Parag Khanna, Managing Partner of FutureMap, a scenario planning and strategic advisory firm in the era of globalization, says India’s standing up to China in the 2017 border standoff in Doklam contradicts the popular notion that Beijing can get away with whatever it wants.
In his new book released in New York last week, the Kanpur-born global strategist says that while China is important part of Asia, the country is not all of the continent that has many other important players, including India.
Khanna notes that the world in the 21st century is being Asianized where the continent is returning to the stable multipolar order, with India and Southeast Asia coming into their own as economic and strategic hubs.
“Countries like India and those in Southeast Asia, and even West Asia or the Middle East, are missed in the bigger picture and this leads to a lot of miscalculations about how the geopolitics there will play out,” Khanna told India Abroad on the sidelines of the release of his book ‘The Future is Asian’— commerce, conflict and culture in the 21st Century --- in New York last week.
The Kanpur-born global strategist, who is the best-selling author of six books and has been a fellow at Brookings, New America, and the Lee Kuan Yew School at the National University of Singapore, said that the traditionally China-centric view of Asia by the West misses the point that while China is a very important part of Asia, there are other important players like India that geopolitically is one of the key countries.
“What India has proved in the Doklam standoff is that if you stand up to China, it will back down, and other countries are learning this now. I think it was an extremely important sign of India’s strategic leadership,” Khanna told this correspondent.
The 433-page book, that got rave reviews in leading publications, including the Financial Times and The Economist, draws on two decades of Khanna’s personal on-the-ground analysis from more than 100 countries.
“I favor a much more pan-Asian view that realizes and recognizes that Asia does not need one single leader, one single hegemon,” Khanna said, adding that Asia is returning to the multipolar order that existed long before European colonialism and American dominance.
The book notes that while China has taken a lead in building the new Silk Roads across Asia, it will not lead it alone as large but dormant societies from Iran to Indonesia are finally emerging, teeming with young and urban, ambitious and entrepreneurial youth.
It adds that while from Saudi Arabia to Vietnam, privatization is unlocking a new wave of growth as Asians are sharing economic and governance models as never before, and their “confident outward push” is reshaping business and culture across North America and Europe, South America and Africa.
“It is important for me to look at India, not just alone but in the strategic Asian context. India finally is living up to its potential to some degree, including in Infrastructure development and reforms and there is strong interest of foreign investors in the country and the structural dynamics around the young population very much favors India,” Khanna said in the interview.
“I think that's a very positive sign and you can be bullish about India for its own sake,” Khanna said.
Khanna, 41, who is also a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum, grew up in the United Arab Emirates, New York, and Germany and now lives in Singapore, argues in the book for collective Asian system, some of its common values, and highlights the impact Asia it is having on the West.
He said Western observers and analysts assumption that “the world is flat” and that China can simply walk across where it likes and can dominate, has colored many peoples' thinking in the West, but such theories and models have “almost zero relevance” to Asia.
Khanna, who is on a book promotion tour in North America, joined a panel discussion on the book at the Asia Society Feb. 7, attended by Michael Froman, who formerly served as President Obama’s principal advisor and negotiator on international trade and investment issues and moderated by Bloomberg's David Westin. In the audience was former U.S. Ambassador to India Frank Wisner.
Khanna grew up in the United Arab Emirates, New York, and Germany and now lives in Singapore, has traveled to more than 100 countries on all continents. A multi-time TED Talks speaker, he has been a popular political commentator on news channels such as CNN, BBC, CNBC and Al Jazeera.
According to Singapore-based Peak magazine, Khanna, his wife Ayesha, a Wall Street software engineer turned an artificial intelligence expert, and their two children, relocated from New York City to Singapore in in 2012 after visiting the region repeatedly, whether as part of the United States Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan and Iraq or on adventure driving trips from Europe to China.
In a February 4 article, its author Karen Tee observes that young Khanna found a mirror to his “peripatetic upbringing” in the life of British-Indian Japan-based travel writer Pico Iyer and grew up reading his works.
In 2001, after Iyer released a collection of essays titled The Global Soul, Khanna was moved to write a letter to Iyer, and they became pen pals and friends after Iyer responded to his letter.
“I’m still his biggest fan,” says Khanna. “It is one of my crowning achievements when Pico asks me for my take when he travels. I think, ‘Oh my god, Pico Iyer asked me if I’ve been somewhere!’” Khanna told the Peak magazine.