The world is inexorably moving towards multipolarity. The US’ unipolar moment is long vorbei. The US has global interests and a strategic reach to match them. The Chinese sphere of influence and strategic reach are expanding exponentially. The Russians too have asserted themselves in Europe by moving into Ukraine to counter NATO’s aggressive expansionism. Crucially, while Europe struggles to follow the US’ unilateral policies against Russia, middle and smaller Asian powers have started defying US diktat.

Is the US’ hither-to-fore uncontested global hegemony under question?

The US has maneuvered deep to lure Russia into attacking Ukraine. It has now heavily sanctioned and isolated it and further tightened its already firm hold over Europe. In one fell swoop, it has not only nixed burgeoning Europe-Russia economic ties but has also nullified Europe’s dependence on Russian oil, gas and food grains. The resultant steep rise in their prices will haunt the common European for eons to come. The Russians are now contemplating supplying gas to Europe for rubles only. This will bring the US dollar under further pressure and could lead to cracks in the cross-Atlantic alliance. A realignment though is out of the question, for the time being. As long as Russia remains embroiled in Ukraine, Europe will stay on tenterhooks and irretrievably plonked in the US camp.

However, it is in Asia that the US is apparently losing the geopolitical battle!

The KSA and UAE have broken tradition and shown a rare streak of independence. They have apparently decided to cast off the shackles of the US’ overbearing, all too pervasive controlling influences. The UAE abstained from the vote on Ukraine in the UNSC and UNGA. Then, both the Crown Princes of KSA and UAE found it inconvenient to receive the US President’s calls. Further, they defied the US directive to increase the production of crude oil to offset the price rise caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. British PM Boris Johnson’s yatra to Riyadh and Dubai also failed to browbeat these capitals into towing the West’s line on Ukraine. Furthermore, the UAE invited the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, much to US’ annoyance and dismay. Most consequentially, the KSA has invited Chinese President Xi Jinping to Riyadh and has offered to sell oil to Beijing in yuan. That could deal a crucial blow to the petro-dollar. World oil trade in any currency other than the US dollar seriously affects the US’ position as the globe’s pre-eminent economic power. A paradigm shift in policy from the West towards the East is thus discernible and will encourage other Gulf Arab states to follow suit—regardless of the Abraham Accords.

Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Iran etc are likely to remain out of US’ orbit and favour for the foreseeable future. Although the US has egressed from Afghanistan, it has retained its stranglehold over its future. Pakistan and China have however decided to include Afghanistan in the BRI-CPEC too. Afghanistan will thus become a bridge for regional connectivity and economic interdependence. Russia and the CARs will get access to South Asia, the GMER, the Indian Ocean Region and beyond.

There has been scant stability and continuity in US-Pakistan relations. The US has always taken Pakistan for granted and treated it summarily, arbitrarily and through transactional deals only.

Pakistan has been repeatedly ditched, let down and subjected to rampant multidimensional coercion. No wonder that Pakistan is now so firmly ensconced in the Chinese camp. The BRI-CPEC have further cemented the already flourishing and multifarious strategic partnership between them. Pakistan will not go against its vital national interests and sour this very fruitful relationship for any reason whatsoever.

The US has appeased India beyond reasonable limits just to pitch it against China. It has boosted its already bloated ego, designated it a strategic and a major defence partner and made it a member of the anti-China QUAD. However, India is in no position to realistically meet US demands vis a vis Russia or China. It has had a very long and mutually beneficial relationship with the USSR/Russia; its military and nuclear power sectors depend very heavily on Russian support. It will not give up on Russia, regardless of the coercion/incentives offered by the US. With China it has a bilateral trade of about US$100 billion, which it cherishes. Furthermore, the Indians have been suitably chastened by the physical thrashing they got from the PLA in Ladakh. Even more critically, the Indians will never willingly venture into a possible two-front war against China (and Pakistan) with a destabilised internal front to boot. The Indians, despite the appropriate rhetoric, will remain ambivalent, will garner all the benefits of their strategic partnership but will never commit themselves unconditionally and irrevocably to the US. Period. India, on the other hand, must also weigh the massive benefits it might accrue if it were to create the right strategic environment and then join the BRI-CPEC.

Bangladesh and Sri Lanka too have developed multidimensional ties with China and seem to be solidifying their evolving relationship with it. The US will however still have to confront Chinese and Russian influences in the Pacific rim and larger Indo-Pacific Regions.

The US’ egress from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran has created a gap in the containment ring it had once thrown around the erstwhile USSR. Both China and Russia have moved through this interstice and are now reaching for the Indian Ocean and beyond. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, (SCO), as an entity, must follow suit. It has enormous human, economic, mineral, fossil fuel, technological and military resources. It needs to harness this enormous power potential and assert itself at the global level. It needs to crystallise its sphere of influence, demonstrate its strategic reach, assert its economic and diplomatic clout and become proactive as an alliance. China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey (CRIPT) can form its crux. The combined impact of the BRI-CPEC-EEU initiatives can enhance the strategic and economic dimensions of this alliance manifold. Put together, this can be a fascinatingly potent alliance that can project power globally—and become the “other pole” to truly manifest multipolarity in the world.