Two recent events indicate that evolvement of long awaited bipolarity in the World Order may be at a fairly advanced stage. Both events happened in quick succession: the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU), and Chinese opposition to entry of non-NPT countries to Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). These events have set into motion complicated processes leading to gradual unravelling of prevalent unipolar World Order led by the US. The US wanted the UK to stay in EU as it’s “Man” and wanted India getting into the NSG as full member while keeping Pakistan out, despite latter’s better credentials. In both cases, otherwise has happened.

Though the UK’s exit will not impact American military relations with the Europe, it would lessen its composite clout over the EU that may lead to more independent foreign policy by the EU as a whole, or by individual EU members. The NSG episode means China is now ready to take independent stance on important international issues and is not worried about the isolation syndrome. Neither the EU nor China ever intended to lead the second pole, however, China may be pushed, by faulty American policies, to do so.

From now on, globally, more bilateral trade deals are likely to be forged as larger, more ambitious multilateral trade agreements often run into problems. Regions blocs like SAARC which have long been idealizing the EU model for regional integration will take a pause in their pursuits.

Keeping in view Pakistan’s close relations with China, the evolving situation would expose Pakistan to challenges as well as opportunities, for which it needs to brace up. Pakistan would feel incremental squeeze from American side, it needs to make a bold course correction to come out of the trap of its critical dependencies on the US—especially direct budgetary support and military hardware.

The re-emergence of a bipolar World Order has long been evolving slowly, akin to one step forward and two backward. Isolated incidents did give glimpses of balancing acts by Russia and China to checkmate the US unilateralism and interventionism. This came to fore especially during Libyan crisis through exercise of multiple double veto by Russia and China, and later during the heat generated by Syrian Chemical Weapons episode. On structural side gradual evolution of Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) as a China led inter-governmental forum for enhancing cooperation towards promoting peace, security and stability in Asia; expansion of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and launching of Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) indicated the path of future trajectory.

Moscow, which has long seen London as an extension of Washington’s foreign policy, had so far tempered its anti-British sentiments while Britain has been a part of the EU, however, Brexit could open the way for chillier relations between the United Kingdom and Russia.

For some time the UK shall be locked in internal and continental political turmoil. At home it will have to invest heavy political capital to placate Scotland and other societal segment that voted for “Remain”. At continental level it will need to go for painful structural substitutes to contain the impact of leaving the EU.

The US had long supported a strong role for its British ally in the EU, and was dismayed when British voters chose last week to quit the Union. Now, US officials are calling for a calm debate on Brexit leading to a deal that would allow a close association between London and Brussels to continue. However, some EU leaders insist that to put an end to political and economic uncertainty, the UK must move quickly to invoke Article 50 and begin divorce talks.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has told the Aspen Ideas Festival that Britain’s vote to leave the European Union “is a very complicated divorce” and it might never be implemented. London does not want to find itself boxed-in after two years without a new association agreement and to be forced out of the EU without one. Asked by the panel moderator if this meant the Brexit decision could be “walked back” and if so how, Kerry said: “I think there are a number of ways.” “I don’t as secretary of state want to throw them out today. The next US president will inherit the fallout of the Brexit and will have to decide about the US relationship with the EU and the UK. London will, more likely push for a free-trade deal with the United States.

And now the second event that actually happened first — Chinese stance over expansion of the NSG. China had an easy way out—staying indifferent to applications of Pakistan and India. It should have been an easy course because India’s entry into NSG did not hurt Beijing in any way and opposition threatened to do fairly serious damage to its ties with India. China did not even blink and took a principled stance — either both India and Pakistan should enter the NSG or none of them.

Despite overwhelming support, mobilised by the US, in favour of India’ s joining the NSG, China chose to cast its veto against even a discussion about Indian entry at the Seoul plenary on June 24. Analysts are struggling to find an answer to the question: Whether Beijing was motivated by a desire to placate its closest ally, Pakistan, or a desire to contain India’s global standing? Most analysts believe China was willing to ignore its diplomatic isolation and damage relations with India as it does not want to share major global podiums with New Delhi.

Jayadev Ranade, director of the “Centre for China Analysis and Strategy” in New Delhi, opined: “the larger picture is China wants to keep us out so that they remain the dominant player in Asia. If we get into the NSG, this strengthens India’s candidature for a permanent UN Security Council seat.” Pakistan has been the surprising pace-setter in One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative. With the upcoming China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), Pakistan has become more crucial to China’s strategic interests than before. However, China put up a stiff fight and made demands that ensured neither India nor Pakistan could get in. China said it would not bend the rules and allow India’s membership, as it had not signed the NPT. “Applicant countries must be signatories of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of nuclear weapons,” Wang Qun, the head of arms control department in China’s Foreign Ministry said in Seoul plenary. “This is a pillar, not something that China set. It is universally recognised by the international community,” Wang added.

In a damage control exercise, India is trying to maintain that only China opposed India’s NSG membership whereas at least six others countries opposed India’s entry.

The signs of re-emergence of bipolarity are quite clear, though the process could be very slow, spanning over decades. Even though slogans of ‘rising Asia during this century’ have largely fizzled out, predictions about Chinese economy becoming the global leader by mid of this century continue to hold promise. Earlier confusion of whether China-Russia duo would do it together is now almost over, as Russian will to take-up such role whole heartedly does not appear consistent. However, if China takes up the role, Russia may opt to replicate the role played by the present day UK viz-a-viz the US.

One only wishes that transition to bipolarity happens peacefully. Of now, the US is engaged in a strenuous “contain China” campaign by enlisting about nine countries in Asia pacific region. Except for few, remaining are quite conscious about the reality that China is a rising power, while the US is a receding power; and that China is a neighbour while the US could wind up its Asia-Pacific shop on as required basis.