Return of the Pax Americana: The Tribune India


MK Bhadrakumar


Former Ambassador

India’s current entanglement with the United States over whether or not to buy Russian oil looks surreal. After all, India’s Russian oil purchases barely cover 4 percent of its daily crude oil consumption. Foreign Minister S Jaishankar put things into perspective when he said last week: “Probably our total purchases for the month would be less than what Europe does in an afternoon.” -Oil imports in 2021-22 are still expected to have risen to 16.8 million tons, while only 419,000 tons were imported from Russia in the first 10 months of the fiscal year.

The specter of a multipolar world haunts the United States. but India may also be in the western crosshairs tomorrow.

So where’s the beef? The anglicized Indian intellectual, even when full of grievances against the West, is largely silent about the West’s double standards and blithely accepts the proliferation of Western power as synonymous with liberty and liberal values, free trade, good administration, religious tolerance, and so on. He simply refuses to read the writing on the wall that the Ukraine crisis is essentially about the US strategy to re-impose Western dominance in Asia, which will be three-pronged – overthrow Russia, isolate China, the “ Asian Century”.

Compared to the time since Vasco da Gama arrived in Calicut in 1498, when most of Asia had fallen under European economic and political dominance, this time the Western powers plan to dominate together. A unique outcome of the Ukraine crisis is that the US has restored its transatlantic leadership. The US hopes to formalize its decades-old vision of transforming the Western alliance into a global security organization during the NATO summit in Madrid in June.

In a similar move, a draft resolution was initiated at the UN (on behalf of the US and EU) by Liechtenstein proposing that the UN GA must be convened within 10 days if the veto is exercised in the Security Council. The seemingly innocuous idea is that Security Council decisions remain binding, but that Russia’s veto power is withdrawn. That means the US will dominate the decisions of the UN Security Council and will also be able to unilaterally legitimize all NATO interventions worldwide.

Behind this is the growing fear that Washington will no longer be able to dominate Russia and China militarily and that the century of American hegemony in the international economic, financial and political order is coming to an end. With a national debt in excess of $30 trillion and no hope on earth of even being able to pay it off, and a ailing economy spiraling out of control, burdened with outdated infrastructure and declining productivity, the US can compete in the world market no longer compete. On the other hand, the specter of a multipolar world order is haunting the United States – today that means above all Russia and China. But India may also be in the Western crosshairs tomorrow. So don’t ask whose hour it is today.

The US blueprint actually dates back to 2014 when, within three months of the coup and regime change in Ukraine, then-President Barack Obama said in his famous West Point Cadet speech: “The United States is and will remain the only indispensable nation. That was true for the past century and will be true for the century to come… Russia’s aggression towards former Soviet states is unsettling European capitals, while China’s economic rise and military reach are worrying its neighbors. From Brazil to India, emerging middle classes compete with us, and governments seek a greater say in global forums… It will be up to your generation to respond to this new world.”

Obama adds Russia, China and India to the rogue gallery of revisionist powers! Suffice it to say that the current turmoil in US-India relations is not really about Russian oil, let alone arms. The EU and the US have belatedly recognized the danger that the vengeful “hell sanctions” against Russia – the militarization of money – could harm the West to an equal, if not greater degree, particularly in view of Russia’s dwindling importance in US Dollars (USD) and Euros. A well-known Swiss wealth management firm noted that “Western sanctions have given a new impetus to de-dollarization efforts, as well as the desire expressed by Russia, China and India for a new, multipolar world and monetary order… Now a core function of money, its intrinsic value , has been affected in recent months. Record high inflation rates, in some cases (as in America) at 40-year highs, continue to erode confidence in fiat currencies – and this erosion of confidence is just the beginning.”

The sanctioning of Russia’s foreign exchange reserves confirms that the USD is no longer a neutral currency but a highly politicized weapon. While the decoupling from the USD as the world reserve currency will not happen overnight, the fact is that confidence in fiat currencies is falling overall. Russia’s move to trade more rubles will bounce other nations like China and India toward de-dollarization in future deals as world trade becomes increasingly multi-polar and multi-currency oriented.

All in all, the current détente between India and the US can only be short-term opportunism for India. India’s vision of the regional future may well follow KM Panikkar in not seeing a significant long-term role for the US in Asia. The repeated incursions into our history by Western imperialist powers have left an indelible mark on India’s strategic thinking, leading to an emphasis on national sovereignty and fears of encirclement.

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