International Relations are in an unprecedented flux as the world enters a period of full-spectrum paradigm changes involving everything from science and technology, health, geo-economics, geopolitics, and the socio-cultural sphere. Never before has everything unfolded in such an accelerated and compressed way, which has understandably become overwhelming for many people. Few can foresee what the future will hold—other than the broad forecast that its geo-economic structure will be influenced by the Fourth Industrial Revolution while that of geopolitics will disproportionately be shaped by the global competition between the superpowers of the U.S. and China.
The unprecedented U.S.-led Western sanctions against Russia in response to Moscow’s ongoing special military operation in Ukraine proved that economic interests are subservient to political ones since there’s no economic logic behind the EU dutifully complying with Washington’s demands to decouple from Russia other than the fact the bloc lacks the political independence to say no to America. This observation confirms that identifying the key geopolitical trends of the emerging world order is crucial to predicting its most likely geo-economic contours. To this end, acknowledging the worldwide competition between the American and Chinese superpowers is the first step towards that goal.
The second entails becoming aware of Indian thinker Sanjaya Baru’s bi-multipolarity concept that the author of the present piece elaborated more about in his RIAC column from last December titled “The Neo-NAM: From Vision To Reality”. To summarize, Mr. Baru posited that this superpower competition will disproportionately shape the emerging world order but that the growing number of great powers below them in the international hierarchy will balance between themselves, the American and Chinese superpowers, and the comparatively medium- and smaller-sized countries at the bottom of this hierarchy in pursuit of maximizing their strategic autonomy.
Russia and India can play a unique role in this respect because their time-tested special and privileged comprehensive partnership coupled with their shared goal of complementarily maximizing their strategic autonomy in the present bi-multipolar intermediary phase of the global systemic transition to multipolarity enables them to jointly pursue the creation of a new Non-Aligned Movement (“Neo-NAM”). This proposed structure would serve the purpose of pioneering a third pole of influence and thus transitioning International Relations away from bi-multipolarity and towards tripolarity ahead of its final outcome of complex multipolarity.
The same author’s latest column in early June about how “India Is Irreplaceable Balancing Force In Global Systemic Transition” explained how Delhi decisively intervened after Moscow’s special operation to avert its partner’s potentially disproportionate dependence on Beijing by becoming its valve from Western and Eastern pressure, which in turn preserved Russia’s strategic autonomy under these new international conditions. While the global polarization over this conflict reduces the chances of the jointly led Russian-Indian Neo-NAM becoming a force to be reckoned with anytime soon, the trappings of a third pole of influence are already apparent between them and Iran.
Even so, this emerging triple pole of influence between Russia, India, and Iran is still a far way’s off from what the Neo-NAM entails though it could still provide proof of Mr. Baru’s prediction that Great Powers will multi-align between themselves to maximize their strategic autonomy vis-a-vis the American and Chinese superpowers. It is with this incipient trend in mind what is now unfolding in Eurasia as India would do well to attempt its replication in the Indo-Pacific region with respect to ASEAN. To explain the reason behind this policy proposal, it’s enough to cite the opening remarks of the Singaporean Foreign Minister during mid-June’s special ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting with India.
Mr. Vivian Balakrishnan declared that “The sharpening superpower rivalry between the US and China has direct implications for all of us in Asia. These developments, if left unchecked, can threaten the old system of peace and stability, which we have been dependent on for the basis of our growth, development, and prosperity over many decades.” Although he didn’t employ Mr. Baru’s bi-multipolarity terminology, his acknowledgment of America and China as superpowers very closely aligns with that Indian thinker’s worldview and thus provides the geostrategic basis upon which ASEAN and that South Asian civilization-state can build their future relations.
Just like India decisively intervened to avert its Russian Eurasian partner’s potentially disproportionate dependence on either the U.S. or Chinese superpowers in the newfound Age of Complexity that characterizes the present phase of the global systemic transition to multipolarity since COVID-19 and the onset of Moscow’s special operation, so too can it do the same with its ASEAN Indo-Pacific partner as well. After all, ASEAN just like Russia doesn’t want to be coerced into becoming either superpower’s junior partner even if some of its members independently decided that choosing one or the other is in their objective national interests. As a whole, the bloc’s interests are best served by remaining neutral.
Nevertheless, it’s being increasingly forced to choose between the U.S. and China, which is in turn reducing its strategic autonomy and risks fracturing this fulcrum of the Indo-Pacific region within which the full-spectrum paradigm changes associated with the Age of Complexity are rapidly converging. That outcome would destabilize this pivotal geo-economic space and lead to even more unpredictable consequences for the global systemic transition, perhaps even ultimately giving an edge to one of the superpowers and in turn endangering the grand strategic interests of Great Powers like Russia, India, and ASEAN (if one conceptualizes the bloc as whole as one like some do the EU).
For this reason, it is incumbent on India to do its utmost to avert that scenario by replicating its policy towards Russia in ASEAN in order to jointly create a third of pole influence in the Indo-Pacific exactly as it’s actively attempting to do in Eurasia. The simultaneous attempt to facilitate tripolarity in the two most dynamic regions of the Eastern Hemisphere can be described as dual-tripolarity and should become the guiding principle upon which India’s grand strategy be formulated throughout the Age of Complexity. Its success would revolutionize the global systemic transition by resulting in complex multipolarity after India midwifes the transition to dual-tripolarity from bi-multipolarity.
To explain it more simply, India is the only great power with a dual geostrategic identity in the sense that it sits within both Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific, meaning that nobody else other than this fiercely independent state has the capability to simultaneously lead tripolarity processes in its respective regions. Moreover, India enjoys excellent relations with Russia and ASEAN, sharing the desire to complementarily maximize their strategic autonomy in the present bi-multipolar intermediary phase of the global systemic transition to complex multipolarity that’s unfolding within the newfound Age of Complexity that emerged as a result of COVID-19 and Russia’s special operation.
Wrapping up this piece, all responsible stakeholders aspire to build a Multipolar World Order since the former system of unipolarity was unfair for the vast majority of humanity while the present bi-multipolar intermediary phase still doesn’t sufficiently meet the interests of most players. What’s needed is for International Relations to transition to tripolarity as soon as possible so that complex multipolarity can follow, after which the largest number of countries can have the greatest opportunities for safeguarding their strategic autonomy. India is uniquely positioned to bring this about and should thus prioritize it by considering the author’s grand strategic proposal of dual-tripolarity.