“Western powers themselves are no longer liberal on refugees”
“In the past, it used to be said that India was a ‘swing state’ that could tilt the balance of power in favour of China or the US. But under Prime Minister Modi, we have a clear goal of becoming a ‘leading power’ or a pole in the international system that is equal to China and the US. We want a multipolar world and our diplomacy is geared towards that objective. We do not accept Chinese hegemony and will find other means to resist it, even if the US under Trump has lost interest in counterbalancing China through multilateral coalition-building,” says Dr. Sreeram Sundar Chaulia, Professor and Dean, Jindal School of International Affairs, in an exclusive interview with Ravi Mishra . Excerpts:
How do you see the citizenship Amendment bill recently passed in Parliament?
It is a bold legislation by the Narendra Modi government to raise the stature of India in South Asia. By opening our door to persecuted religious minorities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh, we are asserting our moral leadership and humanitarian approach to neighbourhood policy. The CAA is a true manifestation of ‘Sab Ka Saath, Sab Ka Vikas’.
Pakistan and Bangladesh were created in the name of Islam. Therefore, how could it be accepted that Muslims are persecuted in these countries? Even the statistic shows that the population of Hindus and Sikhs in these countries have drastically decreased since 1947.
There is no persecution of Muslims in these Muslim-majority countries where Islam has the official status as state religion. There are some Muslim sects like Ahmadiyas, Shias and Muhajirs who have been persecuted in these countries, and India does admit some of them for asylum. For example, Altaf Hussain, the leader of the Muhajirs in Pakistan, has applied for asylum in India. We will consider such cases. But on the whole, Muslims are not subject to ethnic cleansing or forcible conversions in these theocratic countries.
Do the world has right to speak on citizenship amendment bill?
Most of the Western countries have slammed their doors shut to immigrants and refugees. Right wing populists in the US and across Europe have attacked migrants and refugees and deported them back to their home countries. So, there is no moral high ground on the basis of which Western nations can criticise India. These Western powers are no longer liberal and they need to sort out their own domestic polarisation and illiberalism first.
It is being said that the US is weakening and China is rising. Against this backdrop, what will be the role of India?
In the past, it used to be said that India was a ‘swing state’ that could tilt the balance of power in favour of China or the US. But under Prime Minister Modi, we have a clear goal of becoming a ‘leading power’ or a pole in the international system that is equal to China and the US. We want a multipolar world and our diplomacy is geared towards that objective. We do not accept Chinese hegemony and will find other means to resist it, even if the US under Trump has lost interest in counterbalancing China through multilateral coalition-building.
How do you look at the quad? Will it come into existence?
Much depends on the US’ attitude for the Quad to succeed. Trump and his faction of populists within the US government are disinterested in power projection and counterbalancing China through naval coalitions of allies nations. They have challenged China only on trade tariffs. The other three- Japan, Australia and India- should not wait for the US and should go ahead and form their own endogenous coalition to keep Chinese hegemony at bay. Depending on the US is not a safe bet as long as Trump and his brand of populism reign in the US.
How do you see the India and China relations in future?
The dynamic of ‘competition-cum-cooperation’ will remain. The main structural question is what happens to the power gap between the two. Will China keep growing economically and militarily in such a way that India will never be able to catch up with it? At present, China is nearly 5 times as powerful as India in GDP and overall military assets. We need to reduce this gap through more defence spending, higher growth and more proactive coalition-building with other countries in the Indo-Pacific, Africa and Latin America. The Chinese respect strength. They will moderate their behaviour vis-à-vis India if India is more powerful in the next 5 to 10 years.
Is the US-China trade war responsible for the global slowdown?
This is one of the main factors for the slowdown. The long-term trend I see is that China and the US will decouple their economies and reduce their interdependence. So, the temporary truces and ‘Phase 1’ deals that Trump wants to sign
with Xi Jinping will not last. They will return to economic warfare, keeping the global economy on the slower trajectory for the foreseeable future. More South-South cooperation and diversification of trade partners is the way forward for countries like India to tide over the Sino-US trade war
What should be the role of India in Afghanistan? Do you think India should take a strong decision after the withdrawal of US troops?
The era of riding on the coattails of the US in Afghanistan is over for us. NATO and the US military are on their way out of their longest war. Trump has no interest or attention to stabilising Afghanistan. It is up to India, in coordination with regional powers like Iran, Central Asian nations, Russia and China, to ensure that Afghanistan does not become a launch pad for another regional jihad that impacts on national security of all the countries in the region. Minimising Pakistan’s influence in the post-American Afghanistan is the key to prevent catastrophe.
According to you how would the global order be after 20 years ?
There will be at least 6 or 7 regional powers, each sufficiently capable of maintaining stability, order and economic prosperity in their respective regions, but none capable of being global superpowers like the US and the erstwhile USSR were before 1991, and China is becoming today. We need this multipolar or ‘multiplex’ world order for balance and peace.
In your recent book ‘Trumped’, you have called US President Donald trump a disruptor. Will you elaborate on this?
Trump has overturned 70 years of US foreign policy orthodoxy which prescribes heavy American global interventionism and leadership to shape the world order. Trump is an isolationist and transactionalist who lacks any grand geostrategy for sustaining US liberal hegemony around the world. By weakening the US’ political will to mould the international system, Trump is providing a golden chance to emerging powers to step up to the plate and proactively extend their leadership roles in their respective regions and beyond. Trump can be considered the man who dismantled the ‘Pax Americana’, and this is not such a bad outcome from the point of view of emerging powers like India.