More people voted in India’s election than there are in all of Europe, and the astounding results spell a change and major shift in global political scene. After five weeks, and more than 800 million ballots cast, the largest election in the history of mankind ended with a landslide win—announced on Sunday—for India’s opposition Bharatiya Janata Party. The BJP is now set to form a new government under Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi. Modi’s mammoth victory means he has something no ruler of India has had for over 30 years: an absolute majority in the lower house of Parliament. This gives him powers his predecessors could only have dreamed of—and the indications are that he will use it.“Good days are coming,” Modi said in a victory speech. “The journey has started.”
This “journey” holds great geopolitical significance because Modi’s history indicates that it will be one that steers India away from the United States and nearer to Russia, China and other Asian states.
In 2005, the United States government revoked Modi’s visa on the grounds that he had played a role in one of India’s bloodiest episodes of religious violence. The violence had taken place in the state of Gujarat, where Modi worked at the time as chief minister. Hindu rioters there killed more than 1,200 Muslims and forced another 150,000 to flee their homes. Modi was accused both of encouraging the violence and failing to stop it. His involvement was never proven, but the U.S. slapped sanctions on him, and the European Union quickly followed suit.
Modi responded to the Western snub by looking east. Ever since, he has been making friends and forging alliances with China, Russia, Japan and other Asian countries. The South China Morning Post explains that his win represents a bane to the U.S. and a boon for Eastern powers. Over the years, China and Modi have invested heavily in each other and forged a bond that could have far-reaching ramifications not only for Sino-Indian relations, but also for the U.S. ‘Asia pivot’ strategy at a time when territorial disputes in the South China Sea are taking a violent turn. … Modi is also known to have an Eastern bias, with Asian nationalism forming the core of his world view. Apart from China, that also draws him closer to Japan and Singapore, with whose leaders he has struck up a similar rapport. … Modi’s unimpeachable conservative background and open admiration for China has in the past raised hopes of him becoming a sort of Indian Richard Nixon.”
Nixon is not the only world leader Modi has been compared to. The Diplomat called him “India’s Shinzo Abe” because some of his nationalistic leanings mirror those of the Japanese prime minister. India’s Economic Times reported that, “Many Chinese officials who have dealt with Modi compare him to their present boss Xi Jinping.” OneIndia News skipped right to the chase, likening Modi to Asia’s big man himself. He is “India’s Putin,” the publication wrote. His heavy handed leadership “may revive India as Putin did in Russia [because] Modi has similar Putin-like capability to metamorphose India into an economic and military powerhouse through a series of tough measures and steps which would help India leverage and unleash its real potential,” it said.
Modi joins a group of Asian strongman leaders who have been rising to power or consolidating power as U.S. influence in the region fades. Most of Modi’s fellow strongmen seem to welcome him as the newest participant in their shared quest to shift global power from Occident to Orient. The Chinese could not be more delighted that Modi was elected. “This has caused worries from the West,” China’s state-run Global Times wrote. “Western countries like the U.S. hope to use India to counterbalance China, but they don’t support India on issues of the country’s core interests.” The Times went on to explain that Washington’s Trans-Pacific Partnership excludes India, which has prompted the Indians to strengthen “coordination with emerging countries such as China and Russia over a spectrum of global issues. … The U.S. is particularly upset with the enhanced strategic cooperation among China, Russia and India.”
China and India continue to bicker over such issues as border disputes, bilateral trade imbalance and Beijing’s alliance with India’s nemesis, Pakistan. But under Modi, these tensions could well abate. This fall, Chinese President Xi Jinping is scheduled to visit Modi in India, which could hasten this abatement.
Russia, too, welcomes its longtime ally’s ascension to power. Vladimir Putin said Monday that he hopes that he and Modi can push Russia-India ties to new heights, just as the two nations did last time the BJP was in power. India has long been the world’s largest importer of Russian weapons, and recently signed a deal with Moscow to significantly boost India’s consumption of Russian gas and oil. Under Modi, such initiative will multiply.
Moscow’s state-funded RT said that in Modi’s view, Russia and Japan will be the main players: “These two countries will be the most important in the entire world from the perspective of the Modi government. The Modi administration will deepen ties with both: Russia to counterbalance the United States and Japan to counterbalance China. The Modi-led India should also see a huge fillip in trade and economic ties with these two countries.” Modi took to Twitter to publicly thank Putin and to echo his hopes of ushering in a new age of Russo-Indian cooperation.
2014 has been tumultuous. And perhaps the most significant occurrence was the decision by both India and China to support Russia’s bullying of Ukraine and takeover of Crimea. In Vladimir Putin’s March 18 address to the Duma, he singled out these two nations to thank them for their support. “We are grateful to all those who understood our actions in Crimea; we are grateful to the people of China, whose leaders have always considered the situation in Ukraine and Crimea taking into account the full historical and political context, and greatly appreciate India’s reserve and objectivity.” These Asian powerhouses have made clear that they support Putin. … When these Asia nations—extremely powerful nuclear-armed countries—begin to show solidarity with each other regarding moves like that, what does that portend for the world? I tell you it is WOE to the world.
With Modi now in power, India’s support of Russian aggression could greatly increase, and the same may be true of India’s stance on the increasingly belligerent behavior China is displaying toward many of its neighbors. The rising cooperation between these nations represents a deep geopolitical shift.
If the U.S. vanished from Asia, consider the heavy-handed rulers who would fill the power void. Washington is a warmonger, say a multiplying number of voices from weaker Asian nations that are joining in the chorus from China and Russia. They say the US behaves imperialistically in their region so they want the Americans to pack up and leave the Eastern Hemisphere. “The United States … is an empire in all but name, and … American ‘national security’ interests have an inevitably imperial cast,” the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the country’s most powerful newspaper, wrote on Nov. 3, 2013. A few years ago, Uzbek President Islam Karimov accused America of trying to “hijack stability” from Central Asia. A little before that, a Taiwanese senior official criticized an economic deal Washington struck with Taipei by saying, “This is U.S. imperialism.” Such statements are not uncommon. These voices are about to get their wish.
Despite the modern rhetoric, the United States is not warmongering. But if America were to vanish from the Asian dynamic, those who would fill the power vacuum would jolt the region’s collective memory into remembrance of what warmongering really means.
In The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote about the other holocaust of the 20th century: The imprisonment, debasement and usually murder of tens of millions of innocent Soviets by their own government during the reigns of Stalin and other leaders.
Beyond just documenting the savagery of the Russians in power during this dark era, Solzhenitsyn also pointed out how unrepentant his nation had been for its atrocities. ” By 1966, eighty-six thousand Nazi criminals had been convicted in West Germany. … During the same period, in our own country … about ten men have been convicted. … Why is Germany allowed to punish its evildoers and Russia is not? What kind of disastrous path lies ahead of us if we do not have the chance to purge ourselves of the putrification rotting inside our body?”
Solzhenitsyn rejected the notion that this savagery resulted from an anomalously dark chapter in Russian history that was the product of Stalin’s rule. He showed instead that the barbarism began before and ended after Stalin, and that the diseased spirit lived on among many Russians.
One of those in whom it remains is President Vladimir Putin. Today Putin sits at the helm of Russia’s FSB security agency, which the Guardian recently called an “immensely powerful modern-day KGB.” The KGB was the direct successor of the Cheka security agency—the system under which all those millions were brutalized and murdered. Putin joined the KGB in 1975 and rose quickly through its ranks by becoming a master of its power culture. Putin’s FSB was spawned from the same corrosive Cheka/KGB system. The FSB even continues to operate from the same Lubyanka building in central Moscow, the basement of which was home to countless violent Soviet-era detainments and interrogations.
In a clear sign of his long-term goals, Putin said in 2005 that the demise of the Soviet Union—the system responsible for the deaths of those innocent millions—“was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.” Another clear sign came in 2008 when Putin invaded the former Soviet nation of Georgia to yank its Russia-friendly states back into Moscow’s power.
Putin isn’t the only Russian who looks back on Soviet history through that rosy lens. Pravda, one of Russia’s most influential news sources, wrote in November that the Russian Revolution 70 years earlier “was for the first time bringing backward societies into the front line of industrial development, guaranteeing housing for free, free public utilities, free or heavily subsidized communications, subsidized public transportation, free primary and secondary education, free higher education, free health care, free dental treatment, zero unemployment, safety on the streets, security of the state, social mobility, indexed pensions, guaranteed basic foodstuffs, leisure time activities, free sports facilities, free cultural facilities.” The publication makes no mention of the fact that the state turning its citizens into its wards came at the cost of murdering millions of them.
If the U.S. exited the global stage, we could expect Putin to rapidly accelerate and intensify his efforts to undo that unequalled “geopolitical catastrophe.” We could expect Pravda readers and the bulk of Russians to rally behind him. Russia would immediately announce sovereignty over the wayward satellite states that were once in the Soviet fold (those at least that haven’t been assimilated into the European Union). In such a scenario, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Georgia and pretty much any “-stan” nation to the north of Iran would be smart to go ahead and hoist the Russian flag over their capital buildings if they wanted to minimize the casualties.
And now let’s take up China. Which tyrant is responsible for the murder of the most people in the 20th century? It was not Hitler, Tojo or Stalin. It was Mao Tse-tung. The Chinese Communist dictator summarized his leadership philosophy with a phrase that sounds like it’s lifted straight out of a mafia movie: “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” And Chairman Mao lived by that creed. Under his reign, between 65 and 75 million Chinese were murdered—starved, tortured, bullied to suicide, or executed as traitors.
Yet here is the most remarkable fact: For China’s ruling Communist Party, Mao remains the most honored figure today. His face is on every single bill in the Chinese currency; his portrait hangs on the gate of the Forbidden City on Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing; and, as NPR reported in 2011, the official verdict among modern Chinese is that Mao was 70 percent right and 30 percent wrong in his rule.
In March of 2013, Xi Jinping—the son of one of Chairman Mao’s high-ranking officers—achieved his lifelong goal of becoming president of the People’s Republic of China. Early in his presidency, Xi paid his respects at Mao’s old residences, and said, “The color of our red country will never change.” By emphasizing political continuity and by tapping into his father’s revolutionary legacy, Xi is boosting the Communist Party’s legitimacy—and thus his own.
The leitmotif of his presidency so far has been to restore Communist Party control over all aspects of society. A key aspect of this drive has been suppressing dissent. Mr. Xi “has sprouted rhetoric reminiscent of Mao Tse-tung,” the Christian Science Monitor reported. “State Security officers round up human rights lawyers and social activists in an unusually harsh crackdown, and propaganda moguls squelch public debate of awkward issues” (July 26, 2013).
Consider this suppression of dissent alongside China’s ongoing iron-fisted rule of Tibet, the “Great Firewall of China,” and Xi’s recent signal of his intent to exert total control over China’s mammoth state-owned companies. Clearly, the Maoist spirit is very much alive in Beijing. Despite his shameless barbarity against the Chinese people, Chairman Mao is the patron saint of Xi Jinping’s China.
Xi’s evocation of Mao and his ideological assault on democratic values has disappointed some of China’s liberal intellectuals who fear an intensification of the Communist Party’s authoritarianism. But the dissenting voices are growing quieter.
The mantra of modern Chinese leaders, media and educators is that China’s history makes it special, and that its people are heirs to a civilization nobler and more ancient than any other in the world. The lion’s share of Chinese people believe it; they see their nation’s place in the world as superior to all others. In Mao’s China and the Cold War, Cornell University Prof. Jian Chen discusses China’s self-given nickname: “The term ‘Central Kingdom’ … implies that China is superior to any other people and nation ‘under the heaven’ and that it thus occupies a ‘central’ position in the known universe.” A growing number of Chinese openly acknowledge that their “Central Kingdom” is working to realize its ancient dreams of global hegemony. If circumstances were right, most would be willing to throw their support behind Xi to achieve this goal.
With the U.S. out of Asia, China would throw its weight—and its 1.35 billion people—even more firmly behind efforts to establish regional and then global dominance. It would immediately announce its sovereignty over the Southeast Asian states and its island neighbors. The charade of Taiwan’s independence would come to an abrupt halt. And China would push into India and the rest of Middle Asia.
And then the ‘Land of the Rising Sun’. Japan is notorious not only for wartime savagery, but also for failing to express much remorse for pitilessly invading its neighbors and for rewriting history to downplay the crimes. In the Massacre of Nanking, China, for example, Japanese troops murdered over 200,000 Chinese civilians. The cruelty was known among the military’s highest officers, including the chief commander of the invasion, Emperor Hirohito’s uncle. These atrocities were committed with the royal stamp of approval for the purpose of burning fear into the hearts of those living in the cities and nations Japan planned to invade next.
Postwar Tokyo has apologized for instigating aggressive wars, but the apologies have been regularly undercut by revisionist statements from top politicians, especially Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. And Abe and those other politicians are wildly popular among the Japanese people. As America says sayonara to Asia, expect Tokyo to quickly complete its return to full-fledged militarism with an added nuclear component, and to work aggressively toward establishing a new global order in the image of Japan.
Putin, Xi and Abe each harbor deep-rooted nationalism. And now Modi shall jopin this group. All seem to gaze back on violent chapters in their nations’ history in a way that suggests a dark component in their leadership ambitions. In America’s absence, it wouldn’t take long for the peoples of Asia to see a widespread return to authoritarianism, and to see powerful countries dominating weaker ones with unrestrained force because they can. And these nations are immensely more powerful today than they were during the 20th century. Just as with previous generations, the current leaders of Russia, China and Japan understand that this is how wars must be fought if they are to be of any lasting benefit for a powerful nation.
The scenario of an America-free Asia will not remain hypothetical for much longer. We can already see tectonic geopolitical shifts that are rapidly turning it into a reality. The time will soon be here when the U.S. will be removed from the picture and Asian nations will rise up powerfully. Rather than go it alone, several Asian juggernauts will pool their resources, consolidate their power and form a military force of proportions the world has never seen. Analysts occasionally make mention of the biblical word Armageddon found in Revelation 16:16, but it is rare to hear talk of the kings of the East. And, though the details of how these Eastern superpower will form in the end time are still unknown, it is unmistakably clear about the fact that it will happen.
Maybe Tokyo would be able to persuade nations like South Korea, Taiwan or India to form an alliance with Japan to counter the China-Russia axis. An alliance between Japan and nations like Korea or Taiwan is difficult to imagine, though, given the intense loathing those countries still harbor toward Tokyo because of the savagery they suffered at its hands during times of invasion. It is also possible that Russia and Japan could band together in an effort to counter China. Even if some kind of Japan-led counter-alliance were formed, it would not be long before it joined China and Russia. Back in World War II, Japan was the only industrialized nation in Asia, so it was able to chart its own course. This time around, that advantage is removed.
The powerful Eastern nations will retain their individual identity and sovereignty. They will be cooperating tightly with one another militarily and economically, and this Asian Axis Frightens Europe. The combined armies of these “kings of the east” will number a jaw-dropping 200 million soldiers. And therein lies the rub- the eclipse of US and West.