Unilateralism and Nationalist Populism

Impediments in Achieving Peace and Stability

Where the pandemic has imposed responses which are immediate and imperative, it has also revealed the significant geopolitical and social implications. Before the outbreak of COVID, the international order will face escalation in the existing trends of transition in the post-pandemic. The results will be a crisis in global governance and globalization against the reactive capability of the multilateral institutions, readjustments, and alliance formation globally. This transition for new and stable world order will be extended and is unpredictable resulting in instability and chaos, internationally. The United States has risked its international standing because of the unilateral decisions taken by its leadership. Under the leadership of Donald Trump, America has drawn itself back from a position of collaborative leadership globally in this time of international crisis. America’s unilateral policies have made its standing decline in the world. It was once known as an indispensable nation and now it is to be seemed as withdrawing and looking inwards. Also, it has made its position as a hesitant and untrustworthy partner at this crucial moment for the world. Furthermore, the pandemic has made things worse for the world.

Trump has demolished a consensus made by US presidents of both political parties 70 years ago that was embedded in the notion of the US leading the world through alliance formation and multilateralism. This has been practised for decades by the American leadership at home and also internationally as good for the US and also for the world. Trump has replaced this by his America First doctrine and it has been criticized globally as the critics call it a zero-sum game. They have also questioned Trump’s sensibility and sensitivity to international relationships. This doctrine has been seen as nationalist, populist, isolationist and unilateralist, globally. The president has disregarded the ancient alliances and has heartened the conflicts with the contenders like China and Russia. Trump has mishandled his home during the pandemic which has created division and confusion among masses instead of any strong national strategy. The world now has begun to see the United States, not as a leading country but one with the highest number or COVID-19 infections and deaths along with the uncontrollable spread of disease. The situation got to a point where the European countries took a crucial step and blocked the immigration of Americans so that they can control the spread in their countries.

Globally, the US is seen to be losing its self-belief as it is struggling not only with the virus but also some other issues at home like political division and racism. The perception of America’s loss of confidence among its citizens has made world point fingers towards it and questions its capacity for its role as a leader. Not to forget that this is happening when there is a health and economic crisis in the world calling out loud for global collaboration, unwaveringly. Trump took some measures in the pre-pandemic time that gave a gesture of America’s withdrawal from international cooperation like retreating from the Paris climate agreement, US-Iran nuclear deal, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. Trump has raised suspicions about America’s collaboration with NATO. The long dragged conflict with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Trump called for pulling out a quarter and more of 34,500 troops which were deployed in Germany. The duration of this pandemic is a witness of Trump’s continuous efforts of pulling back. When the world leaders gathered on a video conference during the pandemic to raise funds for the vaccine development, the US didn’t take part in it. Also, when they all joined the WHO assembly, President Trump marked absent. The obsession and anger of Trump with China on the spread of the virus have made him retreat the US from the WHO. The big steps during this time have risen questioned about American policies.

Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, A vice president of the German Marshall Fund and director of the Berlin, said that masses are shocked to see the incapability of the leadership which is unable to unify and make alliances to address the ongoing problem of the pandemic which is shaping the public opinion. Also, what we see today is a collapse of American soft power. The policies of Trump administration are unilateral and these impulses are getting out of hands. The honour of the country is still at stake as it is one of those countries to which other states look in the critical times. But the prestige will decline if the US will practice its powers excessively and unilaterally. The victory of Trump in 2016’s elections, Brexit, Arab Spring and the rise of anti-establishment movements in Europe have initiated a debate on the role of ‘populism’ in contemporary politics. The question here is that is it a threat to democracy or it is just an addition to the mainstream political discourse? Populism poses a threat to democracy it can provide moral status to the state which is otherwise deficient in it.

There has been seen a rise in the populist regimes globally which has initiated debates among scholars. The best example of nationalist populism is Modi’s promotion of Hindutva ideology. The victory of Modi in 2014 and 2019 has made the political debaters argue that the Indian democracy is in the grip of Hindutva-Populism. In India, Hindu populism has been a winner in elections. Hindu populism recently got a new sense after the last elections in 2019 where the concept of religion belonged to past and politics belonged to the future. The agenda of Modi’s government is to show Islam at the negative front by playing tactfully with the recent developments and unrest in the Indian occupied Kashmir. This was done intentionally to foster a concept globally that Muslims pose a threat to Hindus especially from the bordering country and also from within i.e. Muslim citizens of India. The motive was to whip up the Indian citizen’s sentiments to gain massive Hindu voters to reassemble behind him. Modi opted for a convenient way of using Kashmir in his campaign that depicts populism and it rests on constant unrest and distrust among the religious communities of India. The concept of Hinduism is manipulated to communicate that only BJP can protect India as a solely Hindu state. This projection by the BJP government and encouraging the idea that Muslims are a threat is making India unsafe, unequal, discriminatory, derogatory, and a very dangerous country.

Discriminating the Muslims of India is not something new and the proof of which is the social climate of the west and also the diversity which is given to the Hindu nationalist groups in India by the BJP government. But what is striking is the immeasurable amount of efforts and power used by the Indian government to manipulate and control the narrative to get masses in their support and also to influence the areas which are economically less prospered. These Indian policies will not only have implications for the South Asian region but globally as well. Unilateral and Populist policies will halt the global collaboration in the time of crisis and also it will stake the prestige of the state practising these policies. If not countered on time, it will have a ripple effect on the region and beyond endangering the peace and stability of the world. Also, we have witnessed how a break in trade has affected the global economy severely. A loss of billions of dollars has been estimated during this pandemic. If the situation remained so and there would be less cooperation globally, then the future of the global powers and underdeveloped and developing states are not bright.

In the transition of world order in the 21st century, world leaders need to understand that they cannot and does not want to distance themselves for the world. There is no space for isolationism in this century and we cannot go back to those times. Multilateralism can bring peace and prosperity along with interconnectivity among regions and states. The pandemic has significantly affected the world order. The global connectivity is in crisis, the cohesion of EU is also affected and many regions are at the threshold of war. The major population of the world is at the risk of poverty and social exclusion. The recession in the global economy and politics along with many other challenges call for cohesive and collaborative actions. These issues would not be solved in a fortnight but will only get better when everyone will put their shoulders to the wheels. So, today, multilateralism is as important as it could never have been. There are a lot of challenges which are faced by multilateralism like extended chauvinism, little support, protectionism and isolationism. All these impede the virtue of International cooperation to make this world a better, secure and peaceful place.

The US has set a dangerous precedent to be followed by the western world. This would result in ending the era of connectivity and globalization since 1990 and it will have some strong repercussions for the United States. Unilateralism in the west will entail a comeback of nationalism in political relationships and then the world will follow a regressive doctrine. In the post-pandemic world, it seems like the world powers will revisit the agendas of their policies. Then there will be discussion and debate on the policies at home and also at the international level. The greatest risk today is that America today is the flag bearer of the nationalism and populism across the world and these notions and being encouraged and endorsed. If the suitable measures would not be taken then the world will witness how the ‘ideal’ political, economic, and social systems will land into crisis.




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About Sabha Khurshid 2 Articles
Sub Editor at TAT and Melang and Research Associate Coppair