Instead of a unipolar world in which the US dominated the world like a colossus immediately after the end of the Cold War, the trend is now towards multipolarity driven by China’s dramatic economic rise, a re-assertive Russia, and the emergence of new centres of power in different regions. The US is still by far the most powerful nation economically and militarily in the world. But its lead over other countries is narrowing down. In particular, China is catching up fast with the US in the economic field. As the recent events in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Ukraine show, the US is no longer in the position to dictate to the rest of the world. The global scene is much more complex with growing dispersal of power around different poles, China being the most important out of them.

Since December 1978, when Deng Xiaoping initiated policies of reforms and opening to the outside world, China has achieved dramatically high GDP growth rates over the succeeding three and a half decades, enabling it to double its GDP after every seven years. By 2014, China’s GDP in PPP terms ($17.6 trillion) had surpassed that of the US ($17.4 trillion). According to IMF estimates, China’s GDP in PPP terms in 2019 is projected to be $27.4 trillion as against $ 21.4 trillion for the US. However, in nominal dollar terms, China’s GDP in 2019 would be $14.2 trillion compared with $ 21.4 trillion for the US. It is expected to take China another decade or so to surpass the US GDP in nominal dollar terms. In the military field, China is still far behind the US in terms of the size of its military expenditure and the sophistication of its weapon systems. For instance, China’s military expenditure in 2018 was estimated to be $ 168 billion as against $ 643 billion for the US. According to some analysts, however, China’s military expenditure will surpass that of the US by 2035.

Besides the emergence of China as an economic superpower and the rapid build- up of its military strength, a re-assertive Russia under President Putin has successfully challenged the US in Ukraine and in the Middle East, especially in Syria. It has also joined hands with China to resist US global hegemonic ambitions. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is the offshoot of the Sino-Russian strategic partnership to challenge the US supremacy in Asia, especially in Central Asia. China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), announced by Chinese President Xi in 2013, will also have the effect of eroding US domination in Eurasia besides commencing economic development projects aimed at accelerating economic progress in different Eurasian regions and strengthening physical and economic interlinkages among them.

BRI envisions investment on a huge scale in projects under its aegis. According to some estimates, total Chinese investment in BRI projects may amount to about $1.3 trillion by 2027. Pakistan would receive total Chinese investment estimated to be over $60 billion between 2015 and 2030 under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) agreement signed in April, 2015. The successful implementation of BRI covering CPEC, among other projects, would lead to the remaking of the economic order in Eurasia with obvious negative strategic implications for the US and India. It is not surprising that Indo-US lobby has been active to undermine CPEC despite its enormous economic and strategic benefits for Pakistan. The recent visit by PM Imran Khan to Beijing to accelerate the implementation of CPEC projects and align them closely with Pakistan’s economic and social development plans is, therefore, a reassuring step in the right direction.

Europe through the growth of the European Union has already developed its own independent positions on important international economic, trade and environmental issues, which are more often than not at variance with the US views. On such issues, Washington has extremely limited capability to dictate to EU, which with combined GDP of $18.7 trillion in nominal terms is the second biggest economy in the world. Trade wars between the US and EU, especially under Trump, also reflect the growing divergence between the two sides in such matters. Thus, Europe has emerged as a powerful independent actor on the global scene in the management of international economic, trade and environmental issues.

The inclination of Europe to act independently of the US even in other areas would be strengthened if the US tendency to take unilateral decisions on important security and strategic issues is exacerbated. American invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a telling example of Washington’s proclivity to ignore its European allies besides flouting principles of international law and the UN Charter. Under President Trump, the trend in Washington to ignore or oppose the views of its NATO allies has become even more pronounced than in the past. American decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal is an example of its inclination to ride roughshod over the views of its European allies. Such behavior, if continued for a sufficiently long period in the coming years, may persuade European countries to chart an independent European course on strategic and security issues.

Even in other regions, there are growing signs of countries or groups of countries acting independently of the US diktat. Brazil and Argentina in South America, Nigeria and South Africa in Africa, Japan, Indonesia and Malaysia in the Far East, and Iran and Turkey in the Middle East readily come to one’s mind in this regard. The limits of the US power were tested in the past two decades in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, and in each one of them the US was unable to prevail ultimately because of the countervailing forces at work.

The US still remains the most powerful country in the world. But its ability to dictate to the rest of the world is being eroded steadily. This is especially true in the case of US dealings with countries like India with a large population, a rapidly growing economy, its own strongly held foreign policy views, and its ambitions for regional hegemony. There are several important factors which will stand in the way of US trying to dictate to India. The first and the foremost out of them is the US need to build up India as a counterweight to China in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region. The second factor is simply India’s large size both in economic and demographic terms. The US cannot manipulate such a large country at its will. Thirdly, India has its own closely held views on how it wants to deal with and dominate the region in which it is located. Those views and ambitions are unlikely to change under the US persuasion.

In view of the enormous power wielded by the US, Pakistan must do all that it can to strengthen friendly relations and mutually beneficial cooperation with the US while maintaining its own dignity and safeguarding its national interests. This would be possible only if we break the begging bowl and pursue policies of austerity and self-reliance. Dependence on foreign donors and an independent foreign policy cannot go together. We should also be cognizant of the growing multipolarity at the global level which has weakened the US ability to dictate to other countries. It would be unrealistic on our part, therefore, to rely on the US for persuading India to change its policy on Kashmir to suit our convenience. Finally, growing multipolarity demands that we should cultivate friendly relations with other centres of power, especially China, Russia and the EU.