“The world is neither unipolar, multipolar, nor chaotic—it is all three at the same time.” Joseph S. Nye, Jr.
Who wields greater power in the games of power-politics among nations? While there is no plain and simple answer to this complex question, it can nevertheless be said (at the very surface level) that: in modern times, power was initially measured in terms of the land and material resources that the colonial/imperial powers could amass, and then symbolized by further material prosperity during the Industrial Revolution, followed by weaponry during the cold-war era, and economic might in the post-cold war order, followed by technological prowess, now.
However, at all of these times, what also mattered to a little or more degree was that: who could get things done? Who could mold and manipulate wills and policies and lead the world, all the way? In other words, which nation had a higher soft-power status?
The proponent of the term Soft Power in the 80s, Joseph Nye Jr., in ‘The Means To Success in World Politics’, wrote: “When you can get others to admire your ideals and to want what you want, you do not have to spend as much on sticks and carrots to move them in your direction…” For long, it is the US which shrewdly used the best crafts to not only consistently enhance its soft-power status but also to keep it up there. America has long had a great deal of soft power.
The non-military dimensions of power and security are now pretty much accepted, thrust-upon, deliberated upon, and used effectively as instruments of domestic and foreign policies. All of us know that in the present times, for any one nation to militarily establish one’s superior power-status is neither feasible, nor sensible. Amongst the non-military weapons which can be used for the purpose of sustaining one’s power status, the use of soft-power (the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments) will prove to be crucial in the years to come.
If we take this pandemic as a yardstick event, those nations which have displayed effective management of the pandemic; proved their mettle in bio-medical research and produced path-breaking results as a result of world-class R&D; reiterated their self-sufficiency in terms of equipment, food, medical care and outreach; and those that led the way, all the way—could stake claims to enviable positions as global leaders, in the years ahead.
In the post-corona world (if there ever is), it will matter much as to who managed this pandemic and how well it did. Power-equations will be seen shifting. Nations devastated by large number of deaths, and covid-positive cases; rising shortages and unemployment; recessionary trends in business and curtailed productions; anxious and depressed citizenry, and hugely sombre outcomes of lockdowns on businesses, education, acquisition of skills by the youth and living standards of the middle-class—will find it very difficult to assert, influence and get what they want, in world politics. They will know that their power has receded…
How can those nations, where life itself came to a standstill in the face of this grave challenge, — be the front-runners when it comes to vying for the top position in the race for power?
The shift will be a giant one…in the years ahead.
Already, India has slipped from 27th rank to 36th rank this year, in Soft Power Index, 2021. Our domestic and foreign policies were visibly enhancing our soft-power status in the world, ever since the Modi government took over. We were managing the pandemic well too. Despite the size of our population, and other hindrances such as the density of population, poverty, lack of adequate medical infrastructure, wayward behaviour of State governments, sanitary habits of our people–the timely decisions and their swift implementation were fairly in place. We were churning out revival packages for our economy, working on our own vaccine development and production, and even helping other nations, and gaining ground in diplomatic circles.
However, all of a sudden, there was a giant push; rapid blows from all directions and we staggered and stumbled and almost fell flat. A deluge of protests, malicious anti-government propaganda, negativity, fear, hysteria unleashed by mainstream and social media, and hideous accusations by our glorious opposition parties hit us hard! Was all of it deliberate? Or, most of it? Of course, there were lapses in our governance, as there have been in nearly all the countries of the world. But, a lashing-out, false narratives and hysteria of such magnitude…???
The nations which shall be seen standing steadfast and tall, when all of the deadly covid waves have receded and, whose people and economies are not found over-wrought, battered and depressed, but healthy and upbeat—shall have just the right measure of soft-power to command!
This Covid-19 pandemic has triggered a spate of tectonic changes in the global power hierarchy. In fact, the changes we see, seem to be just the tip of an iceberg. The real and long-term changes shall be seen in the decade to come. If the compelling conspiracy theories are to be believed, were these giant shifts—the real intentions behind the entire man-conceived and lab-induced catastrophe?