. Current international diplomatic situations offers enduring insights into the perennial tension between globalism and localism. Three current developments reveal the inevitable clash between grandiose internationalism and the intractable nationalism.
One is India’s decision to pull out of this month’s military exercise of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, which was to herald a new era of Eurasian unity. But the ambition to unite a large geopolitical space, however, is being trumped by the sharpening contradictions between India and China. Second, is the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s claim to leadership of the Muslim world that has run into resistance from a large section of the Arab rulers who have not forgotten the Ottoman imperial rule. Third, is the tension between the globalism of the US foreign policy establishment and Donald Trump’s “America First” nationalism. Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s promise to restore America’s “global leadership” is struggling to overcome Trump’s argument that the US must rather take care of itself.
National purpose, in some cases at least, may well be baked into the framing of a universal ideology. Some scholars argue Moscow’s internationalism is very much part of Russian religious tradition and its self-perception as a redeemer of both the West and the East. Critics of liberalism have long pointed to the difficulty of separating the geopolitical interests of the West and its internationalist ideology. China’s claim that the Belt and Road Initiative is about “international public goods” is part of a hoary tradition in which great powers present their own interests in universalist terms.
The Indian elite has not been immune to messianic temptations. As Indian nationalism came of age between the two world wars, it was inevitably influenced by liberal internationalism, socialism, communism, pan-Islamism, pan-Asianism and Third-Worldism to name a few. It has been hard to shake off those impulses despite the repeated knocks from real-life experience.
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