with the Russian establishment. Tillerson’s closeness to Russian President Vladimir Putin has made Trump’s critics underline their claim that the incoming President is very much pro-Russia in the global chess board.

Once Trump enters the White House in Washington, he seems to have all plans set to re-configure global power play and seek to return America to be the key player as it was in the1970s. Analysts say he would seek to make up with Putin, one to deny China the global positioning it has enjoyed in the recent past that had forced even Russia to seek a Sino-Russian alliance to confine America.

In the 1970s, President Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State, the redoubtable Henry Kissinger had sought to enrol Mao’s China to contain and curb Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev’s bid to be the global leader in marketing Soviet version of Leninism and throw a challenge to America by retaining a tremendous influence over Castro’s Cuba.

In selecting the friendly Putin, Tillerson observers see an American geo-politics return to curb China and prevent any Sino-Russian alliance emerging. With China’s strength as the Number Two economy of the world with a 10 trillion dollar gross domestic product and a two trillion hoard of trade surplus dollars, Beijing was already firming up its leadership of Asian ocean rim economies and acquiring a grip over the land and maritime trade routes under its ‘One road, one belt’ policy.

Beijing is investing heavily (over 50 billion dollars) in Pakistan using an obliging grateful Islamabad which wants to cut India to size to build multi-nodal super highway and rail-road through the heart of that country connecting China’s southern and western Provinces to the Indian Ocean port of Gwadr that Beijing was building.

At the same time, Beijing is asserting its ownership of disputed territories in several islands in South Pacific and eastern seas between China and Japan against the claims of neighbouring countries.

Trump has, through Tillerson’s appointment and himself talking to Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, given a message to Beijing that its attempt to push America out of Asia and share Pacific Ocean trade with America through the Trans Pacific Partnership are over. America under him will assert its own interest and leadership and make strategic partnership with Asian nations the new policy.

For India, under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi, this shift is important. Already India-US strategic partnership has become a major element in India-US relations. Trump cut off Pakistan’s attempt to show itself as back in America’s favour in the new regime.

Pakistan’s version of the talk Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had with the Trump sought to create the impression of a revival of Pakistan as an ally of American interests. But Trump did not wait and immediately issued a correction, that the version of his talk with Sharif that Pakistan put, out was untrue.

The New Year opens with yet another political quake — the tremors in the European Union (EU). After Brexit, conservative leaderships, with no loyalty to the Union, are surging in many other countries of the EU. Portugal, Italy, France and even Germany, for instance. The EU we thought would be a fortress and developing countries would be hard put to their way into this trade and political bloc.

With the possible loosening of the fortress idea, India can better negotiate with its own interest in mind. Incidentally, New Delhi currently is better positioned with Modi having improved relationship with leading EU members through personal ties with each one of their political leaders.

For all the criticism — some of which is touched off by the problems the public is genuinely facing in adjusting to the distribution of the new currency — that the Union Government is facing over the currency swap, there is a awareness about a Government which is attacking corruption and black money economy that had sullied the political and business climate of the country for decades now.

Prime Minister Modi has made the “new notes for the old” not just a currency swap, but a part of moving the entire country into a digital economy, including a cashless transaction climate. Critics are right in pointing out that such a cashless, all digital transaction has not taken place even in developed economies like the US. But why must we presume that what was not possible in advanced economies should not be attempted in a developing one?

A great leader like Napoleon said that there’s nothing that is impossible. Critics said that Modi, who was only the Chief Minister of a State, cannot become the Prime Minister, critiquing his intellectual and academic levels and lack of experience in foreign policy.

Last 30 months had disproved each one of those criticisms. The shift to a digital, cashless economy will be a painful process. The disgorging of so much black money in so many places across the country in the last 50 days is surely evidence of the medicine implemented by Modi, working though subjecting the body politic to much pain.

Thus, for our country, the New Year might bring in a new economy of respect for rectitude that is currently lacking throughout. Once that happens, respect for the leadership that walked the talk, will grow. Politics will follow economics and not the other way round.

Externally, in the changing geo-politics with US-Russian relations moving into a new phase of cooperation instead of all out adversarial position, New Delhi should find itself a welcome partner by both, the US and Russia as the largest cementing force for the new global order.

India alone, among the large countries and potential economic resource and people’s talent, has the resource and stature with former long-term relationship with Russia and democratic and libertarian polity that can evoke a positive response, both regionally and globally.

Balbir Punj

(The writer is a former Member of Parliament and a Delhi-based commentator on social and political issues)

Courtesy: The Pioneer

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