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Post-COVID-19 - It's going to be Multi-Polar World with India being one powerful pillar!

TIOL - COB( WEB) - 721
JULY 23, 2020

By Shailendra Kumar, Founder Editor

HUMANITY today confronts the worst and also the most insidious enemy of the century - the COVID-19. Some of the intractable problems which cast dark shadows on our planet now appear much closer and threatening to human habitation! Some of them are the climate change, the pandemic and the dangerously-growing geo-economic and military rivalry for the superpower status. True, no International Order lasts for ever! Over the decades, the balance of economic and military power swings, international systems fail to adapt and the rot gets rooted! It happened after the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 collapsed under its own dead weight! All events that followed afterwards, paved the way to just one destination - the graveyard of empires! Normally, the process of crowning from one prince to another ensues a bloody war but it was a shift sans a war in case of America which snatched the crown from Britain. An exceptionally rare event has survived for more than a century!

The foundation bricks for a new epoch of 'largely' peaceful international order were laid by two visionary political leaders. While the Second World War was raging, American President Franklin Roosevelt invited British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to White House and mooted the idea of a global body to ensure global peace and new economic order. Thus were born the two Bretton Woods institutions of the World Bank and the IMF. It was followed by the creation of United Nations with 51 signatories in San Francisco in 1945. Over the decades, its membership has grown to 193 countries. But today, what has turned out to be appalling and despairing for the international comity of nations is its malign dysfunctionality! Lack of consensus among the five Permanent Members (P5) of the Security Council, even on the undisputed issue of a common enemy like Coronavirus, is no less than the last nail in the coffin of this most scrumptious global body which seems to have run a full circle of the process of Götterdämmerung! Nothing could be more poignant and fretful than the fact that such a sorry and uninspiring state of affairs prevails in its 75th year! Some of its leading veto-holding members have turned wolfish with stinking traits of a gangster-military-power!

The prevailing state of global affairs was aptly summed up by the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at Nelson Mandela Foundation Lecture recently, when he said that the COVID-19 has revealed, like an X-ray, fissures in the fragile skeletons of the societies the world has built! He said that rich nations have failed to help the developing world and the pandemic has laid bare the tragic disconnect between self-interest and the common interest; and the stark gaps in governance structures and ethical frameworks. In the context of the pending reforms of the United Nations, he observed that "the nations that came out on top more than seven decades ago have refused to contemplate the reforms needed to change power relations in international institutions ... The composition and voting rights in the United Nations Security Council and the boards of the Bretton Woods system are a case in point."

The UN Chief has clearly set the agenda points for a post-COVID-19 restructuring of the global body if it is destined to play any meaningful and stabilising role in the emerging New International Order. COVID-19 is certainly a gigantic global crisis but it is also a window of opportunity to construct a New World Order where China-style predatory military adventurism is nipped in the bud. And it can happen only if the United Nations is reformed with a sense of urgency and a new avatar global body promotes global cooperation in scientific, economic and also preventive military strikes against errant!

To begin with, the Security Council should be the first target to overcome the taboo of drastic reform. Going by the rapidly-emerging geopolitical indicators, Post-COVID-19 world is going to be multi-polar as America has clearly demonstrated boring fatigue for superpower status! True to his words and, in contrast to Roosevelt and Truman, Trump last September told the UN that the future does not belong to globalists. It belongs to patriots, he added. His aversion and dislike for global bodies like UN, WHO, WTO and even allies like NATO are by now clearly demonstrated. America first has been his mantra and he has happily vacated the global leadership position which prodded China to rush in and scoop up the crown before any rival emerges on the scene! Though China's reckless military adventurism has resulted in equal and opposite reaction from a group of military powers led by US. Japan, Australia and India have joined the American Naval Strength in the South China Sea. Though NATO has so far been silent but there are tale-tell signs of growing support for a new axis of power in the making. After Hong Kong and Huawei episodes, UK has strongly come out non-aligned with China. German politicians minus the shrewd and laconic Chancellor have always been vocal against China's predatory economy policies. EU has gone through the experience of how its interests have been cut short by smirky China. And Brazil is certainly not a Sinophile!

When the Security Council was created, it represented 22% of the members. Today, it represents only 8% of members even after expansion of the Council in 1965. Though talks of reform and induction of new members have been in the air for a frustratingly long period but consensus always eluded the P5. For any reform to go through, as per the UN Charter, 75% of members and P5 support are needed. Since P5, particularly China and Russia, have been enjoying unequal influence, they continued to dilly-dally on the reform agenda. It is more so because they have been leading saboteurs of international peace. Whenever India raised the issue of state-sponsored terrorism against Pakistan, the main issue was relegated to the back seat and China used its veto to scuttle the proposal backed by other members of the Council. In Syria, Russia was accused of using chemical weapons but even such misadventure and heinous crime against mankind was condoned by the Council - stretching the limit of its institutional sclerosis! In the past five years alone, Russia has used veto 14 times and China five times. America has used it twice. Even on the issue of ceasing hostilities during Coronavirus time, murky politics was played and supply of arms to Libyan militiamen continues unrestricted. China opting to become an aggressor against India in Ladakh, is another example of how P5 themselves suffer from the ailment of not having even scant respect for this so-called powerful global body.

It is high time that the representation of at least one nation from each continent is immediately accommodated in the new avatar Council. India is a natural claimant to the new slots in the expanded Council. Japan is another potential claimant from Asia. South Africa from Africa, Brazil from Latin America and Germany from EU are the other three. Apart from making it P10, the second layer of members should also be considered to ringfence heartache. For instance, Italy from EU, Nigeria from Africa and Argentina from Latin America can be claimants for the next layer slots. Then comes the third layer of elected members on rotation basis. Secondly, veto system should be discarded and weightage system may be explored. All objections from any member ought to be made rule-based and not to be recorded if they do not fit into the arc of rules and objectivity of facts. No member should be allowed to fantasise about unlimited influence on the decision-making in the Council. A multi-polar world, where India would be a key pillar, would largely be more harmoniously-aligned to ensure global peace and economic prosperity.

The other two key aspects of the global body which appear to be crying out aloud for reforms are - dismantling of the present structure of the UN bureaucracy and its annual budgets. Thanks to cushy jobs UN offers, not on merit but on lobbying, often results in inefficient hiring of manpower which dominates the cobwebs of bureaucracy. Secondly, the UN follows the corruption-breeding silos model of working. The Volcker Committee report on oil-for-food scheme for Iraq is not yet completely erased from the institutional hard disk. Overlapping agencies which have suffered purposeless multiplicity, is another tangle. So inefficient is the UN bureaucracy that a good number of insiders have reported that it takes more than 250 days to fill even a middle-level opening in the system.

UN budget is another area of inefficiency. It is funded largely by rich nations and they chip in on the basis of the size of their GDPs. This automatically excludes poor nations but for the sake of representations, they do get certain quota of personnel to be deputed to the UN agencies! The annual budget of UN is about USD 300 billion besides the budget for peace-keeping forces, an activity which is not yet a part of the original UN Charter. Although this is a welcome mushrooming of its intervention for global peace but it needs funds to discharge its avowed duty effectively. Most contributors tend to pay about 30% of their shares in the last quarter and thus, it runs out of cash during September month when its General Assembly annually meets. Besides, dependence on a few rich members' contribution tends to hammer at its basic tenet of neutrality!

Post-COVID-19 reform ought to design a new funding formula which should bring under its arc even poor nations so that they do not suffer from identity loss and erosion of national pride. If poor members are to be stopped from playing the role of a lackey to regional powers, a nominal sum is to be determined in the new innovative formula based on certain GDP threshold. Levying one or two per cent tax on global turnover of Multinational Companies could be one possible long-term solution towards this most critical aspect of ensuring independence of the global body. Let's hope that the process of reform is accomplished in a time-bound manner and the reformed UN plays an active role in devising a New and Stable World Order of international relations, for posterity!