What’s International Relations?
International Relations can be considered as the study of the relationships and interlinkage of governments of different countries. International Relations takes into consideration the relations and interconnection of the economies, cultural identities, and historical relationship between the countries. The study also puts a great emphasis on the foreign policies of different countries, as we know, the convergence and divergence of one country with another is completely dependent on its foreign policy.
What is Diplomacy?
Well, one cannot provide an exact definition of diplomacy. However, as stated in the Vienna Convention, diplomacy is the maintenance of friendly relations between different nations. Diplomacy also refers to the execution of foreign policy and the interaction between the representatives of different countries (Diplomats). The ultimate aim of diplomacy is, through negotiations and understanding, to develop friendly relations between the countries.
Are friendly relations between the countries really possible?
But, are friendly relations between the countries really possible? Well, you might say yes, and we can see there are friendly relations between the nations such as India and America, China and Russia, Germany and France, and most importantly, the European Union.
But the fact is, these countries weren’t friendly in the past. The relations between India and America weren’t very good after the independence, as India became a close ally of the USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) during the Cold War, the relations with America worsened, and during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, America even provided military assistance to Pakistan to fight against India. And the bad relations between America and China need no introduction, but during the mid-1900s, America played a major role in China’s economic rise, by being its biggest trading partner. Similarly, history does not justify the friendly relations between France and Germany, as they were arch enemies during the World Wars and fought against each other on numerous fronts. And due to the wars between the major powers of Europe such as Britain, France, Germany, and the USSR, the European Union, which is considered as the most stable region, was a region of intense conflict and great regional volatility. Have you watched Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk? Well, if you haven’t, that movie will guide you through the ‘friendly relations’ between France, Britain, and Germany.
You can certainly understand by the examples that ‘good relations ‘ between the countries today, doesn’t guarantee that the relations would be good in the future, and similarly, countries who are on the opposite side today, might find a common cause and form an alliance.
International Relations: Through the Eyes of Mr. S. Jaishankar
Well, let’s start with this profound quote in his book The India Way: Strategies for an Uncertain World, “The absence of a shared adversary who drove the coming together also changes the situation.” He further explains the statement with examples of the US, USSR, UK, and Japan. Mr. S. Jaishankar states that after the defeat of Germany in the Second World War, the relations between the US and USSR didn’t continue smoothly because their common enemy, which brought the nations on the same page initially, Germany, was defeated and they failed to find a common cause. And the rest is history, as this bitterness between the US and USSR caused the Cold War. And after the collapse of the USSR, the lower salience of Russia is the reason for the changing equations between the US and China.
He also quotes, “Dissimilar powers such as the US, European ones or Japan have both made common cause and gone to war. Related ones within Europe too have done the same. Culture has a role, as do interests and circumstances. But the final analysis is all about calculations and aspirations. Both are derivatives of leadership choices and societal sentiments; nothing is really inevitable. And because it boils down to human factors, values and believes do play their part in shaping world affairs.”
Mr. S Jaishankar is the serving Foreign Minister of India.
What causes the nations to come together?
These statements surely answer one question about International Relations, why do different nations converge? The major reason, as proposed by the theory of Neorealism, is because the nations find a common ‘enemy’, or in a more formal language, they find a power to go against.
If you analyze the convergence of China and America after the mid-1900s, one of the major reasons was a common enemy, the USSR. America highly supported the rise of China. But however, once the USSR collapsed and the salience of Russia receded, so did the common cause of interaction between the US and China. And now China and America have diverged to a great extent on almost every issue, and the recent developments in Hong Kong and Taiwan have made the situation even worse, even with the various countries of Europe.
The QUAD (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue)
The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue is an inter-governmental security forum between India, Australia, Japan, and the United States. The forum was first established in 2007, with the initiative of the then prime minister and presidents of the respective member countries. In the initial period, the coordination was informal, and the dialogue was confined to its ‘informal’ status. Summits were held, but again, those were not regular.
It’s quite counterintuitive that China wasn’t a member of this forum, there were various speculations about the reason, but still, there isn’t a definite answer for this.
However, China did become cautious of this dialogue. This is quite intuitive, as one country cannot be agnostic about a security forum that is being established in its vicinity, especially if the United States is a member of it! Hence, China cautioned that the QUAD could perform the role of an Asian NATO. But the members surely didn’t want China to suspect them, so, India and Australia denied China’s claim and assured China that they prefer to restrict QUAD to the issues of trade and culture, and would not have any security implications for China.
A question might arise, why did the nations like India and Australia, who are openly criticizing and opposing China today wanted to appease China back then? As I said earlier, the relations between nations are not at all certain, and the intensity of the changes has increased significantly due to the changing global order. Back then during 2008 – 10, the world was suffering from a financial crisis, but China remained unaffected, which highlighted the dynamics of its economy. So, the nations did not want to displease China, for their own benefits, as China could help the countries economically to get out of the depression.
But the tables have turned now, China has a dispute with all the countries of QUAD. A border dispute with India, a dispute with Japan over the resource-rich Senkaku islands, and Australia and America oppose China on each and every front. One of the major issues that have arisen in recent times is China’s assertion of sovereignty over the maritime and islands of the South China Sea. This has started a dispute with Taiwan and Vietnam. And the case of Hong Kong has received global resentment. Well, after all these disputes, it’s evident why the QUAD wants to revive, and this time, with much more intensity, and less hesitation.
The top-notch Malabar exercise was conducted in two phases, first from 3rd November to 6th November 2020 in the Bay of Bengal, near the coast of Vishakhapatnam. And the second phase was conducted from 17th to 20th November in the Arabian Sea. The Malabar exercise was a naval exercise, with two aircraft carriers, fighter jets, and warships from India, Japan, America, and Australia. With this naval exercise, the QUAD claims that it would take the responsibility for a ‘Peaceful Asia-Pacific’.
Well, whether the QUAD will be able to achieve its aim or not remains to be seen, but one thing is certain, the QUAD won’t hesitate to take the necessary steps for it, even if it upsets China.
The European Union. Still united?
The recent developments in Britain, one of the most influential members of the European Union states the feeling of resentment among the people of Britain. The European Union was considered as the strongest and most stable union of countries with all the countries enjoying economically due to the ‘free and single’ market for the movement of goods and capital. And politically too in the international arena, as most of the times, the nations speak ‘one voice’.
Still, Britain feels resentment and considered its membership more of a liability than an asset. Britain considered that the European Union robs its members of ‘control over their own affairs’. And the immigration in Europe from other countries is hurting Britain’s interests, as immigrants prefer more developed countries like Britain, Germany, France, etc. But, it cannot make a decision on the immigration policy, because that power lies in the hands of the EU.
In addition to these, there were various other reasons which ultimately led to the BREXIT (Britain’s exit from the European Union). There were also discussions about the possible GREXIT (Greece’s withdrawal from Eurozone).
This surely weakens the multilateral order of Europe and questions the future of this union. Well, what do you think about it, make sure to express your views in the comment section.
The future ahead
You can clearly analyze the global trends, which leads to (as quoted by Mr. S Jaishankar) greater multipolarity, and weaker multilateralism. With the nations aiming for the balance of power, both in military and economic terms. China is rising up in the global order, and the rise of a hegemon always causes great disruption in the international arena, and this disruption is already evident, with America trying to counter its rise in every possible way. And China is not the only rising power, India, Brazil, Japan, Russia, and South Korea are also growing in importance. The friendly growth and coexistence of superpowers aren’t really possible, as history suggests, the US and USSR weren’t friendly, neither are the US and China. Even though there are various reasons to have a pessimistic outlook of the emerging global trends, one can very well be optimistic. Because in this interconnected and globalized world, where markets and even people are so much interconnected and interdependent that even a slight conflict would harm the sentiments, one can imagine how would they react to an actual conflict. The global leaders understand this very well and would surely prefer pragmatism over conflict. And the International Institutions are still in practice, very well functional, and highly influential.
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