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Sunday, June 13, 2021

Return of the West

It is rebuilding its unity and strength. India has work to do if it is to seize the possibilities of the emerging global order.

By: Editorial |
Updated: May 10, 2021 7:54:53 am
The notion of a declining West has been around for more than a century but its recent credibility is rooted in the dramatic rise of China and its presumed capacity to overturn prolonged western dominance of the international system.

That the West is deeply divided, that it is in terminal decline, are ideas that gained ground in recent years. But US President Joe Biden and his colleagues in the club of the world’s richest democracies are saying “not so fast”. This week’s ministerial meeting in London of the Group of Seven — the political directorate of the West constituted by the seven leading industrial nations anchored by the US — signalled that the West is rebuilding its unity and strength. The notion of a declining West has been around for more than a century but its recent credibility is rooted in the dramatic rise of China and its presumed capacity to overturn prolonged western dominance of the international system. China’s rapid economic growth, massive military modernisation, impressive lead in new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, spectacular Belt and Road Initiative, growing capacity to shape international institutions, enhanced political influence across the world, and a deepening strategic partnership with Russia, seemed to tilt the scales against the West.

Reinforcing this has been the chaotic churn in the US during the four years of the Trump presidency. America’s friends watched with dismay as Trump trashed US alliances, abandoned America’s global leadership, walked out of global institutions, and tore up agreements signed by his predecessor. Trump’s inability to manage the Covid-19 pandemic seemed to confirm America’s crisis of national competence. This new conventional wisdom is now being overturned by President Joe Biden, who has brought order and purpose to governance at home. With the US economy roaring back on the strength of a huge economic stimulus and mass vaccination, Biden has brought a new vigour to American foreign policy by revitalising old US alliances in Europe and Asia and building new global coalitions. Promising “extreme competition” with China, Biden has signalled that America is not willing to go gently into the night.

Britain’s invitation to India, along with Australia, South Korea and South Africa, to join the G-7 ministerial meeting this week in London and the summit next month are rooted in the conviction that Delhi must be an integral part of a powerful coalition of democracies to shape the global order in the 21st century. Just a few weeks ago, India seemed well poised to seize the new strategic opportunities coming its way. But Delhi’s disastrous handling of the second wave of the coronavirus has set back hopes for an early rebound of the Indian economy and raised questions about its readiness to take a larger international role. Seen together with global dismay at Delhi’s democratic backsliding in recent years, India’s international prospects have taken a beating. Despite the pall of gloom that has enveloped official Delhi, India’s society is resilient enough to recover and redeem its global possibilities. To get there, the NDA government needs to level with the people on its egregious errors in dealing with the virus and offer a credible pathway out of the crisis.

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