Korybko To C. Uday Bhaskar: It’s Time To Talk About The “Afro-Indo Century”
Considering the unlikelihood of a rapprochement between India and China anytime soon, let alone one that leads to a political resolution of their long-running border dispute, Indian policymakers would do well to put the “Asian Century” behind them and begin pursuing another paradigm for this century instead. The “Afro-Indo Century” could be a suitable replacement for the reasons detailed in this analysis.
Highly respected Indian scholar C. Uday Bhaskar, who’s incumbent director of the Society for Policy Studies after previously serving as the head of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses as well as the National Maritime Foundation, published an intriguing piece at the South China Morning Post. Titled “Troubled China-India relationship means the Asian century remains elusive”, he compellingly argues that continued Sino-Indo tensions will impede the chances of the “Asian Century” ever materializing.
Last week’s publication of China’s annual standard map laid claim to the entirety of its disputed territory with India. Reports then circulated shortly afterwards claiming that President Xi might skip next weekend’s G20 Summit in Delhi. This analysis here argues that the aforesaid scenario would be a direct result of their ties further deteriorating due to the timing of these recently reaffirmed claims. The latest events extend credence to Mr. Bhaskar’s assessment that the “Asian Century” remains elusive.
Considering the unlikelihood of a rapprochement between these two anytime soon, let alone one that leads to a political resolution of their long-running border dispute, Indian policymakers would do well to put the “Asian Century” behind them and begin pursuing another paradigm for this century instead. The “Afro-Indo Century” could be a suitable replacement for the reasons that will now be detailed in this analysis.
For starters, clinging to the “Asian Century” concept implies that their fates are intertwined, with the innuendo being that the half-millennium-long era of Western dominance won’t come to an end until these two first patch up their problems. While there’s some truth to that observation, it falsely suggests that no alternative exists to India partially compromising on the border issue if it sincerely wants to accelerate the global systemic transition to multipolarity.
In reality, the tri-multipolarity model that was introduced here half a year ago provides a plausible backup plan if India continues feeling uncomfortable engaging in a territorial compromise with China. Instead of prioritizing a rapprochement with China at the potential cost of formally ceding some of the territory that it claims, India could keep this dispute frozen while focusing on leading the Global South’s rise as a third pole of influence alongside the US-led West’s Golden Billion and the Sino-Russo Entente.
Just like India multi-aligns between those aforementioned de facto blocs, so too could it inspire fellow developing countries to follow its lead and advise them on ways to optimize this policy. If this is coordinated through its newly created Voice Of Global South (VOGS) platform that in practice functions as a new Non-Aligned Movement (“Neo-NAM”), then it could keep bi-multipolarity processes in check by preventing the bifurcation of International Relations between the Golden Billion and the Entente.
For this to be successful, India must engage more robustly with Africa. It can’t realistically compete with the US and China in investments, but that’s why it should concentrate on the realms of ideas and strategy instead, ergo the proposal to introduce the “Afro-Indo Century” vision as its next big foreign policy concept. The continent’s countries are in a similar structural position as India is in the New Cold War between the Golden Billion and the Entente over the direction of the global systemic transition.
With few exceptions, they don’t want to take sides and instead prefer maximizing their strategic autonomy by multi-aligning per the successful example set by India in order to mutually benefit from both de facto blocs. This is difficult to do on their own because each is dwarfed in all respects by those two’s US and Chinese leaders, but it becomes much more viable if coordinated with fellow developing countries via VOGS.
India is more attractive in the realms of ideas and strategy than either of those two since it shares most of the same socio-economic challenges as Africa does, plus it’s proven that neutrality in the New Cold War is indeed possible. Moreover, neither the Golden Billion nor the Entente has a future vision of the world order that places this continent in the center of global processes, so India could obtain an invaluable soft power edge over them if it becomes the first to talk about the “Afro-Indo Century”.
This wouldn’t be a hollow slogan, however, because it’s backed up by economic and geographic facts. Africa as a whole is economically rising at an astronomical rate just like India is, and both happen to be geographically located along the Indian Ocean Rimland. It therefore makes perfect sense to speak about the “Afro-Indo Century” since it’s precisely this region that’s poised to experience the most rapid growth across the next eight decades with all that entails for the evolving world order.
The US’ “rules-based order” paradigm is Western-centric and accordingly considered outdated by most African countries, while China’s “community of common destiny” hints at a Chinese-centric world order where all trade routes ultimately lead to the People’s Republic via the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI). Neither places Africa in the center of global processes but instead either relegates it to the periphery or considers it just one of several equal regions respectively.
By contrast, the “Afro-Indo Century” paradigm celebrates Africa’s leading role in the evolving world order and provides the most positive vision of the future from their perspective. Africa and India are bonafide Global South regions whose comprehensive cooperation as equals encourages truly South-South integration aimed at creating a third pole of influence for balancing International Relations instead of fueling the rise of either New Cold War protagonist via their corresponding paradigms.
None of this is to suggest that Africa should abandon its mutually beneficial cooperation with the Golden Billion or the Entente, just that prioritizing strategic relations with India will help balance those two and preemptively avert potentially disproportionate dependence on either. Africa and India are in similar structural positions vis-a-vis the global systemic transition, and each stand to lose if the New Cold War becomes more defined by Sino-US systemic rivalry and results in bifurcating International Relations.
India has a unique chance to appeal to the over one billion hearts and minds in Africa by introducing the “Afro-Indo Century” as its next big foreign policy concept, perhaps even as early as next weekend’s G20 Summit seeing as how the African Union was invited to attend as a guest. Highly respected experts like Mr. Bhaskar can play a major role in articulating, popularizing, and developing this vision via their networks as a credible replacement for the increasingly unlikely “Asian Century”.