Biggest trend in world politics 2022: Self-interest above all

Representational image. AP

“There is some self-interest behind every friendship. There is no friendship without self-interests. This is a bitter truth.”

Chanakya’s words could well define the outgoing year in politics. In hindsight, 2022 may well prove to be a watershed year in which the world order started getting reorganised, and ruthless self-interest was the fulcrum on which the axis of power turned.

As European Union High Representative Josep Borrell recently said, we are witnessing the coming of a “messy multipolarity” in which sub-superpowers like India, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Brazil insist on protecting their national interests, exert influence, and gain advantage in this global power shift.

For this fluid and keenly contested environment and loss of primacy of western powers, the West’s hypocrisy is to blame.

After spending enormous amounts of dirty energy to become economic powerhouses, for instance, the West wants India and China to compromise on their energy needs. Laughably, the per capita carbon footprint of China and India is a tiny fraction of the West’s.

And then came the Ukraine war.

After ditching Afghanistan and handing a brutal whip to the Taliban the previous year, the US and its western allies have pushed Ukraine to a crippling war against Russia. NATO has kept supplying Volodymyr Zelensky with arms and bravado but did not physically enter the war for a second. Ukraine was made a proxy in the West’s war against its arch-enemy Vladimir Putin.

But while the West was waging this proxy war, it continued to import billions of dollars of oil from Russia while lecturing the rest of the world to boycott Putin’s goods.

Just in October 2022, Germany imported EUR697 million worth of petroleum oil and gases, EUR565 million worth of mineral oil products, EUR102 million of coal, EUR44.5 million of semi-finished products and EUR40.7 million worth of fertilisers. German imports from Russia increased over the first seven months of 2022 by 32.6 per cent in annual terms, amounting to $27.9 billion.

France’s imports from Russia reached an all-time high of EUR1.436 billion in March, a month after the war broke out.

While the US brought down its Russian oil imports from over a billion dollars to zero by October, it continues to import wood, metals, rubber and other goods worth over a billion dollars from Russia.

This hypocrisy has been roundly snubbed. China anyway did not care. In spite of President Joe Biden’s visit, Saudi Arabia showed the US its place. Heading the 13-nation OPEC (its 10 allies are headed by Moscow) Mohammed Bin Salman angered the White House with its decision to reduce output by two million barrels a day from November, determined to ride the oil price tide.

Even Israel did not pander to Zelensky’s whining and did not cut off its ties with Russia.

India’s policy of global vision moulded by self-interest was on stellar display in 2022. While it led the world by sending COVID vaccines to more than 70 countries, it refused to be bullied into giving up its friendship with Russia. Now that India heads the G20 for a year, Zelensky recently requested PM Narendra Modi to come up with a “peace formula”.

Elsewhere in the world, gritty fights for one’s own self marked the year. China’s lonely battle with a debilitating COVID wave and popular unrest continue.

Iranian women fought against mullahs sacrificing their lives in spite of the relative silence of mainstream ‘liberal’ media. Islamism got its first rude shock even as its global Left and ‘liberal’ allies tried their best to downplay the women’s struggle against the Ayatollah’s morality police and hijab squads.

In India’s domestic politics, parties poured every ounce of energy into consolidating their ground and spreading rather than striking alliances. The Aam Aadmi Party extended its power from Delhi to Punjab with a sweep, and got nearly 13 per cent votes in Gujarat, further weakening the Congress.

The BJP posted an all-time record win in its bastion Gujarat, signalling that its near-complete dominance in national politics is here to stay.

The Congress, instead of trying too hard to forge alliances with TMC or AAP, has also tried to set its own house in order with an internal election, a victory in Himachal, and Rahul Gandhi’s painstaking Bharat Jodo Yatra to ensure that the ground does not further slip from underneath, especially in its remaining south Indian strongholds.

Politics is entering 2023 as if with Tagore’s ‘Ekla Cholo Re‘ playing in its head. The time for selfless friendships is decidedly over, at least for now.

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