Away from the U.S. Conventions, a New World Order Takes Shape

Though you wouldn't guess it in an election year, the rest of the world increasingly does not need American leadership to guide the way.

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Manish Swarup / AP

Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie walks after inspecting a guard of honor in New Delhi, Tuesday, Sept. 4, 2012. Liang is holding talks with Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony amid Beijing's growing tensions with its neighbors over territorial claims in the South China Sea.

The U.S. has almost ground to a halt with the pageantry and pomp of its party conventions, spectacles that, while theatrical,  carry with them a particular hubris about the stature and pre-eminence of the world’s oldest democracy. The election is, as it’s often described, an exercise in selecting the “leader of the free world.” But as the rest of the planet hums along, paying little notice to what went on in Tampa and Charlotte, that sobriquet has never felt more hollow. For a snapshot of what actually shapes the global order, look no further than India, that other “exceptional” democracy, and its past week of rather unsurprising, unexciting geopoliticking.

In New Delhi, Indian and Chinese defense officials met this week in a bid to reinvigorate ties and restart joint military exercises, which have not taken place since 2008. The world’s two most populous countries, with two rapidly modernizing armies, have sparred diplomatically in recent years over long-standing territorial disputes along their vast, mountainous border. There remains a profound trust deficit on both sides — with nationalist camps in either country wary of, if not openly hostile to, the other — but the talks are encouraging, indicative of the realization both in Beijing and New Delhi that the two rising powers must find avenues of cooperation rather than return to old animosities that saw them clash briefly but bitterly in the Himalayas in 1962.

Meanwhile, the Indian capital also played host to top-ranking officials from a number of Southeast Asian countries — Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam — in what’s been dubbed the Ganga-Mekong summit (the main rivers in northern India and Indochina, respectively). Ostensibly, it’s aimed at boosting Indian trade links with a region that was once tightly woven into the Indian economy in the days of the British Raj. But it’s also a forum for India to offer a riposte to China, which has spent the better part of a decade expanding its political and economic footprint in India’s South Asian backyard. There was no contradiction in India seeking to improve its relations with China while also, in a certain view, trying to counteract Beijing’s influence elsewhere in the region. For now and into the foreseeable future — beyond the occasional dangers of hot-headed nationalism — the contours of Asian geopolitics will be sculpted by the complex, sometimes divergent, sometimes overlapping interests of governments, all pursued with a clear-eyed pragmatism.

While some strategists in Washington seem to think India, as a pluralist democracy rivaling authoritarian China, ought to be firmly in the American camp, few in New Delhi — and, indeed, anywhere else in the developing world — have much interest in ideological agendas. In the Sept. 10 issue of TIME International, I used the meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran last week to trace the disappearance of moral sentiment from Indian foreign policy.

The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) — a bloc of countries trying to chart a path free from the influence of both the U.S. and USSR — was founded in 1961 on that spirit of independence. At NAM’s peak, its members ranged from Indonesia to Yugoslavia to Argentina. Its pro-poor, antiwar politics would lead to the bolstering of institutions such as the U.N.’s atomic agency and its development program. Few statesmen stood taller in this project than [first Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal] Nehru — a suave, Cambridge-educated lawyer who, as India won its liberty in 1947, spoke famously of that moment when “the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.” He went on to inspire fellow third worldists from Africa to Latin America.

But that was then. In the last week of August, as heads of state and dignitaries from some 120 nations gathered under NAM’s umbrella in Tehran, there was little room for nostalgia. With the Cold War over, NAM is almost always dismissed as a fusty, pointless relic. The bloc is, in some respects, a failure; as a body representing the global south, it was too weak and fractured to stave off the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan or the U.S.’s first Persian Gulf intervention in 1990. After spending decades calling for peace and disarmament, NAM’s core members now rank among the world’s leading weapons purchasers. The socialist bonhomie of NAM’s founders has given way to the cold-blooded imperatives of the BRICS. Even in India, some of New Delhi’s elites speak of Nehru’s internationalist moralism as a naive, self-defeating embarrassment.

Indeed, when a number of prominent Indian strategists and academics unveiled earlier this year a vision for New Delhi’s foreign policy titled “Non-Alignment 2.0,” it drew rounds of criticism. Sadanand Dhume, an Indian writer and journalist affiliated with the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington, branded the idea “Failure 2.0.” Ashley Tellis, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and an adviser to the Romney campaign, shook his head at India’s seeming desire to “[run] away from preferential partnerships in a quest for strategic autonomy” — the “preferential partnership” in question being chiefly a deeper Indo-U.S. alliance.

Yet India’s unwillingness to close ranks behind the Americans on a number of key global issues — most recently, Washington’s attempts to punish Iran for its nuclear program — is not a product of adolescent petulance on the world stage but of its own strategic interests. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s delegation to Tehran last week was the largest of all the dozens of heads of state and government that arrived and for good reason: between vital energy ties and a shared headache in stabilizing war-ravaged Afghanistan, the two countries have much to discuss. While the principle of nonalignment may seem an anachronism, its ethos is as relevant as ever. “It offers a middle path,” writes Pankaj Mishra, a left-of-center Indian author, referring to NAM’s potential role in resolving the crisis in Syria, “between Western interventionism and Chinese and Russian obstructionism at the U.N.” Mishra goes on:

None of this should come as a surprise, except to those who are still immersed in fantasies that pit a “concert of democracies” against authoritarianism — empty words that now merely signify minds unable to understand the contemporary world except through the rephrased ideological binaries of the Cold War.

The need for an ideological binary, of course, is something that has long animated American politics and the rhetoric of many aspiring Presidents. Much of the West’s impatience with NAM now, says Vijay Prashad, a professor of international studies at Trinity College in Connecticut and author of the The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World, echoes the frustrations of John Foster Dulles, who decried the movement’s “neutralism” — a term intended to be pejorative, likening the decolonizing world’s refusal to take sides in the Cold War with the “appeasement” shown to Nazi Germany by Western Europe. That’s a historical analogy ever on the tip of neoconservative tongues in Washington, but history, it seems, is against them. “NAM is just a name for regionalism now,” says Prasad. “And the future of world politics lies in this regional thinking, not the U.S. State Department.”

56 comments
Sean
Sean

Lets see America was a great nation when we manufactured stuff. Then came the people that sold us out and destroyed what made us great. then came the pukes that put higher taxes on business. Now there is people profiteering of sending business oversees . Plus we have leaders that support the state of isreal and give billions in aide that is used to wage war on their neighbors. A state dept that is so useless that they deal with fanatics and wonder how they turn. All in all I wouldnt respect or  want to do business with a company staffed with stupid sellout traitorous warmongering psycho egomaniacs led by a fraud as CEO.   

NoFoolJule
NoFoolJule

Blatant lie in the first sentence:

'The U.S. has almost ground to a halt with the pageantry and pomp of its

party conventions, spectacles that, while theatrical,  carry with them a

particular hubris about the stature and pre-eminence of the world’s

oldest democracy.'

The worlds oldest democracy - the ignorance is so incredibly unique in the US.

Followed by 'look no further than India, that other “exceptional” democracy'. Oh boy compared to the US  I guess it is another exceptional democracy. Corrupt as F@@K. Excellent journalism.

Karen Gee
Karen Gee

    *

We control life, Winston, at all its levels. You are imagining that there is something called human nature which will be outraged by what we do and will turn against us. But we create human nature. Men are infinitely malleable. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.

--George Orwell

multilis
multilis

"PS: India's longest range missile is the Agni-III, with a range of 3500km-5000km. This only covers East and South Asia, while..."  India can launch stuff into orbit, does so on a very regular basis.  That means they can easily make a ballistic missile that goes around the world if they want.  But what good would it do them?  

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Kajua
Kajua

Indians

see themselves as Global Super power and are brought up to believe that they invented everything and gandi single

handedly brought down the British Raj. Nothing to do with WW2. India infact is Third world country that has more

child starvation and HIV than the whole Africa. It is confused cleptocracy a day they fire Agni-V dubbed as the "China-killer" next they want military exercise with China.

Dashiell Lipscomb
Dashiell Lipscomb

A) The United States is a republic not a democracy. The government - the president - is NOT chosen by the electorate but by state delegates in an arcane electoral college system

B) even if it was a democracy, it would not be the oldest. Many other nations have a better claim, inlcuding Great Britain, New Zealand, Isle of Mann and Iceland, not to mention various tribes.

C) Not falling into line behind US foreign policy implies loss of a moral dimension? Ha ha ha ha ha ha . Oh please.

Tommy Cocklove
Tommy Cocklove

END OF THE WORLD IS COMING !!!!!!!!!!!!!!  December 2012 -March -2013

killsmith
killsmith

K......I'll have to buy a new suit, then.

sludge_in_NZ
sludge_in_NZ

 Regrettably I agree that the rest of the world is not paying much

attention to what goes on within the USA; to the rest of the world the USA is

just not particularly relevant.  The powerhouse of the world ? not

Europe; and beginning not to be the USA either.

Sheepleherder
Sheepleherder

 GDP is an interesting metric, but per capita both countries have a ways to go. The greater the gap between rich and poor the lesser the likelihood of either of these countries becoming a "great power". Sooner or later the peasants are going to want their share of the cake. Their armies, particularly China's, are "modernizing" not to project power around the world but to focus power on the increasing likelihood of suppressing internal problems.

IQMinusOne
IQMinusOne

I think despite India being a democracy, Indian politicians are actually in the authoritarian camp.

Balu Raju
Balu Raju

:D ..... i bet 20 bucks the chinese will be here posting about how awesome china is !

WAit.....Nevermind..lolz

IQMinusOne
IQMinusOne

My observations tell me that it is the Indians who are most likely to brag for the purpose of showing superiority. Some Chinese may brag, if that could get them a good bargain.

SiDevilIam
SiDevilIam

I am sure the partisan views, on both sides, wold make this essay, something that it is not. My personal opinions, usually but not necessarily, are against Amerian imperialism in broad or more subtle ways.

In case of a recent NAM summit, almost all US media made it clear, in words and in editorials, that Iran is not really a country where such summits be paraded. America has never stopped bashing the so called Mullah dominated (fake) democracy. In recent elections when some dissidents played a spoiled sport using available social channels to assume a role of reformers, US media, promptly gave them high-fives.

It is also known that CIA and the State Department had their fingers in that pie. Why is there so much animosity against the Islamic Republic of Iran? They are one of the several Muslim countries where Islam rules. Saudi Arabia, for instance, has not an ounce of democracy, yet American help, support and good wishes go to them, no matter how many times they are criticized for their overly fundamentalism and intransigence, politically speaking.

Leave India alone. After sixty-five years of trials and errors, India is ready to become a (regional) power to reckon with.

Yankee go home.

...and I am Sid Harth@mysistereileen:disqus .com

killsmith
killsmith

Why is there so much animosity against the Islamic Republic of Iran? 

Ah... because they sponsor terrorist murder all over the world, try to build nukes, and threaten fellow nations with mass destruction, and behave in the most evil fashion.

Ya know, little things like that.

Sean
Sean

Sounds like isreal to me and the US

Kasbohmc2
Kasbohmc2

Nice try, Time.com, in portraying China and India as,  "The Rising Eastern Powers."  

I assure you that they cannot in any way, shape, or form rival America  as the leading power (or, for political scientists, the world's hegemon in a unipolar world).

I concede that both have populations in excess of 1 billion.  Both have huge labor forces and growing militaries.  However, that does not make them powerful.

Both countries are still reliant upon foreign direct investment (FDI) and trade to sustain their rise.  India still must address a 90% poverty rate, while China must come to grips with an aging population.  Both countries are not ready to lead the world in a similar manner as the U.S..

They alone do not constitute a "New World Order."  Even together as BRIC, they still do not rival America.  That's not an appeal to American Exceptionalism; that's based off the facts as they currently stand.

Again, nice try, Time.com.  Better luck next time.

IQMinusOne
IQMinusOne

"I assure you that they cannot in any way, shape, or form rival America  as the leading power"

Americans know that. That's why this article gets to be published here. By the way, isn't BRICS coined by someone working at the Wall Street? Any way, it's better to be called BRICS than PIIGS.

funnyboy911
funnyboy911

New world order, India is a Third world country that still wiping their butt with their left hand. This craphole has more child starvation and HIV than the whole Africa.

kuklu
kuklu

go send your mother you sluturd

MuhammadSchwartz
MuhammadSchwartz

How many New World Orders are there anyway? This one should be called Another World Order.

IQMinusOne
IQMinusOne

Every time there is a major change of alignment of countries, there is a New World Order.

The US wants India to help contain China and Iran, but over reached with its aggressive sanction against Iran. The sanctions forced India to make a choice. The funny thing is that India is actually more boastful of democracy and the US found its moral high ground totally eclipsed.

While seasoned diplomats use clever maneuvers backed up by force, amateurs use brute force directly.  I guess there are actual consequences after all when voters have to put inexperienced people into high office.

Maaq
Maaq

Falling US imperialism need a 3 rd leg to support. Can India be that leg?

MuhammadSchwartz
MuhammadSchwartz

The New World Order is.....Half a roast chicken with a side of mashed potatoes and cole slaw

Suzi Saul
Suzi Saul

Well, this is what happens when we give all our financial might to foreign countries.

Jfante1452
Jfante1452

Boy what ego. The negative scenario you paint about the U.S. ensures that people will read your article. Good job!

Kevin
Kevin

As arrogant as Indians are becoming I'd hate to see them if they ever had any actual success.  I hope their government isn't as arrogant as their authors and netizens.  More and more of these articles written by Indian nationals are popping up where they vastly overestimate India's stature and influence.  All this talk about NAM is funny as if it's actually a relevant organization in world affairs.  LOL.

NoFoolJule
NoFoolJule

 Agree, comparing India to China is a complete joke.

Prithvi Shiv
Prithvi Shiv

 Every country has its share of jingoistic chest thumpers. India's is no different.

IQMinusOne
IQMinusOne

The sentiment here is that some, if not most, Indians tend to over estimate themselves in real work, sometimes even in a seemingly sincere way. It is quite annoying if you have to work with this attitude as you always have to do a mental reduction or even outright dismissal of their capability.

IQMinusOne
IQMinusOne

The disputes have been a proxy fight for the US. It's a good thing that India recognized this and would consider from it's own geopolitical perspective.

Prithvi Shiv
Prithvi Shiv

 From a professional perspective, the Chinese are most competent workers I've come across. From a personal perspective, most chinese I come across believe that their time in the Sun has come and that anyone who disagrees with this can sod off.

I am not a jingoist. I believe invisible lines on the map are as insidious as invisible friends in the sky. Therefore, I can't stand jingoism and nationalism. I think the truth is that for every nationalist, you will find a realist. Most Indians I know, definitely think that India still has long way to go, especially in improving the state of its citizen's existence and improving infrastructure. Most Chinese I know, even the level headed ones, believe that their nation is a finished product. You need to head down to Businessweek's Asia section to see how misplaced patriotism is being masqueraded as a superiority complex.

I personally have nothing against them I suppose, it's only natural human behavior, but what is concerning is that China now does have the brawn to make good of its threats. This is nowhere more aptly demonstrated than in brewing tensions of the South China sea disputes. Will it act responsibly? Who knows?

IQMinusOne
IQMinusOne

Personal experience, especially internet, can differ. But I was referring to the fact that in Chinese culture humility is indeed a virtue encouraged upon kids. It is not deemed a virtue in other cultures. In America, it could even be the opposite.

My singling out Indians is from my personal experiences working with them. It is not obvious from other nationalities.

I was wondering if this has anything to do with the past influence of the Caste system which makes people to believe some are really genetically better than others, even among the same race. And because of this, people can lose objectivity and tend to over estimate.

I am not attacking any one. I am probably just curious about a deeper reasoning about why people think in a certain way. You are welcome to provide your reasoning.

Also "chest thumping and racist comments" is not the same as over estimate of one's ability. It's subtle, but the purpose is totally different. Propaganda is to deceive, not to show pride. Those who resort to propaganda actually have no pride or want pride. They want to stay in power at all cost.

Prithvi Shiv
Prithvi Shiv

 Frankly given my interactions with most chinese on discussion forums, humility is the last thing I would say the chinese possess. The amount of chest thumping and racist comments I've seen from some Chinese posters really makes me wonder about how many chinese commentators you've actually debated with.

I find your singling out of India as being extremely jingoistic as naive at best. The chinese are not humble, not their netizens, not their official mouthpieces and definitely not their state sponsored propaganda machine. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I don't know, human history is replete with recurring examples of pride coming before a fall. Time will tell.

IQMinusOne
IQMinusOne

I don't think that's universal. For example, some people from China were in their childhood encouraged to be humble (because those in power use this as a way to make people obedient). A lot of them believe that and tend to under estimate their ability. As a result, they make a sharp contrast with Indians when applying for jobs at the same company.

Prithvi Shiv
Prithvi Shiv

 A lot of newly successful countries do that. I still don't see it a unique issue with India or Indians. It's human nature to gloat and preen at the slightest positives.

Kevin
Kevin

So does mean that India will send troops to Afghanistan to help stabilize it?  Does it mean that China and Russia will solve the Syrian problem?  Will the South China Sea disputes be solved?  Are they going to solve the Israeli-Palestinian issue?  Will Russia solve it's own problems in caucasus?  Will India solve Kashmir and the various insurgencies taking place on their soil while keeping their lights on?  Will China solve Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang?  Will China and India keep their economies moving forward even though they are already slowing?  Will they solve global warming?

Nice try though. It did make me laugh. Maybe China can give India some electricity so they don't have another massive blackout. Yeah they've arrived alright. They're pretty good freeloaders as long as someone else is doing the work. They want to be treated like a developed nation while pleading poverty. Perhaps the author should go back to India since apparently that is where everything is happening.

Jeffrey Geez Glavick
Jeffrey Geez Glavick

So Afghanistan is becoming more stable as we speak? haha- Ten years and zero improvement, trillions of dollars spent on these wars and nothing gained. The safety of America? place the troops at our borders and ports etc if that is the real reason for the MIC, we would be infinitely safer and our young kids would not come home in hidden coffins and  cripples to families they no longer know and few prospects for the future. A national shame. Bang Bang- go away

Balu Raju
Balu Raju

BLAME everything on the Cold war you guys drummed up....so many countries are paying the price for your fuck ups even now..hehe

LOLZ the US wont intervene unless it has economic gains at an international or domestic level... ..History For the win mate.

nice try though

rory2012
rory2012

 I don't know about the other countries.As far as Chinese policy concerned how to solve the problem,Chinese realized war is not the answer.Chinese learned it takes time and also it needs to narrow the gaps of living standard of varies party concerned in order to find a common ground and interest to locked in to work together towards common prosperity.

zain2120
zain2120

Afghanistan: Why would India clean up the mess left behind from the US/Nato war? Especially when other allies are bailing and the US cannot wait to leave it also. So the question can really be turned around and asked, will the US stick around long enough to stabilize Afghanistan after the war they started?

Israel-Palestine issue: Neither will the US. Until the "special relationship" ends and an era of honest brokerage begins, not much hope.

India-Kashmir issue: Again has the US solved this or made any progress in this matter since its inception?

You list a bunch of issues in the world and then make an assumption that the US is actually on the verge of solving them. Nice try :)

zain2120
zain2120

Afghanistan: Why would India clean up the mess left behind from the US/Nato war? Especially when other allies are bailing and the US cannot wait to leave it also. So the question can really be turned around and asked, will the US stick around long enough to stabilize Afghanistan after the war they started?

Israel-Palestine issue: Neither will the US. Until the "special relationship" ends and an era of honest brokerage begins, not much hope.

India-Kashmir issue: Again has the US solved this or made any progress in this matter since its inception?

You list a bunch of issues in the world and then make an assumption that the US is actually on the verge of solving them. Nice try :)

Maaq
Maaq

US is trying to escape and put India in death trap, Indian leaders are smart enough to analyse the situation plus India don't take dictation.

proletaria
proletaria

 Well yes, the US has no interest in staying in Afganistan longer than they have to. What gets left behind though has more to do with regional powers than anyone else. Syria, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, and India have all been gaming the conflict to some degree or another. So it's only fitting they'll be around to reap the rewards of that failing a civil result.

formerlyjamesm
formerlyjamesm

Having reflected on your questions, it was a disappointment to realize that they were rhetorical, and you intended to imply a standard no answer to each question.   American exceptionalism?  "Rephrased ideological binaries of the cold war" mentioned in the article?  I think so, and a "nice try" to you as well.

Supamonkey
Supamonkey

 Perhaps. You, I guess, don't know about the investment in telecommunications (TV, Cellphones etc) India has made in AF in the last ten years. Or the training of teachers and other civil servants, or perhaps the various construction projects done at 1/10th the cost of American contractors, or perhaps about the Delhi hospitals that provide Heart, Cancer, etc treatments to Afghans.  Typical, if you don't see a gun, you don't see anything. I am ashamed.

Syrian government is still pretty strong and without Russia and China they will eventually ( might be years) win the civil war followed by the massacre of thousands. In all other disputes mentioned, no body asked the US for help, why the assumption? I am confused.

dot2dotnews
dot2dotnews

Large Chinese companies will use India's low wages to their advantage only to make their companies even larger, does India have a phase 2?

Niida
Niida

India is world power and acted like one,  recent developments proved India's sovereignty and true leading role rather a subdued subordinate in world politics.