In the late 1980s and the early 1990s, the collapse of the USSR made many people hope this was the `end of history'; that `the final curtain would fall and the game of power politics would no longer be played.' It was felt that all countries were moving towards open minds and open economies, so that there was no room for great power politics rooted in ideological differences.
The reality has shaped up quite differently. China continues to be an explicitly autocratic state. Russia is not a democracy and won't be one for the forseeable future. Both countries are great powers who are based on autocratic ideology. In addition, perhaps 100,000 Islamic extremists are assiduously at work worldwide, seeking to derail the world that is based on open minds and open economies.
Robert Kagan has an interesting article End of Dreams, Return of History where he looks at the global situation from the point of view of what United States foreign policy is doing, and what it ought to do. Among other things, he says:
... the United States should pursue policies designed both to promote democracy and to strengthen cooperation among the democracies. It should join with other democracies to erect new international institutions that both reflect and enhance their shared principles and goals. One possibility might be to establish a global concert or league of democratic states, perhaps informally at first but with the aim of holding regular meetings and consultations on the issues of the day. Such an institution could bring together Asian nations such as Japan, Australia, and India with the European nations -- two sets of democracies that have comparatively little to do with each other outside the realms of trade and finance. The institution would complement, not replace, the United Nations, the G-8, and other global forums. But it would at the very least signal a commitment to the democratic idea, and in time it could become a means of pooling the resources of democratic nations to address a number of issues that cannot be addressed at the United Nations. If successful, it could come to be an organization capable of bestowing legitimacy on actions that liberal nations deem necessary but autocratic nations refuse to countenance as NATO conferred legitimacy on the conflict in Kosovo even though Russia was opposed.
(On this subject you may like to see India and NATO?).
In India, a broad majority appears to aspire to become a country based on open minds and an open economy. But the evolution of India in these directions is far from assured. Too many people who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s have socialist instincts on economic policy matters. The present ruling coalition involves giving veto power on all legislation to left parties who got 5% of the votes in 2004 elections, who aspire for a future for India based on a closed economy and a foreign policy which is sensitive to Chinese and Russian interests. The Shiv Sena burns books.
There are, hence, two distinct questions that we face in India. First, how can India continue to chip away at making progress towards becoming a modern, liberal society characterised by ever-expanding freedoms for individuals in terms of both society and economy? Second, what would the consequences of this founding `idea of India' be, for the conduct of foreign policy?