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Multipolar world: As Putin and Kim Jong Un vow a new world order, India’s role remains an enigma

Multipolar world: As Putin and Kim Jong Un vow a new world order, India’s role remains an enigma
Vladimir Putin received a warm embrace from Kim Jong Un as he arrived at Pyongyang's airport on Wednesday, marking his first visit to the North Korean capital in nearly a quarter of a century. This rare meeting between the leaders of Russia and North Korea comes at a crucial juncture of the 21st century’s geopolitical dynamics, as the dominant West continues to isolate both countries on a global stage.

The recent developments have led to speculations of a new era of Cold War between the US-led alliance of Western countries and the Russia-China-North Korea bloc. During the Cold War of the 20th century, India had decided to take a unique path with its non-alignment policy, opting to stay neutral and independent instead of choosing sides between the United States and the Soviet Union. What will our stand be this time?

According to North Korea's state news outlet, Putin's visit underscores the invincibility and durability of the Russia-North Korea alliance, Reuters reports. The partnership between the two countries is also being portrayed as a driving force behind the emergence of a new world order, referred to as the “multipolar world” order. But what exactly does this mean?
The rise of a multipolar world: What does it mean?
In the global battle for influence, every side has its own agenda, and every faction also employs its own distinct terminology. The United States and its allies advocate for a “rules-based international order”, while Russia and China champion a “multipolar world”. India, on the other hand, proposes a middle ground called ‘Multilateral rules-based international order’, as advocated by the external affairs minister S Jaishankar.

Call it what you will, the underlying facts remain the same. The global political landscape is undergoing significant change, transitioning from the unipolar dominance that followed the Cold War to a multipolar framework. This evolving system sees power more evenly distributed among several key nations, rather than being monopolised by a single superpower.

Emerging powers, particularly the likes of China and India, appear to be at the forefront of this shift. The Asian giants are leveraging their growing economic and political influence to challenge Western dominance and assert their roles in global governance. Other nations, such as Russia and Brazil, along with several regional influencers, are also stepping up to shape international dynamics.

A critical element of this transition is the relative decline of U.S. hegemony. While the United States continues to wield considerable military and economic clout, its capacity to unilaterally dictate global affairs has waned. Moreover, the proponents of a multipolar world also claim that the US’s rules-based international order is about imposing rules on other countries and ignoring them for itself when it is convenient.

This has prompted other nations to take on more prominent roles. As a result, the major global powers are now competing for influence across various regions and issues, creating a landscape of competition that could fuel growing geopolitical tensions.

But on the flip side, these developments also promote the formation of flexible, issue-specific alliances rather than traditional, long-standing blocs—take this Russia-North Korea partnership, for instance—reflecting the complexity of modern international relations.
India’s role in this evolving multipolar world
India is emerging as a vital player in this new multipolar reality. Its rapid economic growth, technological advancements and strategic partnerships are enhancing its global influence. However, its stance on aligning with any of the global power centres remains opaque.

On one hand, India has traditionally favoured Russia in the past despite its non-alignment stance. Even during the recent Russia-Ukraine conflict, when the West issued multiple economic sanctions on Russia, India continued its trade engagements as usual. But on the other hand, the border tensions with neighbouring China have often pushed India closer to the US and its Western allies.

So far, India has adopted a pragmatic approach, balancing relationships with major powers like the United States, Russia and China to safeguard its interests. It is navigating its complex relationships with other nations meticulously, balancing its interests and avoiding direct hostility.

A crucial member of the reinvigorated Quad alliance, India exemplifies the principles of effective multipolarity. As its economic and strategic stature rises, the country is gaining a stronger voice in global discussions, positioning itself as a vital contributor to the evolving international order.

Meanwhile, the unfolding dynamics of the Russia-North Korea relationship highlight the shifting tides towards a multipolar world. This transformation is likely to call for a fresh approach to international relations—one where strategic alliances and flexible partnerships play a crucial role. All in all, navigating the interplay of various power centres could prove to be key to shaping the future of global politics.

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