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The Ukraine crisis and the need for a new world order

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Last week, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky told the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, “If you can’t halt the conflict, the UN Security Council should be dissolved…” This is not the first time the UN has proved ineffective in the face of aggression by one or the other superpower. Is it time for a new world order?

The UN was established after World War II to guide the world in the right direction. But it got caught in the battle between two ideologies in what became the Cold War.

Pakistan-born historian, Ishtiaq Ahmed, wrote about a meeting that took place in May 1947 between General Bernard Montgomery with the heads of the British Royal Army and Navy. During this meeting, these generals impressed upon him that many senior Indian Congress leaders were inclined to socialism. They felt that if a “buffer state” were not built in the middle, the erstwhile Soviet Union’s influence would extend to the Indian Ocean’s borders. Ahmed concludes that as a result of this, on June 3, 1947, Mountbatten announced the official decision on the Partition of India and stated that the moment of power transfer had been changed to the earlier date of August 1947. This explains Pakistan’s importance to the West from then on.

India, on the other hand, had begun to seek a middle ground even before the Non-Aligned Movement’s 1961 Belgrade Conference. Pakistan has now abandoned the United States (US) and has moved into China’s camp.

This is why Pakistan’s former Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan criticised the US and said he is being forced out. Western countries are attempting to persuade India to stop purchasing Russian oil and armaments. When India refused to budge, Dalip Singh, US deputy national security advisor, warned of dire consequences for New Delhi. Later, President Joe Biden and the secretaries of commerce and defense expressed similar sentiments. But India remains unmoved. Why?

The key reasons for this are old connections, Russian concessions following oil price spikes, the reliance on Moscow for 60% of military supplies, and the current government’s resolve. PM Narendra Modi’s ‘nation first’ theory applies to foreign policy as well. The West and Russia tried to force India’s hand at the UN General Assembly on the vote on Russia’s suspension from the Human Rights Council. New Delhi abstained; the vote against Russia went through.

The US is in decline. For decades, it has used different accords to keep the globe, particularly Europe, under its control. These countries sold the poor and developing countries the dream of a global village based on democracy and liberalism. Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin also bought into this. In those days, Vladimir Putin was PM. This is why, on becoming president, he sought to tread a middle path. The US recession of 2008 altered the equation. Then came the US push to expand the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) which compelled Russia to reverse course.

There should have been a limit to NATO’s expansionist goals. But that was not to be and the result is the conflict in Ukraine. The atrocities in Bucha have led to matters taking a turn for the worse.

The developing world is in turmoil. Look at our neighborhood. Pakistan, its economy tottering and its politics in a state of instability, is almost collapsing. Sri Lanka is on a slippery slope. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had to declare a state of emergency for a while to deal with the protests. In Bangladesh, people are protesting over rising inflation. Nepal is in a state of flux. People in India are bearing the brunt of rising petrol and food prices. Tensions at the border with China have not been resolved.

Dalip Singh warned that India should not be under the assumption that if China ratchets up its aggression, New Delhi can count on Russia’s help. He seems to have forgotten that the erstwhile Soviet Union came to India’s aid in 1971 when the US deployed its infamous Seventh Fleet to put pressure on New Delhi during the Bangladesh war. The fate of Ukraine is testimony to the fickle ways of both the US and NATO and their lack of any real support for the beleaguered country. We have to fight our own battles. And without doubt, India has dealt with the ongoing situation keeping its self-interest uppermost in its priorities.

The war in Ukraine has been going on for over 50 days now. It could well drag on. In this short time, the conflict has not only divided the world in two but also given rise to fears of World War III. It has also been proved that the order established after the dissolution of the Soviet Union has now become obsolete.

There is now only one of two scenarios: Either build a new world order keeping every country’s interest in mind or prepare for a dark future marked by strife and conflict.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan 

The views expressed are personal

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