Alternative World Order: Better for Pakistan? By Dr Muhammad Ali Ehsan

Alternative World Order: Better for Pakistan? By Dr Muhammad Ali Ehsan

The US considers Russia, China, Iran and North Korea as countries that have diverged; countries that have stood up against the international system and that collectively challenge the world order of liberal internationalism. Seen from a different perspective, what we are witnessing is not divergence but the beginning of a new era of convergence. West conveniently ignores this development and continues to propagate these states as authoritative, autocratic and rouge. Yet the reality is quite different. These are pushback states — those that have been alienated from the international system and are thus the states that are dissenting. What is it that these states dissent against? Unilateralism and interventionism. They reject the world dominated, influenced and controlled by one centre and power of influence — the US.

Given the dissent shown by these converging states, the current world order is under deep stress. History shows us that whenever two orders compete, it always results in conflict. The converging states are creating an alternative order and the current global chaos that we witness has got everything to do with US strategic response of doing everything within its power to prevent this order from taking shape. BRI, EEU, SCO and BRICS are some of the initiatives of this alternative order that are designed to create an alternative world controlled by many centres of power and influence — a multipolar world. As we try to navigate the landscape of this emerging alternative order, we may find that global governance may not be completely replaced by regional governance but it definitely will be displaced by regional governance constituted under the framework of regionalisation. The alternative order is designed to promote regional powers and empowered regions to play a much more significant role in future global governance and as regional powers take more significant role global governance is bound to decentralise. Initially regional governance may complement and supplement global governance but eventually global governance will become a thing of the past. The UN in the absence of effective decision-making and decision-enforcing mechanism will relegate to a position of becoming a debating club where anything serious will stop happening except common global challenges such as climate change, human rights, international laws, etc.

The US conduct as a global hegemon has only hastened the convergence of the countries that constitutes the core of this convergence. All four countries, Russia, China, Iran and North Korea have a similar view on what goes on in four trouble spots in the world — Western Pacific and South China Sea, Korean Peninsula, Middle East and NATO’s Eastern flank in Europe. The latter two are already active theatres of military operations and the former two have all the right sign of turning into future active theatre of operations.

The four countries claim sphere of influence. China does that in East China Sea and South China Sea; North Korea in Korean Peninsula; Iran in Persian Gulf and in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen; and Russia within its former republics. All four accuse NATO for inciting the Ukrainian war and all four also criticise the US for supporting Israel and enabling its military response in Gaza, and calling it a pusher and creator of anarchy and disorder in the world. The last claim of these core states of convergence resonates a lot with the people of the Muslim world not on religious but on principled humanitarian grounds. The core is also expanding as can be seen from the popularity of its actions not just with the Muslim states but with many other states. Hungry, Cuba, Eritrea, Nicaragua and Belarus are on the brink of joining this core and many African countries that have experienced coups like Mali in 2020, Guinea in 2021, Burkina Faso in 2022, Gabon and Niger in 2023 are also looking up to Russia and China and the alternative order that they represent to seek an end to the western exploitation of their country’s politics and resources.

Critics may say that these are not very big names but the answer to that is simple. It is not in the interest of the middle powers such as India, South Africa, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and Indonesia to take a clear position on favouring an order and it is in their best interest that they continue to hedge and relate to both the orders which they are doing. All these middle powers extract diplomatic and military leverage from the global US presence and thus it will be a wrong assumption to consider that any of these middle powers will join the alterative order before the eventual defeat of the ailing order of liberal internationalism.

Given the state of its economy, Pakistan is not a medium but an ordinary power that is also unique. It is unique because despite its economic woes it is a nuclear power and thus always deserves a special treatment. In a future scenario where the two orders are likely to more vigorously clash and compete what will be Pakistan’s position given not only its nuclear but geopolitical significance. Ironically, all four core powers of the grouping of alternative order share borders. Not the land border, but Iran shares maritime border through the Caspian Sea from where it carries out most trade with Russia and where the US enjoys little or no influence. We share borders with two powers of the core group and geography clearly dictates our natural alliance with the emerging alternative order. Our political, social, economic and security condition also indicates that we haven’t gained anything from the existing order and we are also a sitting on the fence, as a dissatisfied state.

The last grand strategic gesture by the US towards Pakistan was almost three decades earlier when it started supplying Pakistan with F-16 fighter aircraft. Since then the loss that terrorism has brought to Pakistan has been more than the benefit that it could extract from the $19 billion aid it received for counterterrorism operations from the US from 2002 to 2010. The US even didn’t give Pakistan the batch of 28 F-16s that it had purchased and paid for. So, policymakers in Pakistan should seriously question what grand strategic gestures can the US offer to Pakistan in future to keep it on its side? The big challenge for us is to recover our economy and reinstitute political progress; and for this purpose economic regionalism and strategic alliance with China and Russia must be given serious consideration.

Alternative World Order: Better for Pakistan? By Dr Muhammad Ali Ehsan

Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2024.

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