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Towards a New Normal in International Relations; By B. S. Raghavan

C3S Paper No. 0081/2016

  1. Preamble

As one looks at the world scenario, in terms of the power equations, political dispensations, economic gradations and technological advances, one confronts the dilemma of having to come to terms with two mutually contradictory sets of perceptions: The first, those derived from a sense of history and the second, those arising from a sense of pragmatism based on traditional approaches.

The historical perspective tells us that the world moves from hostility to harmony, divergence to convergence and division to unity. Events and issues that looked like lasting eternally and loomed large, assuming the proportion of catastrophes, taking the world to the brink of apocalypse and Armageddon combined, have resolved and even disappeared over time.

Slave trade, segregation, burning “witches” at stakes, lynchings, apartheid, treating human beings as animals solely based on the colour of the skin, untouchability, holocaust and similar barbarities are now totally unthinkable and those who indulged in those practices stand condemned as savages.

The Hundred Years’ War, Jenkin’s Ear War, Wars of the Roses, Opium Wars, Napoleonic Wars, Japan-China War, Russia-China War, First and Second World Wars – with their brutalities, raining death and destruction over vast territories and numbers of peoples– were the norms of conduct between countries over centuries. Any government that talks of starting a war today would be certified as composed of maniacs. Countries of Europe which were at the throat of each other for as long as one could remember are now welded into a union with common currency and passport.

For 30 years or more England and Ireland were engulfed in horrendous acts of terrorism and ruthless reprisals, but the bloody chapter came to a close with the Queen of Britain and the Prince of Wales shaking hands with the former commanders of the Irish Republican Army who snuffed out so many lives, including that of Lord Mountbatten.

The Cold War, Berlin Wall, and the stand-off between the US on the one hand and China, Iran and Cuba on the other are all now things of the past.

Previously warring nations have constituted themselves into a United Nations.

The opposite sets of perceptions are made up of jealousies, rivalries, insecurities and games of one-up-man-ship among nations which continue to persist. Governments may have disbanded old military blocs, but they have not been able to unshackle themselves from conventional nostrums of balance of power, spheres of influence, containment, encirclement, destabilisation, subversion, regime changes, and pre-emptive strikes where they can get away with them. These old reflexes are thinly disguised in euphemisms, morphing into seemingly acceptable modalities, mechanisms and instrumentalities – aid, grants, projects, financial leverages, supply of military hardware, regional groups and alliances – but the intended objective is the same: strengthening one’s own capacity to exercise power and influence and ensuring protection of one’ own ostensibly core interests.

Just as individuals, so also countries, are unable to shed the craving for acquisition of real estate, wherever possible, even if it be by making unilateral, and sabre-rattling, assertion of rights and claims over territory, islands, waters and natural resources,

The situation is aggravated and complicated by jihadi terrorism by Islamist groups. This is actually and potentially the most destructive and dangerous, because these groups believe that all entities other than their own umma and all religions other than their own Islam should be obliterated from the face of the Earth and perpetrate any type of horror to achieve their aim.

  1. New force

Unlike in the past, however, there is a new force that is available in the present century that will quite conceivably shorten the time taken for the causative factors of all these phenomena to lose their potency. It is made up of the combined effect of knowledge and communications revolutions sweeping the world. It has been given a powerful boost, and carried to every nook and corner at the speed of light, by incredible advances in technology making the unthinkable happen and bringing the impossible within reach. The world has become a veritable whirligig. Time and distance have got compressed, borders, nationalities, sovereignties have become irrelevant. The volume, velocity, variety and versatility of transactions taking place online boggle the mind. The world has become inter-connected and inter-dependent in a manner never imagined before. Nothing is sacrosanct, everything is everyone’s business. The three letters www in the web address have come to signify a world without walls, as a precursor to the brave new win-win-world in the making.

The political and economic fallout of the impact of emerging new technologies — Bio, nano, genomics, microelectromechanical systems, robotics, artificial intelligence, drones — is what is going to impart to the Twenty-first Century its unique flavour. E-conomy and e-governance are already making their presence felt and the time is not far off when digital single market and single cyber-currency will be commonplace.

Take, for instance, the most vital pre-requisite for survival of humankind: Energy. Just as manual, physical and animal power, once thought to be the only means of energy, has become obsolete, the present frenzied quest for oil and natural gas, and all the politics and power-plays and security architectures associated with it will soon be erased from memory. Thanks to the technologies of the future, giving low-cost and no-cost access to energy, maybe from the Sun and the wind, maybe from cold fusion, hundreds of oil tankers passing daily through choke-points such as Hormuz and Malacca Straits, thousands of kilometres of pipeline laid across dozens of countries will seem as bizarre as horse-drawn carriages transporting people and goods. In short, future emerging technologies will help humankind translate the vision of one world into a living reality.

From this standpoint, the present manner of conducting relations among countries can only be described as crude and outlandish. Indeed, even in the existing circumstances, some of the methods of yore for conducting international relations have lost their justification.

The Foreign Affairs magazine, in its issue of March 18, 2016, has published a thought-provoking article titled The Irrelevant Diplomat: Do we need embassies anymore? which assembles convincing arguments to establish that clinging to this centuries-old custom serves no useful purpose today. The pith of those arguments is contained in the following extracts:

“The embassy, at least in its traditional form, is facing an existential crisis. The global transformations of the twenty-first century have dramatically changed the way nations practice diplomacy. The rise of digital communications, diminishing resources, and growing security threats all raise the question of whether the traditional embassy is still relevant…..

“Once the government’s eyes and ears abroad, embassies are now usually the slowest way to get information, unable to compete with lightning-fast media reporting and exhaustive country analyses prepared by NGOs and risk consultancies. The digitally connected world allows governments to communicate directly with their counterparts, and some world leaders, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have become prodigious users of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, speaking to huge domestic and foreign audiences without even telling their embassies.

“It doesn’t help, of course, that diplomats are stereotyped as overpaid and ineffectual cocktail-circuit regulars and that foreign ministries frequently fail to reflect the times. They generally lack diversity and are slow to embrace innovation, even social media. …. And with the rising importance of economic diplomacy, governments are more inclined to open trade offices and innovation hubs than embassies. For example, our research indicates that between 2009 and 2015 the United Kingdom’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office shed almost 30 diplomatic missions, while its science and innovation network expanded its coverage from 24 to 28 countries……”

  1. Wars at the slightest pretext

If there was one feature that characterized relations among nations from times immemorial, it was the propensity to go to war at the slightest pretext, and often with none. There was even a war that lasted from 1739 to 1748 between Britain and Spain to avenge the action of Spanish coastguards who cut the ear of a British army officer, Captain Robert Jenkins in 1731, which ear the good Captain duly displayed to British MPs whose outrage led to the declaration of war against Spain.

At any given time, at a pinch, one could say that there were as many wars going on as there were countries! They were fought to annex and augment territory, to combat aggression, to settle scores, to establish superiority of race or religion, to divert people’s attention from problems at home, or even to impress with one’s might and power.

In the words of Carl von Clausewitz, the famous 19th century military theorist: “If we read history with an open mind, we cannot fail to conclude that, among all the military virtues, the energetic conduct of war has always contributed most to glory and success.” He was the author of the oft-quotedaphorism that “War is nothing but a continuation of politics with the admixture of other means.”

Straightforward wars of the formalized variety – preceded by ultimatums, observation of certain codes of conduct in the waging of them, suing of peace and terminated by written treaties signed by the plenipotentiaries of warring governments and exaction of reparations – are now regarded as beyond the pale. The old severities and rigours are nowadays diluted by resort to subterfuges such as regime changes, pre-emptive strikes, subversion, economic strangulation and embargos and sanctions of different kinds. Almost every country has its “dirty tricks” department.

At a lower level, the age-old weapons of diplomatic offensive, to wit, declaring a person persona non grata, recall of envoys for consultation, expulsion of diplomatic personnel or closing down of embassies are also becoming obsolete.

  1. Ingredients of the New Normal

In the age of the simultaneous revolutions in knowledge, communications, and technology, in which even the entire domains of societal configurations and management and governance are set to undergo a sea change, it has become imperative to discard the antediluvian notions of diplomacy and to evolve a new paradigm of international relations. It must be such as to incorporate and reinforce the already emerging pointers to a world without walls or win-win world. It would serve as a new normal, and conduce to civilized and cultured behaviour among nations leading to the observance of decencies and preservation of values. After all, nations consist of human beings, and the assumption, diluted, if not falsified, so far is that they should conduct themselves as such and not allow themselves buffeted by animal instincts.

The New Normal can be envisaged as being composed of the following ingredients:

  1. Foreign policy built on the foundation of domestic policy

Foreign policy at the very basic level aims at maintenance of peaceful relations with other nations, adherence to international treaties and obligations, assistance in times of distress, disorder or disasters, cooperation in promoting economic development and protecting environment, and contributing to world peace and the good of all mankind. It is not a stand-alone endeavor, nor made up of mere rhetoric, however high-sounding. It derives its rationale, sustenance, strength and credibility from domestic policy. A country that performs poorly, suffers from instability, trifles with the sanctity of institutions and rights and entitlements of its people and defaults in its commitments cannot expect its proclaimed foreign policy to command the respect of the comity of nations. External relations, in short, are affected by the successes and failures of internal governance.

It stands to reason, therefore, that a government that wishes to be taken seriously on the international stage must first put its own house in order. A good example is the way foreign policy as crafted and external relations as dominated by Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, came a cropper during his time itself, forcing him ruefully to admit that he was living in a make-believe world of his own. Nehru was building a highfalutin model that rested on a foundation of sands, insofar as the domestic context was concerned. India had still not stood on its feet, and had no achievements worth speaking of, and here was Nehru making grandiose pronouncements, inviting the criticism of being judgmental and preachy.

How to attune a country’s foreign policy to suit its domestic profile is a complex question.  One of the methods being tried out in India is to have joint training of officers of the Indian Foreign Service along with those of other Services for an initial period, and to post them to districts for a few months to familiarize them with the salient features of grass roots realities. This doesn’t seem to have worked to the expected extent in weaning the foreign service policy wonks away from their exclusivity and their propensity to function in an insulated and isolated manner. Indeed, they seem distinctly uncomfortable in any setting other than their own preserve. The sections following will explore the extent to which this deficiency can be remedied by greater public participation and closer engagement with professionals, academics and the media.

  1. Public participation in foreign policy making

Into the very heart of the new paradigm should be breathed a matrix of incentives to involve and engage the average citizen who, at present, is kept out of the loop of policy formulating and decision-making processes in foreign affairs. They are to this day, and perhaps in most countries, not only India, seen as the prescriptive domain of a privileged, cloistered few about whose awareness, leave alone mastery, of the nuances and intricacies of an inter-connected, inter-dependent world one cannot be sure. Just as foreign policy is but an extension of domestic policy framework and reflective of a country’s inner strengths and capabilities, foreign and defence policies too intersect at many points. To an extent, Nehru, through the mammoth meetings he addressed all over the country sought to place before the masses his thinking on various issues affecting the country’s standing in relation to the rest of the world. He was the first and last head of a government to do so, although it was always possible to pick holes and find flaws in whatever worthwhile effort one made.

One might argue that institutions and structures of democracy in themselves open up channels of communication between the people and policy makers in the dovecots of government through elected representatives and oversight bodies. For instance, in parliamentary democracies, Members of Parliament can put questions and demand debates on any aspect of foreign policy. There are Parliamentary Standing Committees reviewing the working of various Ministries. But still, it is debatable how well these serve to inform and educate the common man, or even functionaries at the State level. In India, for instance, other than Tamil Nadu Chief Ministers who had been writing to the Prime Ministers and External Affairs Ministers on the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka, taking repossession of Katchaththeevu and the like no other such involvement readily comes to mind of governments, elected representatives or people at large of the various States of the Indian Union concerning themselves in foreign policy issues.

If only the Indian public, including media, had a say, China might not have been allowed to have a cakewalk over Tibet. Likewise, the country might well have been spared the Chinese debacle of 1962 and the ensuing repercussions if the people were fully in the know of all that was known to Nehru and his advisers. This is ironical because if at all there was a leader who could have brought about that kind of participation on the part of the people, it was Jawaharlal Nehru.

There has been increasing evidence for some time of people’s resentment about being taken for granted or for a ride, even though they are the primary stakeholders. The much-publicised Battle in Seattle of 1999 was the fore-runner to similar successful worldwide protests, including those against Iraq war and by movements such as Greenpeace, on the ground of governments ignoring the stakes of the common man in global issues.

Among the nations surveyed for adoption of approaches focussed on public participation in policy making, South Africa stands out. The following observations contained in section 4 of the report, A People’s Government, The People’s Choice, on the international context in respect of public participation in the law and policy making process, commissioned by its Parliament as early as in 2001, are worthy of note:

A review of trends and developments in the international arena suggests that public participation is an idea whose time has come. There appears to be a fundamental shift towards more participatory forms of decision-making: a movement towards new definitions of democratic governance and its relations with civil society……. International and regional agreements, as well as popular pressure to open up governmental decision-making processes, are spurring national governments to take steps to improve transparency, participation, and accountability……there is a global shift towards greater public participation. Civil society organisations have mobilised people both in their own countries and all over the world and participation is now incorporated in the policy frameworks of a number of international organisations……One positive outcome is a growing awareness of public participation as an integral part of democracy. Not only is it perceived as more democratic, but there is now a realisation that it is likely to be more efficient and more likely to be successful than the old ‘top-down’ methods.

“Increasingly governments are having to acknowledge that the source of wisdom and inspiration may lie with the people they are elected to represent, or on whose behalf they act.

“But perhaps the greatest long-term benefit is that public participation is an enormously important way of empowering communities. By engaging with governments on issues that affect their lives, civil society is brought into the mainstream and acquires skills, knowledge and capacity…..Thus, like many social and political movements in the past, it signals a new way of thinking about governance and democracy.”

What is now necessary is to devise means of orderly, continuing public participation in, and bringing pressure of public opinion to bear on, the handling of foreign affairs by governments.

The best beginning is with young minds — to enable them to look at one’s own country in the larger setting of the world and external relations. International affairs and foreign policy should be made a subject matter of study in colleges and universities. Student and faculty exchange programmes between countries would need to be strengthened. Foreign Ministry officials should regularly visit colleges and universities and conduct questions-and-answers and brain-picking sessions with students and faculty members. In fact, such joint interactions could be extended to state officials and members of the public as well.

In other words, Ministers in charge of external affairs and officials of Foreign Ministries should not live in an illusory, elusive world of their own but have continuing awareness of the interplay of foreign policy with domestic realities. For this purpose, they should keep in close touch with currents and cross-currents of opinions of all sections of the people. Indeed, it is essential to infuse fresh thinking and out-of-the-box ideas into the working of Foreign Ministries. One way of doing this would be to attach to them consultative inter-disciplinary groups of eminent citizens enjoying public confidence and to outsource policy formulation in specifically identified areas to non-official think tanks and academic institutions. Periodical refresher courses to Foreign Ministry officials at decision-making and policy planning levels jointly with officials of other Ministries, Members of legislatures, the academic community and professionals in different fields should also help in this respect.

In order to be abreast of developments in the global arena on the economic, commercial, financial or technological planes, Foreign Ministries should establish Policy Planning Units to study emerging trends, take stock of their long-range ramifications and implications, and recommend plans and strategies to meet likely contingencies. As a means of keeping the public informed, they should bring out monthly newsletters and special write-ups on the developments during the previous month. Their websites should be properly maintained with up-to-date and comprehensive coverage of topical issues and links to published articles and papers.

  1. Seeking suggestions and advice not only from the political and bureaucratic wings of the government but also from business, industry, trade, commerce, experts in scientific and technological fields, professionals of every description, the academia and the media

This might seem a self-evident corollary of the first principle, but unless one experiences in person the generally inflexible, self-opinionated and smug temperament of the denizens of the diplomatic establishment, one will not realise how suffocating the atmosphere is inside foreign service establishments and how neglectful governments are about letting fresh breeze in. Decision-makers are slowly waking up to the vital importance of thinking beyond the dot, thinking out-of-the-box, and even thinking the unthinkable, and nowadays, in India, the practice of having periodical exchanges of views and ideas with other stakeholders is gaining ground.  The US, in particular, inducts academics and professionals into the policy-making echelons of the government. Forums such as Davos expose decision-makers to a broad and diversified range of opinions. Captains of business and industry, and sometimes leading lights of think tanks are often to be seen at meetings of heads and top officials of governments with their counterparts.

A paper prepared by the British Government on reforming the Civil Service says: “Academics can be helpful in a number of ways. Crucially they can help ensure policy decisions are based on the most up to date information. They help innovation in policy by bringing a range of valuable external viewpoints and fresh perspectives. They bring extra rigour to decisions, as they can ask and answer difficult questions and challenge and defend complex answers. Finally, they may also help bridge skills gaps in specialist analytical and data handling roles”.

The media’s role in foreign policy formulation has hitherto attracted little attention. The impact that the print, electronic, and now increasingly, the social, media can make on foreign policy formulation with their comments, commentaries, interviews and debates is yet to be fully assessed or even understood. What is clear and certain is that to take media to be just purveyors of news and views, on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, will be to grossly underplay their influence. They can, and do, make a material difference to the quality of participation of stakeholders in policy formulation and decision making in five different ways:

  1. Shaping public opinion: Reports put out in the media are often seen to exercise a hypnotic hold on politicians, people in governments, private and public sectors and public at large. Indeed, simply because they have appeared in the media, lay persons tend to take them as incontrovertible. On many occasions, it is from the media that these various sections of the population receive the first information of a happening or unfolding of an issue. Editorials, comments of analysts and columnists, discussions on TV channels and reactions in the social media cumulatively have the effect of shaping their opinion. It behoves policy makers – and this has general application, not only in the foreign policy field – to make sure, by being open and transparent, that the first reports themselves are based on correct or reliable information.

  2. Providing on-the-spot findings: Media perform a valuable service by publishing, broadcasting or telecasting despatches from their correspondents and reporters from global hotspots – a task that officialdom or any other type of establishment would either be unwilling, or ill-equipped or untrained to do. These spot reports sent, for example, during the Viet Nam or Iraq wars, and surveys of people’s take on performance by different actors, and any omission or commission on their part prove helpful in formulating new policies and schemes or in taking corrective action with regard to the implementation of the existing ones.

  3. Eliciting opinions from high political and official levels. The access enjoyed by print and electronic media to high levels of governments enables them to elicit from them at media conferences or individual encounters opinions on matters of current interest, almost when the news is breaking, In performing this role, they can be, and are, more informal, frontal, uninhibited, probing or even provocative than protocol-cum-convention-bound functionaries both in the range of questions and the manner of questioning, thereby making policy makers privy to the innermost recesses of thinking of the players concerned.

  4. Interviewing heads of governments and public figures wielding clout. Such personalities are willing to grant interviews to the media and be free and forthcoming in expressing themselves. Instant summitries of this sort, again outside of the rigid and restricted framework of official settings, provide rare insights into the attitude of governments towards current or emerging issues of importance.

  5. Investigative journalism in the form of stings and exposes. If pursued with due sense of responsibility, investigative journalism can bring to light the doublespeak and double standards of governments and grave damage done by elements within them to good governance and relations among nations by resort to unethical, unscrupulous or criminal and even treasonable activities.

  6. Direct, person-to-person, level-to-level communication among policy planners, country experts and decision makers

This is the age of knowledge, communications and technology revolutions, and search engines and other facilities available for getting reliable information at the click of the mouse on whatever area of one’s interest are immense. At one time, 50-60 years ago, the agenda of summits among heads of states, governments and world bodies invariably included agreement to have a hot line as a major item. Travel too took a long time and involved much stress and strain. But these days, personages occupying top positions in government dispensations and the corporate world are constantly flying to far corners of the world and there are frequent get-togethers among heads of states and governments. In brief, everyone at every level is within easy reach or in a position to exchange views with everyone else in any part of the world and solve problems on the spot. They do not need any intermediation or interpretation by Ambassadors and the like who, in any case, are often reduced to mere hangers-on.

In such a situation, it is time to ask whether countries have to maintain missions in every part of the globe at such huge cost with little proportionate return. India, for instance, has embassies and missions in more than 170 countries, with all the paraphernalia of luxurious mansions to serve as offices and the residences of Ambassadors-cum-Plenipotentiaries and their retinues, fleets of sleek limousines and fancy furniture.

Foreign Service officials will embellish the case for this by arguing how it is of paramount importance to further the country’s political, economic, trade, commercial and cultural interests in far corners of the world, how it is essential to extend the protective umbrella to non-resident expatriates or persons of the country’s origin, and take care of their needs and wants, how implementation of various schemes for technical cooperation and grant of aid to different countries require the establishment of chanceries, and how in an inter-dependent world, it is imperative for a country to keep channels of communication open and nurture official and non-official contacts and keep the home Government briefed on the happenings.

All the same, it is imperative for every country to undertake an objective investigation into the extent to which these and similar claims are tenable, and whether the extravagant expenditure incurred on the establishment and maintenance of embassies abroad is justified. For instance, as per the latest budgetary provisions (2015-16), India’s foreign missions and what is called “special diplomatic expenditure” account for fully 26 percent of the total of roughly Rs. 15,000 crores allocated to India’s Ministry of External Affairs.  From 2005, a full-fledged projects division is functioning in the Ministry to look after acquisition/construction activities.

For starters, in respect of India, other than in capitals of acknowledged or emerging political, economic or technological heavyweights, such as the US, the UK, Japan, China, France and Germany, the embassies elsewhere can either be clubbed together to take care of a group of countries (as, for example, European Union, the Gulf, and Latin America) or wound up altogether. This will bring down the number of Indian missions to 20 or so, at a pinch, making a number of posts in the various countries and at headquarters redundant, resulting not only in considerable savings, but, more importantly, in faster decision-making. Similar drastic pruning should be possible in respect of every other country.

The new paradigm of international relations must aim at direct, person-to-person, level-to-level communication among policy planners, country experts and decision makers.

  1. Outlaw war, save resources for development

The call to outlaw war is not as idealistic or unrealistic as it sounds. The horrors of the First World War prompted major powers to launch at least two initiatives in that direction. The first was in 1921 in the form of an International Conference on Naval Limitation at which the US stunned the participants by proposing the scrapping of nearly two million tons of warships and a lengthy “holiday” on the construction of new ships. Nothing came of it. The second was the Kellogg-Briand Pact 1928, signed by most nations of the world, whichoutlawed war as an instrument of national policy and called upon signatories to settle their disputes by peaceful means

Currently, the Global Action to Prevent War and Armed Conflict, in collaboration with the World Federation of United Nations Associations, is engaged in organising a worldwide movement to put an end to deadly conflicts by strengthening commitment to the rule of law in international and domestic affairs, strengthening international institutions so that they can play an effective role for conflict resolution, peacekeeping, and peace enforcement, and, ultimately, replacing national capabilities for unilateral military intervention abroad with multilateral defence against genocide and aggression.

It has drawn up a concrete plan of action to be implemented in four phases.It is the first of its kind, reflecting the deep thinking that has gone into the manner of achieving the goal of ruling out war altogether as a solution to any of the problems faced by humankind. It necessarily banks on the United Nations to bring about a change in the attitude of the international community; it is also natural because the United Nations itself was meant to work for ridding the world of the possibility of armed conflicts. Its various organs, together with agencies such as the UNCTAD, UNICEF, UNIDO, UNDP, the World Bank, IMF, WHO, WTO and WMO were brought into being to instil a sense of world perspective in the place of a narrow, self-centred outlook leading to disputes and discords, and habituate the nations of the world to act unitedly and harmoniously when confronted with potentially dangerous situations.

Just as the past behaviour of humans and nations in the historical perspective now seems outmoded, primitive or barbaric, a time is bound to come when humanity will look back on wars too in utter disbelief for the beastly monstrosities they were. But there is no harm in hastening the process by deliberate efforts. Peace and goodwill among nations are desirable ends in themselves, indicative of humankind’s success in scaling the highest peak of civilised conduct; in the immediate present, bringing down their scale, severity and frequency. In concrete terms, such a policy outlawing war will also mean savings every year of humongous resource of the magnitude of nearly $2000 billion at the global level, and an equivalent of $50 billion in India alone, now set apart for military spending. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) puts the total value of the global arms trade in 2013 at more than$76 billion. Imagine the scope for speeding up economic development even a fraction of these amounts offers, spurring hitherto unimagined achievements in the technological, social and cultural realms.

The essential pre-requisite for the effort to make a flying start is to arrive at an agreement among nations to keep religion and governance strictly separate. The structures, systems and processes by which peoples govern themselves should have no relation to religious beliefs and practices which should be held to be entirely and exclusively personal. In other words, the objective of a world without wars cannot be realised in its full amplitude unless the world consciously moves towards abolition of theocracies. This does not mean denial of, or disrespect for, religion, but simply that governance will be based on the paramount premise of equal respect for all religions, without giving a superordinate role to any particular religion, or creating any loophole for discrimination based on religion.

  1. Move towards One World through Unions of States

As a concept and as an aspiration, One World has exercised irresistible fascination from ancient times. Lord Krishna, the Preceptor, in the Bhagavad Gita severely reprimands those who talk of “We” and “They” and “Ours” and “Theirs” as narrow-minded, and posits the whole world as a single family as the ultimate in the efflorescence of the human mind. In the 1940s, Wendell Willkie, the US Republican candidate, captured the imagination of people everywhere with his call for One World. The League of Nations and its sequel, the United Nations, were both rudimentary efforts in the same direction.

A World Constituent Assembly, taking upon itself the task of the establishment of a World Parliament as the basis for a democratic, non-military World Government, working for the solution of the world’s problems in a spirit of unity, peace, harmony and goodwill, has been in existence for some years and holding its sessions from time to time. It has actually finalized and adopted a Constitution for the Federation of Earth whose main provisions can be seen in the Annexure to this paper.

At a more mundane level, groups of eminent citizens and scholars commanding respect and trust have similarly been pressing for launching of mechanisms such asa UN Parliamentary Assembly or a UN Parliamentary Network, as adjuncts to the UN, envisaging participation of member nations’ legislators and, in due course, direct election of UN Parliament members by citizens worldwide. In short, there has been a constant quest for making the world borderless, tension-free and value-driven.

Is such a consummation realistic and feasible? It is, for a very compelling reason. The striving for it has its origins, not in some starry-eyed, airy-fairy postulates, but has as its mainspring the inner urge of the spirit of a human being, regardless of race, religion or place of residence. It is rooted in a realisation that there is simply no alternative to the world functioning as a single organism, united in its purpose and peaceful in its pursuits, if humankind itself has to survive in the only planet given to it. As already mentioned, world community is attuned to it, and a good deal of thought has been going into the modalities and the nature and scope of the instrumentalities.

With all their imperfections, the existing world bodies for synergistic action in different spheres of human endeavour have already demonstrated the effectiveness of international cooperation in addressing issues of common interest. As a pointer to the possibility of the countries bonding themselves into a single, unified entity are regional associations of nations, formed on the strength of their affinities and complementarities, with a view to promoting solidarity, collective security and concerted action for economic development. Notable among them are the Commonwealth of Nations, comprising 53 member States, the Commonwealth of Independent States (12), the African Union (54), the Organisation of American States (35), the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) (10), the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) (8), and the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (19). (It should be mentioned that the last, if fully allowed to flower, will embrace 59 nations stretching from South Africa to Tasmania along 63000 km the larger Indian Ocean Community, a veritable $ 6 trillion powerhouse.) The Organisation for Islamic Cooperation, with 57 member States is also there, but the fact of its motive force being religion detracts from its ability to contribute to a spontaneous evolution of the idea of a homogenous one world.

Towering above them all, in the form of the European Union (EU), is a ready-at-hand, successfully functioning model for making the paper plan of one world into a practical reality on the ground. The offspring of the Single European Act, it has a membership of 28 States, with its own Parliament, Court of Justice, Court of Auditors, Central Bank, single market, common currency and right of travel without visas within its territory. With less than one percent of world area (half the size of the US) and 23.7 percent of world GDP (slightly higher than that of the US), it is a throbbing, thriving plural society knit into something very much akin to a national fabric. It ought to be possible to extend to the 193 countries of the world what has been found possible to achieve in the case of the 28 countries of European Union.

  1. Conclusion

It doesn’t require much intelligence on the part of the nations and the peoples inhabiting the only liveable planet known to humankind to understand that the sole viable choice before them is either to hang together or to hang separately, or, to put it more pithily, to cherish or perish. Fortunately, they are now in a position, and have now the means, and the benefit of lessons of history, to confidently make the choice in favour of “One God, One Law, One Element, and One Far-Off Divine Event, to which the Whole Creation moves”. If the divine event is taken to be the entire human race living together in love, peace and harmony, it need not be far-off, if due attention is paid to some of the possibilities outlined in this paper.




                           adopted at the 1977 session of the World Constituent Assembly

                                                and revised at the 1991 session.

WORLD PARLIAMENT, composed of three houses:

  1. House of Peoples, elected directly by the people equally from 1000 World Electoral and Administrative Districts.

  2. House of Nations, appointed or elected by national governments.

  3. House of Counsellors of 200 elected by the other two houses, chosen for global perspective; has nominative, consultative, initiative and referral functions.

WORLD EXECUTIVE, elected by and responsible to the Parliament. Presidium of a rotating president and 4 vice-presidents, all M.P.s, nominated by House of Counsellors. Executive Cabinet of 30 ministers, all M.P.s. The World Executive may not veto or suspend the Parliament or the Constitution.

WORLD ADMINISTRATION, of about 30 departments, each headed by a Cabinet Minister or Vice President; coordinated by a Secretary General chosen by the Presidium and confirmed by the Cabinet.

INTEGRATIVE COMPLEX, includes agencies for World Civil Service, Boundaries and Elections, Institute on Governmental Procedures and World Problems, Research and Planning, Technological and Environmental Assessment, World Financial Administration, and Legislative Review.

WORLD JUDICIARY, composed of 8 Benches having mandatory jurisdiction over different kinds of issues, with 5 continental seats. Collegium of World Judges is nominated by House of Counsellors and elected by Parliament, headed by a Presiding Council of 5 members which assigns judges to the several Benches.

THE ENFORCEMENT SYSTEM, non-military, is headed by an Office of World Attorneys General and commission of 20 Regional World Attorneys, elected by and removable by Parliament. The World Attorneys appoint the World Police (removable by the Parliament) to apprehend individual lawbreakers.

WORLD OMBUDSMUS, to protect human rights and ensure proper government functioning, is headed by a Council of 5 World Ombudsmen nominated by House of Counsellors, and Commission of 20 Regional World Advocates, all elected by the Parliament.

BILL OF RIGHTS, of 18 sections, effective when Constitution is ratified.

DIRECTIONAL PRINCIPLES, of 19 sections, additional rights and benefits to be implemented over a period of time for all world citizens.

JURISDICTION OF WORLD GOVERNMENT, defined in Grant of Powers of 40 sections. Nations retain jurisdiction over internal affairs.

FOR ELECTIONS AND ADMINISTRATION, Earth is divided into 1000 Districts, 20 Regions, 10 Magna-Regions, at least 5 Continental Divisions.

FIVE WORLD CAPITALS, to be established in 5 continental divisions, one is the Primary Capital, the others are Secondary Capitals.


  1. Provisional World Government, before 25 countries have ratified.

  2. First Operative Stage, when 25 countries have ratified.

  3. Second Operative Stage, when 50% of countries have ratified.

  4. Full Operative Stage, when 80% of countries, comprising 90% of Earth’s population, have ratified.

DISARMAMENT, of nations accomplished when constitution is ratified. The World Government does not retain nor use weapons of mass destruction.

VIABLE AGENCIES OF THE U.N., are transferred to the World Government.

[Mr. B. S. Raghavan is former Policy Adviser to UN(FAO) who is currently the Patron of the Chennai Centre for China Studies and Adviser to Indo-Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry.]

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