Easternisation of the world

Daily: Pakistan Today
Date: 19.03.17

The term easternisation can be understood as a phenomenon embodying the economic
rise of the countries in the east. A few centuries ago, especially in the wake of Vasco da
Gama’s effort to discover a sea route from Europe to India in 1498, the economic potential
of Asia beckoned Europeans who vied with one another for gaining a foothold on Asian
lands to monopolise raw material to feed European industrial complexes.

After the Second World War, Asia took over the reins of destiny. Japan was the first to
express its economic prosperity, followed by the second wave of opulence launched by
South East Asian countries named Asian Tigers. Both these waves espoused capitalist
policies under the auspices of the US military hegemony in the region. Nevertheless, in the
1990s, China initiated the third wave of economic sufficiency, which India joined quickly.
Generally, not only did the expansion-cum-diversification of local industry based mostly on
raw material, but also the shifting of multi-national companies to Asia in search of cheap
labour contributed significantly to the economic surge of Asia. The growth of the software
industry offered an additional benefit to all to utilise human potential contributing to Asia’s

The implied idea in easternisation begrudged by many is that it is happening at the
expense of the west or westernisation. In this regard, Gideon Rachman’s book,
Easternisation: War and Peace in the Asian Century,” published by Penguin Random
House in 2016, says that easternisation not only reflects the dwindling significance of
European countries but it also reflects their burgeoning troubles ravaging various spheres
of life. To put this point across, Rachman writes on page 167: “The process of
Easternisation means not just that Europe no longer controls large swathes of the globe.
That has been the case for decades. It also means that Europe is increasingly vulnerable
to political, social and economic trends in the rest of the world that it cannot control – but
which pose direct and indirect threats to European stability, prosperity and even peace.”
That is, today’s Europe is beset with a two-pronged challenge: first, the loss of political clout
to reframe its calling in resource-rich areas of the world; and second, to devise a way to
stop the inflow of troubles affecting various spheres of European life. Unfortunately, when
extant, both these challenges reinforce each other.

In 1956, when the US ended the hegemony of two European powers, the UK and France,
on the issue of the Suez Canal, Europe started shrinking into its fold. In this way, the
primary challenge to the west or westernisation came from the west itself. Years afterwards,
the economic crisis that visited Europe in 2009 debunked the reality that European
authority over the world was moribund. In this regard, Rachman writes on page 167: “By
2009, when an economic crisis erupted in Europe, the age of European imperialism in Asia
and elsewhere had been over for roughly half a century…[M]ore and more economists are
giving voice to the idea that competition with low-cost producers in Asia, in particular in
China, has contributed to the European economic malaise.” In fact, Chinese cheap
industrial products undermined the residual monopoly of European manufacturing
industries and funnelled European money into the Chinese economy.

Whereas the year of 2009 can be considered the time when the existence of easternisation
became noticeable, the realisation got itself reified into more palpable results in 2014, when
China spearheading the phenomenon of easternisation surpassed the US. In this regard,
Rachman writes on page 6: “A symbolic moment was reached in 2014 when the IMF
[International Monetary Fund] announced that, measured in terms of purchasing power,
China was the world’s largest economy”. Similarly, Rachman writes on page 8: “By 2014,
China was already the world’s leading manufacturer and its largest exporter. China was
also the biggest export market for forty-three countries in the world; whereas the US was
the biggest market for just thirty-two countries. (Twenty year earlier, China had been the
largest market for just two countries in the world, and the US was number one for forty-four
nations).” In this way, in 2014, the world finally recognised the presence of easternisation.
In the post-2014 era, the world is supposed to be stretched between retiring westernisation
and mounting easternisation, whether the two phenomena are coterminous or not.

The economic challenge posed by easternisation is just one dimension of the issue. There
are two other dimensions. First, economic sufficiency cannot be seen in isolation from
political adequacy. In this regard, Rachman writes on page 6: “It is economic might that
allows nations to generate the military, diplomatic and technological resources that
translate into international political power.” Second, like westernisation, easternisation is
non-sparing in asserting its history, values and practices. In this regard, Rachman writes on
page 29: “Yet while attitudes to the West vary across Asia – between countries and
individuals – there is little doubt that a widespread process of Easternisation is underway,
as Asian nations reassert their own histories and heritages, and scrape away some of the
accumulations of Westernisation.” In fact, losing grip over economic and political affairs of
the world and getting vulnerable to crises of various types express the worst fear of Europe.

Whereas China is heading the post-2009 wave of easternisation, the US has been trying to
challenge China in the Pacific by developing a pivot to Asia since 2011 with the help of
Japan and India. The cases of Japan and India are different. Japan experienced the
humiliation of defeat at the hands of the US and later developed its economy on capitalist
lines under the supervision of US military. This relationship is more a patron-client one than
a partnership of equality and respect. On the other hand, the bonhomie that thrived
between the US and India is a post-1998 phenomenon, which expressed itself in October
2008 by signing the 123 Nuclear Energy Agreement. It is still difficult to say if India – which
is also part of easternisation – is ready for being an active frontline partner of the US in the
pivot to Asia plunge.

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The Middle East cauldron heats up

Daily: Pakistan Today
Date: 24.05.17

Though the worst-case scenario has yet to appear in the Middle East (ME), events are
hurtling towards a conflict having necessarily a sectarian overtone. Omens in this regard
are many. The formation of the 41-nation Islamic Military Alliance (IMA) in December 2015
was the first sign while the recently held US-Arab Islamic Summit is the second one.

In Riyadh, the summit attended by the heads of US and about 50 Muslim countries – having
Sunnis as their majority population – has made the intent of any such alliance clear. First, it
may be generally against terrorism such as perpetrated by the Daesh but it is specifically
against Iran. Second, the exclusion of Iran and other Shia dominant states of the ME (such
as Syria) from both the IMA and the summit is not by chance but on purpose.  

Interestingly, by holding the summit, both the US and Saudi Arabia were supposed to find
out ways to “counter and prevent the growing threat of terrorism and violent extremism
around the globe through promoting tolerance and moderation” by “building more robust
and effective security partnerships,” as per the summit’s official website, but the summit has
ended with censuring Iran. It is apparent that the conclusion had already been drawn by
both the US and Saudi Arabia; they did not bother to share their conclusion with the rest of
the attendees before the summit. In other words, both the US and Saudi Arabia had already
concluded that Iran was the real culprit and they just invited certain Muslim countries to
announce the same. Both the US and Saudi Arabia safely assumed that the rest of the
attendees including Pakistan would submit to the conclusion.

The operative part of the speech of US President Donald Trump could be this: “Terrorism
has spread across the world, but the path to peace begins right here, on this ancient soil, in
this sacred land. America is prepared to stand with you, in pursuit of shared interests and
common security... Muslims countries have to take the lead in the fight against
terrorism…The nations of the Middle East cannot wait for American power to crush this evil
for you. Muslim nations must be willing to take on the burden if we are going to defeat
terrorism, to meet history’s great test and conquer terrorism”. There is no problem with this
statement. The problem lies somewhere else. That is, the US-Saudi Arabia trade deals
amounting to 380 billion dollars and the defence deal amounting to 110 billion dollars were
bilateral in nature. However, these deals were made at the summit to show case the
strength of US-Arab (Sunni) collaboration against Iran. While it is known that both Saudi
Arabia and Iran vie with each other for political domination in the ME, the summit has added
the insidious tinge of sectarianism to the rivalry. This is the single most dangerous
dimension of the summit.

By hosting the summit, Saudi Arabia has achieved three objectives. First, it has achieved
the sense of leadership of Sunni Muslim states of the world. Second, it has aired a
message to the US to take it seriously because most Muslim countries stand united under
its banner. Third, it has tried to assert its supremacy over Iran in the ME affairs.
Interestingly, the common thread connecting all the three messages is that Saudi Arabia
counts on its allies mostly external to the ME.

By attending the summit, the US has also achieved three objectives. First. It has secured
huge contracts worth billions of dollars for running its domestic manufacturing sectors (both
arms and common utility industries), to reify the slogan of America First. Second, it has
allayed the fears of most Muslim countries about the anti-Muslim stance of Trump during his
election campaign in 2016. Third, by targeting Iran publicly, it has sent a portentous
message to Russia supporting the Assad regime of Syria. However, the US has overlooked
two important facts about the ME. First, the ME is one of the most conflict-ridden regions of
the world. Instead of resolving the ME issue with engagement, the US has not only pleaded
with the “nations of conscience” for the isolation of Iran but it has also pledged to pump
more weapons into the region. Second, anti-US sentiments, which are already rife in the
ME, have the potential for flaring up a populace against the other. Instead of intoning the
chants of pacification, the US has driven a wedge between sectarian disagreements
coinciding with political divergences in the ME.

Condemning Iran publicly by both the US and Saudi Arabia at one platform is not only
unprecedented in recent history but it is also perilous. In response, driven by the ensuing
sense of insecurity and smarting from rebuff, Iran is bound to do something to protect itself.
There are two main choices left with Iran. First, Iran may ask Russia to offer it a comparable
defence deal. Second, Iran may revisit its nuclear deal with the US. Both these choices,
whether availed individually or collectively, have the potential for further destabilizing the

Unfortunately, the Daesh could not seek much denunciation. The summit has given the
impression as if the Daesh were also a product of Iran’s shenanigans. In fact, at the summit,
animus against Iran dwarfed the rest of the malaise. In this way, the summit has made two
points clear to Pakistan. First, Pakistan’s former chief of army staff, General Raheel Sharif,
and five thousand serving troops were hired for fighting primarily against Iran, as the Daesh
could be handled by local forces. Second, Pakistan was not worthy of taking into
confidence on the conclusion of the summit.

The summit has put Pakistan on the horns of a dilemma. That is, Pakistan’s engagement in
China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and Pakistan’s involvement in the ME affairs offer
paradox. Whereas the former is meant for peace and prosperity, the latter is meant for
conflict and devastation. Auguries of the restiveness are more than signs of peace. Any
combat between Saudi Arabia and Iran is bound to do two things. First, it is bound to
destabilize the ME and complicate its issues further. Second, it is bound to send the waves
of sectarianism out of the ME engulfing Pakistan as well.  

In short, whereas the summit has pitted one group of Muslim countries against the other,
Pakistan is fast running out of time to decide whether or not it wants to continue with its
participation in the ME affairs.

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