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Civilisation As Centre Of Controversy

Samuel Phillips Huntington (April 18, 1927 – December 24, 2008), an American Political Scientist who had spent more than half a century at Harvard University, triggered a sensation in global policy-making circles with his 1993 publication ‘Clash of Civilisations‘. The Great Indian Poet and Philosopher, Rabindranath Tagore (May 7, 1861 – August 7, 1941), had mentioned in his ‘Crisis in Civilisation‘ (1941) that the true meaning of civilisation is different from advancement or development or progress. However, the centre of controversy had moved far away half a decade later. The erstwhile Soviet Union, which collapsed in 1991, was an important player in Global Geopolitics from the end of the Second World War in 1945 to the Cold War (from March 12, 1947 to December 26, 1991). In the early 1990s, a group of scholars claimed that the collapse of the Marxist Super Power should be considered as the End of History. However, Huntington rightly predicted that the conflict would continue, but between various civilisations, and not between ideologies.

Huntington stressed on Religion and Culture while explaining his theory. The Political Scientist identified the major civilisations as Western (including the US and Europe), Latin American, Islamic (the West Asian or Middle Eastern countries), African, Orthodox (with Russia as a core state), Hindu (India), Japanese, and Sinic (including China, Korea and Vietnam). At one time, his theory was considered as the most important explanation of the conflict between the Islamic World and the Western Civilisation.

Interestingly, Huntington’s concept of Clash of Civilisations has made a grand comeback in the current turbulent global geopolitical scenario. He mentioned in his publication that efforts would be made to gain the support of other alliances during the conflict between two civilisations. The academician further claimed that Russia and India were Swing States that could change partners in accordance with the situation.

All these are age-old ideas. However, it has become clear that Russia has refused to accept the Western (read European or North American) culture even after the collapse of the erstwhile Soviet Union. The Western World, too, does not accept Vladimir Putin’s Tsarist attitude (which is not inconsistent with Orthodox values). As it is not possible for President Putin to join the US-led Western Alliance, the post-Soviet Russian Federation (just like the US) remains heavily dependent on nuclear weapons. On the basis of the existing nuclear deterrence treaty between the two Super Powers, each can maintain a stockpile of 1,550 nuclear warheads. Needless to say, a small portion of their arsenal is enough to wipe out life on mother Earth.

Fearing an all-out war, the Western Alliance has deployed weapons in member-countries of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) from the western to the southern borders of Russia. Naturally, Russia seemed to be in discomfort because of this. Often, countries outside the democratic circle do not seek solutions through negotiation or diplomacy when their National Security is threatened. They, instead, try to resolve the issue in an authoritarian manner. President Putin has done just that. In Putin’s Russia, Opposition leaders often lose their lives due to poisoning. The Russian Strongman has amended the Constitution in order to make himself a permanent president. President Putin may also break Joseph Stalin‘s record of enjoying power for 30 years and 11 months.

In 2008, NATO announced in the Romanian capital of Bucharest that it was offering its membership to two former Soviet Republics, Georgia and Ukraine. However, Putin put Georgia under tremendous diplomatic pressure, forcing the country not to join NATO. However, a real mass movement rocked Ukraine, prompting pro-Putin President Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych to quit on February 22, 2014. When Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy became the sixth President of Ukraine on May 20, 2019, Putin felt that the neighbouring country was going out of his sphere of influence. By that time, the Ukrainians were allowed to travel around Europe without a Schengen visa. Also, there was an increase in the presence of US banks and financial institutions in Ukraine. As Zelenskyy was interested in his country’s NATO membership, the Russian invasion of Ukraine became inevitable.

Although Huntington called India a Swing State, he did not analyse the cause in detail. However, he was right in a sense. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, had a weakness for the Western Civilisation. However, it was difficult for Nehru to join the Western Alliance due to the Cold War. Since the Partition of the Indian Sub-continent, relations between neighbouring India and Pakistan were antagonistic. With the progress of China, the Asian Giant became the new love of the US, as well as of Pakistan. Then, the US started cultivating the leaders of Pakistan. The scenario brought the Hindu Civilisation of India closer to the Russian Orthodox Civilisation (as described by Huntington). Interestingly, Islamic Pakistan received no direct help from the Sinic or the Western Civilisation to save its geographical integrity from this two-pronged attack by Hindu and Orthodox Civilisations (during the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971).

The scenario changed after the end of the Cold War, with India adopting the Economic Policy of Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation. As India required advanced technology to boost its economy, New Delhi reached out to Washington DC in the early 1990s. At the very beginning of this millennium, Dr Manmohan Singh, the then Prime Minister of India, realised that it was the right time to leave the Orthodox camp, and to join the Western camp. It was Dr Singh’s Leap of Faith. He signed the 123 Agreement (Civil Nuclear Power Treaty) with President George Walker Bush on July 18, 2005. This accord was a milestone in a sense, as the Western World accepted India into its high-tech arena in a rare first. In return, India allowed global inspectors to visit its civilian nuclear power plants.

The 123 Agreement also strengthened the Indo-US ties. In other words, the accord boosted ties between Swing Hindu Civilisation and the Western Civilisation. The ties between these two civilisations remained intact even after Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister of India in 2014. In fact, the bilateral ties took a new shape during the tenure of Donald John Trump as the US President (from 2017 to 2021), as both Modi and Trump are not so democratic. However, the victory of Joseph Robinette Biden (Jr) in the 2020 US Presidential Elections created troubles for India. As the post-Cold War Western World expects its allies to respect Human Rights, the Biden Administration wants the Modi Government not to import Russian weapons, and to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

This is precisely why the Western powers are embarrassed of India’s position (on Russia). The Western leaders are still trying to understand India. Meanwhile, the Orthodox camp no longer suits India at all, because it became totally dependent on China after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. As expected, Beijing currently dictates terms, as far as the alliance between China and Russia is concerned. Hence, India’s situation is quite complicated. The straight road leads towards the West. However, India would have to respect Democracy, Human Rights and other related values in that case. It has become a huge challenge for the South Asian nation to find a reliable partner in the contemporary world.

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