FROM THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
In 1967, when the Merger Treaty created the European Communities—still an amorphous idea that would later evolve into the European Union—I witnessed the developments as a college student in London. The idea of a unified Europe seemed an impossible dream at the time, considering how most of the nations involved had fought bitter wars in which millions had died. I was pleasantly surprised when it became a reality, and while internal divisions may have remained, it functioned successfully as an economic unit that allowed the free movement of goods, capital and people.
There have been dramatic shifts in global politics over the last few decades. The world went from the height of Cold War to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, to the crumbling of the Soviet Union in 1991, and, as a result, to the United States emerging as the sole superpower. India, one of the leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement, watched these events unfold very much like an innocent bystander. Over the last few years, the world changed again with the rise of China, an assertive Russia, and a powerful EU heralding an era of relative multi-polarity. These were events that had a huge impact on economics and trade, especially in an age of heightened connectivity. The decision by the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, or to choose to ‘Brexit’ in a public referendum, is therefore a slap on the face of history.
I always considered the EU an example for other traditionally hostile nations, such as India and Pakistan, to emulate. If Europe, with its long history of conflict, could create a common market, why could South Asia not come together to form a unified marketplace? It may sound far-fetched but if EU was possible, so was this. Now it seems like an idea whose time has passed.
Today we are witnessing the hydra-headed rise of countries demanding ‘independence’ by citing nationalism, instead of opting for greater economic and social integration. One of the dilemmas faced by modern nations is maintaining their sovereignty while being part of a cooperative world order. It is while battling this dilemma that the UK chose unwisely. The working classes felt they were not getting the benefits of a common market, and this anger was channelised by the leaders of the ‘Leave’ campaign. Similar trends are being witnessed across the globe. In the US, particularly, the rise of the unpredictable and divisive Donald Trump as the Republican nominee for President on the slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ is another example that goes against the grain of internationalism and global economic cooperation. Naturally, he welcomed Brexit.
In these rapidly changing times, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has been on a foreign relations overdrive since coming to power two years ago, will have to navigate these choppy waters. New Delhi has to be agile enough to grab opportunities these upheavals offer and determined enough to get India on the global high table.
In this special issue, an array of top analysts from India and abroad make sense of what is happening in Europe, America, and closer to home, with China blocking India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Nandan Nilekani, who inspired the phrase “the world is flat”, writes that Brexit proves “countries will have to be more strong domestically and not rely on exports as a vehicle for growth”.
Change is not always in our control but how we adapt to change is. India is at a great advantage. If you think about it, we have been a European Union with our size, our diversity, our many complexities, but we have one currency and are governed by one Constitution. In addition, we have a demographic dividend that is the envy of the world. If we play our cards right and boost our domestic economy with the right economic reforms and openness to the world, we can be a major force to be reckoned with. Nothing carries more clout than money. Look at the US and China.