March 1, 2024

Lukmaan IAS

A Blog for IAS Examination



THE CONTEXT: The world has witnessed several disruptions in recent years. China’s phenomenal rise has unleashed a superpower competition between USA and China. This is indicative of a recognition of emergence of bipolar world order.


  • Bipolarity can be defined as a system of world order in which the majority of global economic, military and cultural influence is held between two states. The classic case of a bipolar world is that of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, which dominated the second half of the 20th century.
  • However, the present world order is one of asymmetric bipolarity in which the U.S. still remains a pre-eminent power, but China is advancing fast as well.
  • The effects of this bipolarity have substantially deepened as both USA and China have become aware of the new global structure and are acting accordingly.
  • Meanwhile, there are other power centres emerging and they will play a significant role in the balancing of power. Russia is challenging the post-World War security architecture in Europe through military means. In West Asia, Israel is engaged in a brutal war with The world is also witnessing the rise of several middle powers such as India.

Power as defining feature of world order:

Power has been the defining feature of how world orders have been built and destroyed over the years, and this power has often been military at its core.

  • In the 19th century, countries that developed steam engines and developed naval fleets, small European countries, became great powers.
  • In the 20th century, with nuclear evolution, the concept of superpowers emerged. Great powers could control multiple events around the world and superpowers could control multiple events around the world simultaneously.
  • The 21st century is one of people’s power and connectivity that the world sees today is unprecedented. That results in interactions, sometimes even interdependence, to some extent global integration, and therefore there could be bipolar impulses.

Case of China and Russia:

  • China: China has seen a phenomenal rise economically and militarily over the past four decades. In the last 40 years, its GDP in 1990 was $300 billion, moved to $1 trillion-plus at the turn of century and is now $19.3 trillion. And the fact that China is controlled by one party and virtually one man makes this economic lever particularly powerful in redefining the world order.
  • Russia: There are emerging ties of Russia with China but Russia too is conscious of the fact that they cannot put all their eggs in one basket. There are concerns particularly regarding the balance of power in Central Asia. There are enough signals from Russia that it would like to diversify its relationship, particularly in terms of energy, with the developing economies of Asia. Also, Russia is seriously looking at reinventing their ties with India.


  • Not a balanced approach: India faces an entirely new set of challenges in the new global disorder with S.­-China great power contest. During the Cold War, India didn’t have hostile relations with any of the opposing superpowers but in today’s scenario, China is major rival of India. India would be tempted to join the American bloc as it faces the China problem and may give up on its balanced approach.
  • Security Challenges: Various security challenges are unfolding in India’s neighbourhood. India’s security establishment and strategic community have consistently flagged the issue of the growing Chinese presence and involvement. With hegemony of China, India tends to face more security challenges in the region.
  • Relation with China: The power imbalancebetween India and China has widened in recent years. China has also developed a strategic partnership with Pakistan and raising its influence in other South Asian and Indian Ocean countries. With growing power of China, India will remain concerned about its geopolitical and economic implications.
  • Relation with USA: There is often a temptation to view India’s relations with the U.S. and China in contrasting terms that India has a smooth relation with USA. But relation with USA is not always smooth. For example, India and the U.S.A had signed a joint statement in July 2005, which opened up a new relationship and a nuclear deal was finally signed in 2008. And India was supposed to get six nuclear power reactors from the U.S.A and these have not come yet.
  • Relation with Russia: Russia is a traditional partnerwith which India has deep defence ties. India is under huge pressure to take a more critical position on Russia’s actions. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has complicated India’s options further. India also worries that the West’s move to isolate Russia in Europe would push the country further into the Chinese embrace.

Thus, if the competition between China and the U.S., and Russia and the U.S., heats up, it does reduce the flexibility of India in terms of how to manage good relations with Russia, China, and the U.S. However, given that these countries are enormously dependent on each other, there is less chances of any rigid bipolar system happening in the future.


  • Rising number of conflicts: As two rival powers cannot remain in equilibrium indefinitely, therefore conflict is inevitable in a bipolar world. In this regard, global order is not stable during periods of bipolarity, but instead, warfare appears to be necessary for the resolution of rivalry between two superpowers. Ultimately, bipolarity is based on constant tension, which leads to competition, and ultimately, war.
  • Unstable policy making: These changes in the world actually leave the world in an unstable situation. There is a lack of clarity on which direction the world is headed. It makes policy making harder formiddle powers like India.
  • Negative economic implications: Rising of bipolar world has negative economic implications globally. Trade war between two strong countries have tendency to cause uncertainty in the financial markets. It can thus impact trade flows and may lead to even global recession.
  • Waning globalisation: International political economy is regarded as the principal focus of the forces of globalization and the main way in which globalization is transmitted throughout the world. Bipolar world can lead to powerful countries limiting themselves in their own sphere which can led to waning of globalisation.


  • Balanced approach: India should develop a balanced foreign policy outlook for both the nations focussing on its economic growth and development. Revival of Non Alignment, for example, by bringing in Non-Alignment 2.0 with China and the U.S. is the one of the solution to have a balanced approach. It would help with India’s security and sovereignty.
  • Internal balancing: There is a need to maintain and strengthen our own foreign policy approach to tackle uncertain global situation. Also, there is a need to strengthen security to particularly bring about peace and tranquillity in the border states.
  • India’s strategic approach towards a rising China: There is a need to acknowledge the fact that China is going to be a long-term competitor in Asia and there is a need to have strategic approach towards China. And the border is just one of the pressures points that China uses against India. Also, there is a need for lessening dependence on China and seeking external balancing to concentrate on self-strengthening.
  • Diversification in strategic partners:The present-day geopolitical and geostrategic circumstances present a multifaceted challenge to India’s foreign policy. Therefore, India’s cold war narrative of strategic neutrality is being gradually replaced by strategic hedging.

In a multipolar world India should not limit its engagements with Russia, the US and China but expand its relationship with other countries of the EU, ASEAN etc.

  • Indigenous defence modernisation:India is dependent on many foreign players like U.S, Russia etc. for its defence requirement, this may not pave good in national interest. Therefore, it is imperative to speed up indigenous defence modernisation, especially in the context of counterbalancing China.


India has been successful in deploying ‘multi-vector’ foreign policy in the past by having a balanced approach. In the current situation as well, Indian foreign policy should not envisage complete isolation or enter into alliance with one great power. Thus, it should opt for multi­engagement not multi­alignment for a multipolar world and have a variable relation with several like-minded partners.


Q.1 “The long sustained image of India as a leader of the oppressed and marginalised nations has disappeared on account of its newfound role in the emerging global order.’ Elaborate. (2019)

Q.2 Evaluate the economic and strategic dimensions of India’s Look East Policy in the context of the post-Cold War international scenario. (2016)


Q.1 India has historically prided itself as an independent developing country which did not succumb to pressure from great powers.  Analyse the current position of India in the changing world order and suggest steps it should take to have a balanced approach.


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