The Mythical Jungle
The jungle operates on a simple principle – it grows back. No matter how one attempts to create a semblance of organization, it has a tendency for chaos to grow back. This is the centrepiece argument of American neoconservative Robert Kagan, who in his book “The Jungle Grows Back: America and the Imperilled World Order” argues for the tendency of the world towards chaos despite all measures taken to avoid it.
According to him, the world is a jungle where might is right prevails and there is no rule of law. As Prime Minister Modi continues his first state visit to the United States, he meets President Biden and the House Republican leadership and addresses a Joint Session of Congress, and all eyes are on the Elephant, or to borrow the economist’s expression, the “Indian Tiger.”
A lot of literature is already written on India-US relations and their potential of it. How India undid the historical hesitations of the past and gradually embraced America and how America broke the spectacle of alliances to take India as a partner of new sorts. I wouldn’t delve into that,
The India-US relationship indeed have a lot of potential and going forward it can cement into the ties of the 21st Century, the likes of which the world has never seen before.
But this relationship has to be reimagined in the context of the Kagan’s jungle. The mythical jungle that we live in has the tendency of chaos and unpredictability. The Ukraine war beautifully exhibits the expression, India and the US despite being partners in many fields are often at odds with issues of geopolitical question.
Be it the Afghanistan withdrawal or the Ukraine War, India and America are often on the opposite side. This is a major thorn in the bonhomie between the two nations. While both the approaches have a historical connotation, nonetheless the inability or perceived disability to come to terms with the geopolitics of the day is a major irritant
The second is The Siberian Bear-or so to say Russia. India’s unwillingness to desert Russia completely in the wake of historical reasons often annoys and seldom flummox the bald eagle. As Russia’s unwillingness to cede geopolitical space continues, India-Russia relations will continue to prick America.
The third is American hegemony and it’s virtue signalling. Although not a major irritant but as America slowly declines and recedes, it needs to be more cognizant of India’s concerns. As India’s civil society becomes more vocal, the government would not be able to ignore for long the voices of promotion of self-interest at every forum. As India sheds its past replete with low confidence it moves towards a future where it is imbued with a vigour of being the largest democracy and soon the largest economy.
The fourth is the elephant or so to say – Dragon in the room. As PM Modi visits Washington he would carry Banquo’s ghost with him. Just that this time it won’t be Scottish, it would be Han. China is prominently figured out in every discourse that the PM does in Washington.
While Washington needs India to be its steadfast ally in the quest to fight China, India’s geographical proximity to China makes it reluctant to be an ally of Washington. Washington’s desire to ward off Chinese threat by using Indian paws is met with stiff resistance from the same paws who would want freedom rather than a guided intervention
The fifth is the other animals in the jungle- the African capuchin, European bear, and Middle Eastern camel who would want attention from both tiger and eagle in different proportions and both are often at odds in their approach. The African continent as it rises would want freedom from neocolonialism, while India and The US both support it, India is a stronger voice.
The Middle East is wary of Bald Eagle’s manoeuvre and India is forced to chart a new approach in order to not be collateral damage in the process. The ilk of Japan and South Korea despite being steadfast American allies also are in the mood to reduce dependency on America, India is aiding that process.
Therefore, there ought to be a realisation on the part of both. For Bald Eagle-it needs to realise that the heydays of its unbridled power is over and it needs consensus in the jungle to govern and not rule. The tendencies of the past won’t work anymore.
For the Tiger- it needs to realise that while it is stronger than before, it still needs help in its pursuit to create a home for itself. It surely can fend for itself but there are some titbits it needs from the haystack across the river. Not only that it also needs protection from the Dragon, The Bald Eagle with its agility and big wings can do that. In return, it needs the tiger to use its paws in case the dragon’s mythical fire reaches and tears the wings. Both need each other, no more, no less.
While the partnership is mutually beneficial, there is also a component of time when it comes to rule in the jungle. The jungle fires are often controlled by the natural rains, an event uncontrolled by inmates. So to say, the camaraderie is an event of today, it might not last for long. The eagle can be weaned off and the tiger can be lured too. One never knows if a new animal could have been born somewhere gaining strength by stealth or patience.
The mythical jungle of today stands clear for the partnership of the sorts between the Tiger and the Eagle. It needs to be cemented as the event in time might not last long. The jungle having a tendency towards chaos will eventually lead towards it, while it cannot be prevented, it can certainly be tapered.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team