At G20, the End of Old Multilateralism and Beginning of a New Order

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At G20, the End of Old Multilateralism and Beginning of a New Order Blog Image

Why in News?

  • Under its G20 presidency, India’s current emphasis is on building bridges between developing and developed countries.
  • Many in the developed world are realising the importance of greater cooperation between the North and the South amidst the breakdown of relations between the East and the West.


The Concept of Multilateralism

  • The relationship between three or more groups of states is known as multilateralism. It consists of some qualitative principles that construct the character of an institution or arrangement.
  • The principles are a commitment to the diffusion of reciprocity, indivisibility among participants on interest, and a system to settle disputes.


The Evolution of Old Multilateralism (Post Cold War Multilateralism)

  • The end of the Cold War at the turn of the 1990s created favourable conditions for an intensive phase of multilateralism.
  • Europe moved towards rapid regional economic integration and expansion under the banner of the European Union.
  • In Asia, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) provided the framework for intensifying regional economic and political cooperation.
  • Regionalism in Europe and Asia was facilitated by the end of the great power rivalry in both continents.
  • Russia was drawn into the Group of Seven (G7) led by Western countries, making it the G8. Moscow was also engaged in consultations with the NATO.
  • In Asia, China became a close partner for the US on economic and political fronts.
  • This, in turn, translated into new possibilities for cooperation among major powers on global issues — such as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, climate change, and pandemics. 


Reason Behind the Downfall of the Post Cold War Multilateralism

  • Russian Annexation of Crimean Peninsula
    • The Russian occupation and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 marked the first major crisis of the post-Cold War security order in central Europe and has led to the Russian war against Ukraine.
    • Russia was suspended indefinitely following the annexation of Crimea, whereupon the political forum name reverted to G7.
    • In January 2017, Russia announced its permanent withdrawal from the G8.
  • China’s Unilateral Efforts in Asia
    • Over the last decade, Asia has seen China’s growing unilateral efforts to alter the borders with neighbours.
    • China has also sought to manipulate the rest of the world’s dependence on its economy for political and strategic gains.
    • Xi’s reversal of key policies initiated by Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s (peaceful periphery and common prosperity) has devastated regional and global institutions.
    • Moreover, the ASEAN-led regional institutions struggle to cope with China’s aggressive territorial expansionism.


Challenges for India

  • To Choose Between a Unipolar Asia and a Unipolar World
    • In the 1990s, Moscow persuaded Delhi to join hands with Beijing in promoting a multipolar world that would counter American unilateralism.
    • This core principle of India’s post-Cold War multilateralism has begun to unravel as economic and security threats mounted from China.
    • The problem for India became increasingly clear which was from a unipolar Asia dominated by Beijing, rather than from a unipolar world led by the US.
    • An expansive and positive US engagement with India aided this profound shift in Delhi’s perspective. 
  • China’s Growing Threats is Asia and Europe
    • With its new-found economic clout and growing military power, Chinese expansionism has begun to pose a great challenge in Asia, and its staunch support for Russia is part of the problem in Europe.
    • As India’s bilateral challenges with China multiply, regional and global multilateralism has emerged at the core of India’s national security and international relations.
    • Therefore, India is investing so heavily in multilateral diplomacy, including the Quad and G-20,and is making bold departures from the traditional tenets of its multilateralism.


The Beginning of a New Order

  • The Formation of Indo-Pacific Groupings
    • India embraced the Indo-Pacific idea and revived the Quad that had gone moribund in 2007. This involved greater military-strategic cooperation with Australia, Japan, and the US in Asia.
    • The last few years have seen the rise of new security institutions like the Quad, the AUKUS that brings together Australia, Britain, and the US, and the trilateral compact in Northeast Asia between the US, Japan, and South Korea.
  • Economic Collaborations to Reduce Dependency on China
    • China’s attempt to gain unilateral economic advantages has compelled the US and Japan to de-risk the massive interdependence with China built over the decades.
    • Like much of the world, India also bet in the 1990s that economic cooperation with Beijing would be mutually beneficial and help resolve political differences. Now India is out of that illusion.


Importance of India’s Role in Shaping a New Regional and World Order

  • Shift from Non-Alignment to Multi-Alignment
    • In the Post cold war era, Indian foreign policy has moved from a policy of non-alignment (policy of being neutral with US and USSR blocs) to the policy of Multi-alignment (India is having friendly relations with almost all great powers and developing world).
    • Multi-alignment is the very essence of India’s foreign policy and the economic policy of India today.
    • This presents an opportunity for India to become a global mediator and help in developing a framework on Global Issues.
  • To Broaden the Ambit of G20 and Address the Issues of Global South
    • The gloomy prospect for multilateralism is in contrast with India’s brightening opportunities to shape regional and global orders. 
    • Delhi’s role is critical in the Indo-Pacific Quadrilateral Forum, in the attempt to broaden the ambit of the G20 to address the concerns of the Global South and in the promotion of balanced globalisation that will help all countries.


Likely Features of India’s New Multilateralism at Jakarta ASEAN Summit

  • Cooperation Rather than Competition Between QUAD and ASEAN
    • The Indian PM will underline that the Quad is not in competition with the ASEAN.
    • It will complement its efforts to promote regional stability through more bilateral and multilateral security cooperation to deter and limit unilateralism and territorial expansionism.
  • Diversified Globalisation
    • India’s focus on what External Affairs Minister calls a re-globalisation - that is more diversified, more democratic, where there would be multiple centres of production, not just of consumption.
    • Globalization cannot be linked to Chinese manufacturing or Beijing's political whims.
  • India’s Determination to Find Collective Solutions
    • India is not walking away from finding collective solutions despite the current crisis in multilateralism.
    • India has put in much effort in the last nine months not to tie the fate of the G20 to just a few issues like Ukraine but to pursue agreements on a range of consequential issues, like modernising the global tax regime and reforming the multilateral development banks.
  • Emphasis on Global South: India will reiterate its commitment of putting the concerns of the Global South on the G-20 agenda. This is likely to be a lasting contribution of India’s new multilateralism.



  • India’s natural influence as a democracy and sincere interlocutor that can engage the political spectrum of nations gives it unique moral authority.
  • The G20 with its mix of developing and developed countries offers the perfect platform for India to infuse partner nations with foundational ideas and pave the way for the beginning of a new world order.


Q1) What is India’s role in the promotion of rule based multilateralism?

India’s long-standing commitment to multilateralism can be reflected in the call for UN reform. India’s foreign policy is based on the ethos of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” and Good Samaritan. Also, India is a key G-20 member country and the world’s fifth-largest economy (and 3rd largest on purchasing power parity) with a long tradition of international activism and promotion of rule-based multilateralism. The G20 Bali Leaders’ Declaration echoes India’s approach when it speaks of the “need to uphold the multilateral system that safeguards peace and stability”, the importance of “peaceful resolutions of conflicts”, and the vital role of “diplomacy and dialogue”.


Q2) What is the Alliance for Multilateralism?

The “Alliance for Multilateralism” launched by the French and German Foreign Ministers is an informal network of countries united to promote a rules-based multilateral order for international stability and peace and addressing common challenges. The purpose of the alliance is to renew the global commitment to stabilise the rules-based international order, uphold its principles and adapt it, where necessary.


Source: The Indian Express