A Second Cold War? Predicting International Configurations
Updated: Apr 7
Most contemporary scholars believe that in a globalized world, where every country is somehow dependent on others, where migration and trade are two deciding factors for a good bilateral relationship, a cold war-like situation is unlikely to occur again.
But how correct is this assessment? Seeing the present relations of the USA and China, one can easily conclude that we are heading towards a second cold war.(1) Since both are nuclear states possessing a large army, direct military confrontation is not practical nor beneficial for either of the countries. So does it mean that we are again going towards a bipolar order, where the world will be divided into blocs?
What would the USA vs China cold war look like?
Keeping in mind the present geopolitical conditions let us assume a cold war situation between the two giants. The USA being a prominent member in this field has a powerful alliance like NATO, which is likely to be there in this situation also. The Rio Pact would keep countries of South America aligned towards the USA, whereas the Philippines and South Korea would stand as all-weather friends. At the same time the Quad(2) (which could even become a defense pact in future) will keep countries like India, Australia, and Japan aligned with the USA. Even if not as direct support, their leanings will still be towards the west only. Evolving the Quad into a defense pact will be beneficial for India as well.
Let's talk about a possible China bloc. China is using a policy of debt trap in order to influence the internal governance of some Central Asian countries like Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, etc. These countries are not a matter of much concern for the west. The main question is of Russia. Will Russia join the Chinese bloc or not?
But let’s clear the basic reason that leads scholars to argue that there is a very low chance of a second cold war. We live in an integrated world, and since the 1940’s many countries have developed very strong relations with each other, for instance, Russia (then Soviet Union) and India. The Russian economy is already in trouble, the China debt trap along with sanctions by the west have already pushed it towards Xi regime but if Russia joins the Chinese bloc, they will lose an all-weather ally like India, which is currently the largest purchaser of Russian weapons.(3)
The same thing goes with Turkey also, who is already a present member of NATO. Turkey also has very good relations with Pakistan(4), which is definitely going to be a part of the Chinese bloc. What will Turkey do in such a situation remains a big question.
Most of the SAARC and ASEAN countries, except some like Laos, Pakistan, and Cambodia, who are already in the Chinese debt trap(5), are likely to remain neutral. Global integration and conflicting interests of one country over another will lead to a large number of neutral countries, who will not support any of the block.
What can India do?
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has already said that India will not hesitate to join a particular bloc if China doesn’t stop its aggression at the LAC(6). Though there are less chances of a second cold war, even if it happens India will definitely lean towards the west. A defense pact with the Quad members is necessary for a stable Indo-Pacific region because China will again become aggressive at the LAC, if any internal disturbance occurred in the Xi regime.
Source: English Khamenei.ir
On the other hand India must try to pursue the west to remove sanctions over Russia, particularly the sanctions under CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act) and the EU sanctions, to stop Russia from moving towards China. Our prime focus should be to keep the Chinese bloc as small as possible. After all we don't want to lose an ally like Russia. Russia at the same time will consider India as a catalyst in removing the sanctions by the west. It is highly speculative to think about a long lasting cold war in the present globalized world but it is a well-known fact that there is nothing permanent in geopolitics. So it’s better to prepare ourselves even for the worst.
By Devansh Tiwari (Guest Writer)
BA Programme at Delhi College of Arts and Commerce
Devansh's field of interest is International Relations, particularly geo-politics. Analytical Journalism has always been close to his heart. Being a frequent visitor of parliamentary debates, you can ping him for discussion on any burning topic at any time. He always believes in learning new things and feels that positive discussions can help tremendously in accomplishing this objective. Apart from geo-politics, he also loves photography.