As West started as a naval power skipping old Silk Road by late 15th century AD, many new power centers in old civilizations came up. As sea route became the main route of international business, ports of old Asian civilizations gained more importance. The Westerners cannot produce commodities which can compete globally up to mid-19th century AD.
That is the reason British had to de-industrialise British India and wage Opium Wars against China. British had to use military power since they could not compete the production of China and India. Piracy and naval domination created huge new purchasing power in West Europe which generated demand for Asian goods. Asian traders and producers initially saw a drastic rise in income from international trade through West dominated sea route.
The importance of inland trade got reduced. Thus Asian traders in port areas became allies of West dominating seas. Since ports were becoming power centres they came into contradiction with old inland trading and political centres. A look at the map of Eurasian Island makes it clear that Arabian Peninsula, India, and Japan had their importance increased with sea route becoming a new pillar of global trade. These countries are geographically separated from old Silk Road and hence they have few chances to increase their share from global trade through it. The rise of naval West greatly increased their importance. Let us now discuss them one by one.
Arabian Peninsula
Arabain Peninsula though birthplace of Islam never became power centres by themselves. Arabs under the Prophet organized themselves in Arabian Peninsula and move towards countries close to Silk Road. Once Silk Road countries were conquered, main power centres of Islamic civilization became Baghdad and Damascus and peninsula became a just holy birthplace of Islam. Since Portuguese under Alberqueq started to conquer ports of Arabian Peninsula, the Peninsular trading class found it beneficial for them to join the rising trade with West.
Western domination increased these traders’ fortune considerably and hence they became allies. The support of British Empire for House of Saud of Arabian Peninsula can be traced to 18th century AD. Moreover, Saud gave tremendous support in favour of British Empire when Ottomans were fighting them in World War I. Saudi Arabia after becoming sovereign country proved to be a most important ally of the Anglo hegemony. After Arab-Israel war in 1973, Saudi King Faisal made petrodollar deal with the U.S. which made US Dollar main reserve currency of the globe while allowing the U.S. to maintain trade deficit simultaneously.
In return, Saud house got protection assurance from the U.S. military. This petrodollar arrangement became a pillar of financial capitalism which became the economic base of neoliberal order. The petrodollar also gave Saudi Arab huge financial power by raising oil price much above production cost which it could use to influence academic and other social institutions of different Sunni Muslim countries across the world. But since the financial crisis of 2008, the rise of Iran with its Shite Islam and anti-imperialist soft power is forcing Saudi Arab not only away from the U.S. but also resulting in conflicts among different gulf states i.e. Saudi, Yemen, Qatar, UAE.
Under Prince Muhammed Bin Sulman, Saudi is proved to be more determined to move alone and gain the alliance of Russia while not forgoing the U.S. completely. Till now Saudi has rejected Chinese offer to buy 5% share of ARAMCO and also have not shown interest in the yuan-gold scheme proposed by China. But it is quite clear Saudi have understood the unsustainability of the U.S. empire and is trying to counter Iran by making new allies.
India was production powerhouse of the globe since ages. But India being geographically isolated could never dominate old Silk Road. Often warrior tribes of Central Asia and West Asia conquered and pillaged Indian riches. These tribes also became supreme in feudal hierarchy. The last three thousand years before Western domination started, India was subjected to endure several invasions including Aryans, Sakas, Hunas, Turks, Mughals, etc. Indian trading class i.e. Baniya caste used to lose mostly due to Central Asian and West Asian invaders and rulers.
They not only got their income raised with the rise of Western domination in seas but also found a potential ally against the then feudal ruling classes like priestly Brahmin caste and Turk-Pashtun-Mughal-Persian warrior nobles. Thus the Baniya caste rose in the social hierarchy within Indian society due to the rise of West and fall of Indian feudal classes. The West Indian Baniya caste (i.e. from Gujarat, Haryana, and Rajasthan) became most successful in this collaboration with British Empire. They got the maximum part of British India after the British left in 1947. During Cold War between the U.S.and the Soviet Union, India got support from the later but the ruling West Indian Baniyas never moved away from Anglo-allies.
Baniyas were never very supportive of the Soviet model of the state-led planned economy which was role model for Indian bureaucracy. After fall of Soviet, Baniyas got more power from liberalization of economy and India moved even closer to the U.S. Gradually, new Indian urban generation began to mimic American way of life. Indian liberal middle class bought the ruling class idea that India can do like West since it has Western democracy. This love for West made them critics of a non-Western political system like China, Russia, Iran, etc.
They failed to understand the change that 2008 financial crisis has brought for the world. Thus while China was building Belt Road Initiative (BRI) to counter falling demand from West especially the U.S.The U.S.was trying to reduce its external engagements and shift alliance, Iran and Russia were trying to take the opportunity of falling the U.S. and rising China, Indian policies remained same. Thus Indian Prime Minister Modi was dreaming Make in India project when Trump was calling for ending trade deficit and immigration. While Indian policymakers were propagating Bollywood films in Afghanistan, Trump was calling India to be more active militarily there.
India continued to be drifting towards the USA when the USA was offering little. The pro-west and anti-China mindset among the mass of India was mirrored by Indian government when they decided not to join BRI. India even went to shadow war with China over getting influence on Lanka, Maldives, Nepal, and Bangladesh. The tension became most clear in Dokalam standoff. Other than retaining Bangladesh, India has lost all in South Asia one by one.
Japan was the first nonwhite and non-west country that got westernised. Its isolation and disciplined society proved to be fast to adapt industrial revolution. An important fact is British Empire directly helped Japan to transform into an industrial power to counter rising the U.S. in the Pacific region. Japan is a group of islands always separated from Eurasian Island completely. The rise of Western mode of industrial production gave Japan opportunity to claim prominence as global producer. Hence Japanese ruling class also views its rise a direct result of Western domination in industrial production. Moreover, after World War II, the U.S. directly got involved in reshaping the war-torn Japanese economy.
Thus Japanese ruling class ended up as one of the staunchest supporters of the U.S. empire. The rise of China further forced Japan towards the U.S. and Japanese ruling class is now dwindling by two opposite motives. While the rise of China forcing them to seek more political protection from the U.S., it is also luring them to get commercially benefitted by joining Chinese financed projects and institutions like AIIB and BRI.
Birth of Israel is most almost totally a colonial phenomenon where colonial European powers and USA agreed to form a country in Asia by bringing migrants from Europe only to make Europe a safer place free from anti-Jews doctrine flourishing repeatedly since the mid-19th century. So Israeli ruling class was from the very beginning is the pro-US empire. Killing and evicting native Palestinian population by migrants started making complications from the very beginning. Arab Nationalism and later Iran’s Islamic politics used Israel creation as to mobilize people of West Asia politically and militarily.
Thus Israel issue still creating most important tensions in West Asia. Recent Syrian civil war has made Iran so strong that it can now march its Shite militias from Afghanistan to Lebanon. The civil war has made Hezbollah a stronger battle-hardened force. Assad’s victory in keeping the power of Damascus and Syria Iraq border has made Israel nervous. Thus Israel is now trying to ally with Russia and neutralise Iran. Recent graft charges against President Netanyahu makes it clear that a part of Israeli elites wants to change the track of Netanyahu designed foreign policy. Since Putin has urged reconciliation between Israel and Iran, it can be predicted that part of Israeli ruling class is thinking to change age-old policy a little bit.
Besides the ruling class of these countries there are of ruling classes across the globe who are bought by West and later Anglo hegemony since birth. Most of these ruling classes are lured by two things towards Empire. Firstly, old civilizations of China, South Asia, West Asia, Central Asia, North Africa and South-East Asia never allowed moneyed class like traders and bankers or skilled craftsmen-artisans the topmost rank in the social hierarchy. Western capitalist philosophy of money for more money offered them the higher position in society and so they found the rise of West good for them.
Secondly, West dominating seas since 16th century AD and Anglos became top producer since mid-19th century AD. Thus making money for people of the non-Western world depended a lot on loyalty to Anglo hegemony. A third reason was the rise of communism during Cold War period. After China is back as global manufacturing hub the second reason became weak though not gone since the U.S. till today continuing to dominate seas. After fall of Soviet Union, the third reason is also impotent. Only nuke crisis of Korean Peninsula still exist and this crisis is forcing South Korea to seek the U.S. military help. Trump, on the other hand, is threatening to end military protection to South Korea if the latter fails to reduce the trade deficit with the U.S.
Since North Korean President has signaled he is ready to denuclearize if guaranteed no invasion threat from the U.S., it can be said that Trump can start pulling the military out of Korean Peninsula in the near future. Similarly, in Afghanistan Mattis is trying hard to get Afghan Talebans or Islamic Emirate on peace talks with the Afghan government. Though Taleban wants to talk with the U.S. government and claim Afghan government to be the puppet of the U.S., the approach of Mattis proves that he wants to move ahead and break the present stalemate of Afghanistan. Trump has repeatedly said that the U.S. cannot destroy Taleban but can force them to negotiate. Trump’s decision to cut aid to Pakistan may be hoping that it would help him seek more engagements from India who is supposed to be all of Kabul.
Since the U.S. empire is proving to be unsustainable, it can be said that different allies of the Empire are already shifting sides. But among all of its allies, Saudi, India, Japan, and Israel deserve special mention. Their ruling classes got benefits from empire since its birth. But they seldom had to bear the cost of the empire. So we are calling them free risers of the empire. Thus it can be concluded that more and more policymakers are convinced that influence of the U.S. is waning and it is better to lay many sides rather than just remaining dependent on the U.S. Trump himself is showing the tendency to break never-ending stalemate Korean Peninsula and Afghanistan. Obviously, vested interests in the USA will continue to prescribe increase external engagements. But surely, they will have to back down in the near future. And it seems that the free rider of the empire is already rising to the new reality.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Regional Rapport.