Pamu: Hey Vir, how are you?
Vir: Ohhhh… Pamu… Hi. I am doing great. What about you?
Pamu: I am also doing fine.
Vir: So, don’t you want to discuss anything with me? Is this just a casual visit?
Pamu: No… No. Obviously, I am here to discuss something. I would say that it is a very important issue. Though it is not affecting us directly, tens of millions of people are being affected by it.
Vir: Is it so? Tens of millions…. ha… That is quite a huge number. Don’t be secretive… tell me what it is, which is so important and affects millions of lives?
Pamu: I am talking about geopolitics.
Vir: Ha…. Then I would rather change the count. I would say billions of people are impacted and affected by it. Some get benefitted, but many are victims. Take the instance of the Russia-Ukraine crisis, which has affected millions of people directly and the whole world indirectly by means of a food, energy, and fertilizer crisis.
Pamu: Yes… But here I do not want to talk about geopolitics specifically.
Vir: Then what is it that you want to deliberate over?
Pamu: I want to talk about one of the most sidelined issues in geopolitics.
Vir: Sidelined issue? An issue that affects millions, as you say, yet sidelined… I would like to know about that issue. Tell me what it is.
Pamu: You know it very well, though currently, you may not be remembering it.
Vir: I know it… ha? Come on, remind me of it quickly…
Pamu: The issue, which I am talking about, is morality in international politics.Vir: Morality… obviously it is sidelined issue. Or I would say that it is not even a sidelined issue. It has no place in geopolitics at all.
Pamu: I don’t think so. I think you are wrong here. Morality has an important place in geopolitics.
Pamu: Ha I am not talking about nonsensical things. I can prove that.
Vir: Come on them tell me.
Pamu: Ha I will tell you with the example. Take the instance of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis or say any of the World Wars, which happened in the 20th century.
Vir: Ha, then what?
Pamu: Keep in mind that I am just telling you my observation.
Vir: Obviously it is your opinion. You go on.
Pamu: Like in the case of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis, both sides are claiming the moral high ground. Like, Ukraine is trying to justify its moral high ground by portraying that, it is Russia, who is the aggressor and killing its people blindly and ruthlessly. On the other hand, there is justification from the side of Russia that the West is trying to undermine the security of Russia by extending the NATO boundaries by including Ukraine. Ans also Ukrainian regime is trying to suppress the rights of the Russian-origin people in Ukraine. There may be other justifications given by both powers to justify their stand. But, one common thing is that both are right from their perspective and are trying to claim the moral high ground.
Vir: Yes…. that is how it is going on in that crisis. So what you are saying is that morality has high importance in geopolitics. It is so?
Pamu: No, what I am saying is that morality is being used as a means in geopolitics to achieve national interest regardless of the humanitarian and livelihood cost.
Vir: I must say that you are right. Look at the geopolitical happenings. Western countries led by the USA are supporting Ukraine with every possible means, which includes weapons, cash, and so on. But I do not think they are supporting out of morality.
Pamu: Exactly, that is what I want to assert.
Vir: The Western bloc led by the USA wants to destroy Russia, which is one of the major challenges to the hegemony and superpower status of the USA. The USA could also successfully convince other European as well as Asian countries to change their stand of pacifism to protect themselves from possible aggression in the future.
Pamu: Exactly. The same is the case on the other side, which is trying to justify its stand. But exactly we do not know who is morally right or not. But one clear thing is that morality is a powerful weapon being used in geopolitics. It has helped Ukraine greatly.
Vir: Ha, morality is a powerful weapon that is used for geopolitical ends.
Pamu: But that is not the issue that is bothering me. I want to know why morality has no place in geopolitics in actuality. I also want to know why nations portray themselves as moral but use morality to pursue geopolitical ends.
Vir: Okay, so that is what you really want to know. We will discuss it.
Pamu: Ha, we will discuss the issue. I want that answer desperately.
Vir: Firstly, I will tell you about international relations and the overall geopolitical environment in which nations interact.
Pamu: What is it? Tell me…
Vir: Look my friend, nations interact in an anarchical environment. I mean to say that there is no international government to regulate the conduct of the nations. You can relate the situation with that of the jungle, where there are no rules, laws and authority to implement those laws.
Pamu: There is the United Nations Organization (UNO) and several other bodies which regulate the conduct of the nations.
Vir: You are right, but partially. Because those organisations lack any wherewithal to enforce international rules. Or even if they implement they can do that in the case of weaker nations. No organisation is that powerful to enforce their rulings on powerful nations.
Pamu: You are right. China did not accept the ruling given by UNCLOS in the context of the South China Sea and China’s claim over it.
Vir: Ha… So what I am saying is that in international politics there is anarchy and no rule of law.
Pamu: So what?
Vir: That is the reason for all the instability we are seeing.
Vir: You can relate the situation with that of the jungle.
As there is no rule of law in the jungle, animals have to remain dependent on power for survival and also for dominance. Lion dominates the jungle because the lion has the power, while weaker animals like deer and others have to find hiding places to survive.
Pamu: Yes… The lion is hence called the king of the jungle.
Vir: There is no issue of morality in the jungle. Animals kill each other or run away. They have the sole aim of survival. For them, nothing is moral or immoral as long as survival is concerned. The same is the case in international relations.
Pamu: Ok… Due to the absence of a justice-enforcing authority, nations have to be dependent on brute power, whether hard or soft power, to ensure survival. Just like there is no question of ethics in the jungle, the same is the case in international relations.
Vir: Now, you got it. When there is a question of survival, most people would prioritize survival over morality. The same is the case with nations.
Pamu: Ok… I believe that it is the reason why nations keep on acquiring power. By doing so, they ensure their survival.
Vir: Yes… Look, India is bolstering its defence to ensure survival against China and Pakistan. If we do not increase our power, they may damage the integrity of our nation and also our survival at some point. In short, power is the means to survival, which is the end. In that process, morality gets reduced to one of the means to ensure survival by bolstering power itself, as in the case of Ukraine.
Pamu: Now, I am getting it. To survive, nations acquire power. Morality is no guarantee of survival. Many in the world have perished because of the so-called morality.
Vir: Hmmm… There is a quote by realist scholar Thucydides, who held “Powerful do what they have the power to do, weak accept what they must accept.” Similarly, realist scholars say that morality or ideological stances are masks to hide the real intentions.
Pamu: Ohh… so that is how it is. But other schools, I think, give value to morality. Such schools may include liberals, feminists, social constructivists, and so on.
Vir: But look at how the world is working. Ideally, war should not have taken place at all. But that is not so. War happens because survival and power are driving forces, however, many people or nations may try to hide it.
Pamu: I don’t like to agree, but what you are saying is true.
Vir: Yes, we must face the truth. But, still, I hope that sanity will prevail among all the actors in international relations. They would work together for the benefit of humanity.
Pamu: I hope so. That would happen when morality becomes central and not just a means to pursue geopolitical goals.
Vir: Exactly… I hope that would happen.