Inaugural e-Lecture – Post Covid World Order


Post Covid World Order

“The Post Covid World Order” by Prof. Mohd Moazzam Ali, former HoD at the Department of Political Science, University of Hyderabad

Dr. Mohd. Moazzam Ali, former HoD and Professor of Political Science, University of Hyderabad has over 90 published research articles and two books to his credit. His first book The Collapse of the Soviet Union: The Nationality Causes was published in 2004 followed by his editorial work Threat Perception in a Globalizing World with Special Reference to India in 2013. He did his M.Phil and Ph.D. from JNU. He studied in Moscow for over two years (1982-1985). He speaks Russian and is fluent in English and his native tongue Urdu. He has delivered lectures across the world (Helsinki, Moscow, Uppsala and Istanbul). He was selected by UGC again in 1992 to give a series of lectures in Moscow at the Institute of State and Law and the Institute of Oriental Studies. He was invited under Linnaeus Palme Scholarship programme to visit Uppsala University, Sweden. He was sponsored by Maison Des Sciences de L’Homme to visit Paris. He attended the Eurasian conference in Antalya, Turkey. He has published over 90 articles in various edited books, research journals, magazines and newspapers besides giving many radio and TV interviews and lectures.

Dr. Ali commenced the inaugural lecture by noting that the world order is characterized by an absence of world government , a body of universally acceptable laws and compulsory membership of world organizations and therefore he was tempted to add “disorder” to his topic instead. It is within this context that one has to think about world order. The search for a world order is informed by a number of reasons including, 1.intention to make international relations orderly and predictable, 2.order being the anti-thesis of disorder (which is equivalent to anarchy and given an aversion to anarchy universally and particularly in Western Political Thought), avoid war and maintain sustainable peace.

The presentation was divided into four parts namely , COVID 19 and its impact on the global scenario , requirements of world order , sustainability of world order, and possibilities of world order in future.  

Variations of disorder approximate order. There exists a nostalgia for cold war for it made international relations simpler with the world divided into two hostile camps, friends and foes were known and it was possible to predict state behaviour, nonetheless, the world remained in disarray with many more dimensions being added to this disarray as the time passes , one new dimension being the COVID 19. The nature and the source of virus are still unknown. It wreaked havoc in the world.  According to UN Secretary General Guterres “We have surplus of multilateral problems but deficit of solutions. COVID 19 has exposed the fragilities of the world.” In his address President Trump blamed China, while President Xi talked about facing the menace unitedly and that the world should embrace the concept of a family instead of falling into the trap of clash of civilization, which the speaker suggests are dated ideas. 

The consequences of COVID have spilled out into political, economic , social and psychological domains with over 300 million people affected by the virus and nearly a million dead. Economies the world over ground to a halt with workers and the poor disproportionately affected and 150 million people pushed into absolute poverty. Reporting on human rights violations faced a setback with the focus being on the pandemic. World order has been impacted as well. Many governments which failed to fulfil their promises post elections now got a lease of life. Psychological toll of the pandemic requires detailed study.  It’ll take years before normalcy is restored, if at all. Arms race between the U.S. and Russia presents us with a need to get rid of this psychology of killing. China wasn’t made to apologize although some noise was made by the US and Australia. There is a need to pinpoint the responsibility. This brings us to the question :  why world order?  To make international relations predictable .Earlier, world order has always been unpredictable especially with secret diplomacy , with diplomats meeting and secretly deciding the fate of countries and wars (anarchical touch to international relations), realists therefore were right in saying that nation states work on sovereignty and territoriality. 

Order is an antidote to disorder. We’re very wary of anarchy universally and geographically especially, European political thought – social contract theories – Hobbes’ state of nature, Locke’s plea for the establishment of civil society and responsible government ,situation stabilized through general will for Rousseau, in Islamic world as well – idea of choosing a leader and following him ; anarchy disliked everywhere , be it in China or India – anarchy is to be avoided and order should be maintained though they differ in their ways. There have been different versions of order in ancient and modern times: Chinese idea of middle kingdom with mandate of heaven and the kingdom to be surrounded by tribute paying barbaric states was their formulation, in Europe Westphalian system was established in 1648 which of course received setbacks but continued and became universal over a period of time with different versions of world order: unipolar bipolar multipolar. Severe blow was dealt to Westphalian system in the 20th century .Two cardinal principles of the system: territoriality and sovereignty were subjected to serious concussions by a number of developments : imperialism , capitalism ,corporate capitalism, international law. A number of international and regional organizations and UN specialized agencies cut into the sovereignty of states. We are forced to think in global terms. After COVID 19 particularly, we have a situation where we have to think in global terms. What bearing will this have on the nature of the world order and how can we sustain it takes us to the speculative field. Some scholars have come out with well researched books on this subject: Henry Kissinger – The World Order, Richard Haas – A world in disarray, Anne-Marie Slaughter – A New World Order,  Shashi Tharoor and Samir Saran – a new world disorder and the Indian imperative . 

We never had a world order. Disorder has variations, some of which approximate order. The second part of the talk focusses on the requirements of world order: the first and foremost being education that can create international public opinion to pressurize the state to behave in a rational way, universally recognised, accepted and enforceable international law, orderly rule based conduct of international relations for sustainable and predictable international relations, some sort of collective security mechanism ,more pressure moral and other even boycott and show of strength to aggressors, and change in mindset where one necessarily has to have enemies (and also away from zero sum games).

Coming to the question of world order one enters the terrain of theory and philosophy. Many measures have been tried out of which many have succeeded and many failed as well. We can develop war preventing mechanisms/ peace mongering could be tried. Some have been tried and have been found wanting, for example, the idea of collective security. All of these considerations have to be kept in mind when we think of a viable international order. Could there be a viable international / global/world order that can be maintained remains an open question.

One of the questions asked was about the sort of ethical leadership can we imagine at this point and if we can talk about disorder in a productive manner?  To which the speaker replied that as far as ethical/moral question is concerned we are too deficient and we have to educate ourselves before we are able to ethically correctly talk about things. On the question of discussing disorder in a productive way he said that can be done and we in fact have a long history of doing that going back to 1648.