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Shifting Global Alliances and Environmental Crisis

World | Amid Escalating War and Geopolitical Conflicts, Prioritising Cooperation, Diplomacy, and Sustainable Development over Hostility and Competition is not Merely a Choice but a Necessity.

By Prof Sudhanshu Tripathi
New Update

Environmental Crisis Amid War
Environmental crisis amid war and conflict | Representative image | Photo courtesy: Special arrangement 

The almost two-year-long ongoing Russian-Ukraine war, followed by the Israel-Hamas war in West Asia, appears to have instigated a series of turmoil in many parts of the world due to several alignments and realignments among most of the global powers. While Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran have come close to forging a powerful axis against the US with a view to displacing it from the centre of global hegemony, the western powers under the NATO banner, led by America, are making all-out efforts to maintain and consolidate their unparalleled global supremacy intact. This is in order to control and even direct almost the entire dynamics of international and global relations, wherein economic and international trade and commerce, environmental crisis, and international conflicts today reign supreme.

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In fact, most of the international wars are the outward manifestations of the below-the-surface economic reasons as reflected in imperialist policies accompanied by assertions and expansions, as in the case of the Russia-Ukraine war and the long-continuing Chinese imperialist aggressions in the Indo-Pacific and beyond, with few exceptions where racial bitterness accompanied by terrorism has promoted international war, as may be seen in the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.

In the similar discourse, China’s militarist aggression and assertion over the South China Sea and thereon to the larger water-terrain of Indo-Pacific is a virtual challenge to the global north as well as south, including Australia, as regards the free passage of international trade and commerce through naval channels. Not only that, China’s consistent efforts to overpower Taiwan is another grave threat in the region, and so is North Korea dictator’s missile, even nuclear ones, tests to South Korea and Japan in the Far East. 

Furthermore, the four-month-long ongoing battle between Israel and Hamas has already jolted the entire West Asian region, wherein Hezbollah in Lebanon and Houthi rebels in Yemen, with behind-the-curtain instigation of Iran, have turned the continuing war into an almost endless venture of cultural annihilation. 

Added to this, Iran’s missile attack on a terrorist outfit, Jaish-al-Adal, situated in Pakistan’s Baloch province, and Pakistan’s immediate counter-attack over Iran in the middle of January 2024, had further aggravated the prevailing tense global scenario. However, that looks to have reasonably subsided with Turkey’s mediation and Pakistan’s surrender before Iran, as elaborated in the electronic media. Otherwise, the tensions between the two neighbouring countries could have spread throughout the entire South Asian region. This would have been highly unsettling for India and other regional partners, as they have varying perspectives and interests in their relations with Pakistan.

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Thus, the global order is passing through extreme structural changes where hitherto non-significant players like North Korea, Iran, Lebanon, Yemen’s Houthi rebels attacking Red Sea shipping and the likes have assumed a decisive say in the so-prevailing liberal-democratic international order emerged after the Second World War - at least in theory. This is just due to their notorious terror power, which has altogether challenged even the US’ global military might, including the so-defined dominant roles of a few other major powers like the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, Australia, and a few more to count.

Besides these, the dominant streams of the Washington Consensus, largely characterised as globalisation instituted during the early 1990s of the post-Cold War years, paving the way for the free flow of capital, goods, services, and labour across borders, have been severely affected by the return of economic nationalism and the renewed great power conflict, as reflected in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine and Israel-Hamas wars.

In this context, the global economic recession triggered by the Covid-19 waves two years ago has inflicted substantial hardships on nations worldwide. Amidst this backdrop, the global north is striving to rejuvenate its economy through measures such as implementing restrictive trade policies, ramping up production, tightening immigration regulations, managing caps on carbon emissions and other measures to mitigate the environmental crisis. Additionally, they are increasingly relying on alternative sources of energy with the expectation that these actions will yield the desired outcomes.

On the other hand, the global south is embarking on an endeavour to navigate through this challenging phase. Furthermore, it's crucial to recognise that the global economic landscape remains intertwined, and the outcomes of these strategies in the global north and south are interconnected. Cooperation and coordination between nations, particularly in the realms of trade, sustainable development, and climate action, will play a pivotal role in shaping the future trajectory of the world economy.

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Perhaps holding their respective viewpoints in hand, both the global north and south have tightened their belts at the Davos Summit of the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2024 in Switzerland and the NAM 19 Summit and back-to-back G-77 Summit in Uganda's capital, Kampala. Although both of these groups of nations have a common agenda to revive their economies by increasing production without adversely affecting the climate by adhering to permissible carbon emission limits, that is not observed by most of them in reality.

This has led to a surge in carbon emissions, consequently elevating global temperatures and intensifying the environmental crisis. We are today witnessing the alarming melting of polar ice, accompanied by a dangerous elevation in sea levels, posing a significant threat to numerous islands at risk of submersion. In addition to environmental pollution, these developments have contributed to the emergence of mysterious infections and illnesses, further detrimentally impacting the delicate balance of our ecosystems.

Moreover, it is essential to acknowledge the far-reaching implications of these ecological shifts. The disruptions in climate patterns not only endanger the well-being of our planet but also have a profound impact on human societies, causing widespread displacement, food insecurity, and economic instability. 

This presents the most significant challenge facing humanity today, with the entire global community participating in either the recently concluded Davos or NAM Summits. To overcome this environmental crisis, they must unite by setting aside their self-inflicted divisions and collectively addressing this critical issue.

In a world overshadowed by the spectre of wars and conflicts, the prevailing gloom underscores the urgency of coming together, not just in fragmented efforts to confront the looming threat of war but also in a unified global mission. The wars and conflicts that persist in different parts of the world serve as examples of a need for a shift in focus. It is high time that we channel our energy and resources towards addressing the more pressing concerns that are bound to affect all of us in the years to come.

Prioritising cooperation, diplomacy, and sustainable development over hostility and competition is not merely a choice but a necessity. This shift in perspective will help create a safer, more prosperous world for current and future generations, offering hope for a better future amidst the challenges we collectively face.

(Professor Sudhanshu Tripathi holds a position as a Political Science professor at MDPG College, Pratapgarh (UP). He is the author of several published books, including "India’s Foreign Policy: Dilemma over Non-Alignment 2.0" (2020) and "NAM and India" (2012), as well as being a co-author of the textbook "Rajnitik Avadharnayein" (2001). Additionally, he has contributed numerous articles and research papers to national, international, and online journals.)