Time Dimension of Geopolitical Process – The world is not flat

Geopolitical Environment is a result of several variables including Historical events, cultural elements, resources at a given location, development process of the inhabitants of a place. Theoretically all these variables can be categorised in terms of three important dimensions of Geopolitical Process – Time Dimension, Location dimension and demographic dimension. Of these 3 dimensions, Time dimension remains a leading factor which influences the Geopolitical outcomes most.

If we look from the perspective of global geopolitical environment in the present times as a whole, the impact of Time dimension can be studied in blocks of mainly 3 periods of the recent history – The period from 16th century to 1940s, Post WW II period (cold war period) till 1991 and thirdly the post Soviet Period starting 1991 till date. Out of these perhaps second period (cold war period) seems to be most influential to the Geopolitical outcomes which we see today in the world.

From Henry IV in 16th century to 1940s, it was the colonial period. Geopolitics of the world during this period was characterized and motivated with the control of world resources by the colonial masters. The intercontinental relationships were based on ‘imports – resources’ equation. It was this equation which resulted into a unique state – private partnership among colonial masters nations. Under this partnership while state provided army protection and legitimacy to the overseas businesses of private enterprises in their colonies, it also provided much needed private investments and entrepreneurship to control the resources among colonies. Lack of local entrepreneurship helped develop this kind of partnerships. Britishers not only got much needed natural resources from India as their most prized colony, but also provided hard working labor to run their businesses elsewhere in the world.

These sea powers competed with each other to control world resources and sometimes even shared the booty. By the early 1940s, this competition took the ugly turn and perhaps became an important reason triggering the WW II.  While US was an isolationist state till the WW I, by 1940 it was emerging as an important factor. Elsewhere in USSR, the ideological fortunes were keeping the invaders at bay making it a strong nation with strong economy. The post WW II period saw the emergence of two superpowers of the world. Rest of the world was to toe the lines of anyone of these two super powers. While India unsuccessfully tried to create a third front, it was US which took the lead and favored China, observing cracks in USSR – Sino relationship, to become stronger to help the world come out of the bipolar rivalry which was not helping the multinational business community specially from the west and TRIAD. Kissinger’s geo -strategy to make the world tri polar worked and resulted into the split in the USSR into CIS states. An obvious beneficiary of this geo strategy has been China, the phenomenon which gave rise to the ‘Rise of East’ which unwittingly helped India work hard and become an aspiring potential and competing power of the world despite no strategic orientation of US towards India.

Therefore the second period (the cold war period) has the most potential effect on the current geopolitical situation. In geopolitical terms the third period is most recent to study and gauge its impact. However this third period is full of global events which can have long term effects on the geopolitical fortunes of the world in medium to long term future. Cracking US economy due to severe competition from emerging economies, debt crisis of both US and certain European countries, looming & increasing threat of Islamic terrorism, purple and orange revolutions in gulf and Central Asian states, increasing pressure on oil prices, aspiration of less developed states, sagging Japanese economies are some of the important developments in the world during the post cold war period, some of these events are of direct consequences of the cold war period.

There are some missed opportunities too. While China benefitted from the fortunes of time dimension and cold war period, India failed to share the booty, when China offered it to agree for a free trade agreement. China perhaps wanted India to follow suit like Canada did and which benefitted by being party to NAFTA agreement when US was growing and Canada grew piggybacking on US. China is definitely emerging as the world’s super power, India should have accepted to be part of this rise. However political ideology and past memories of Indo – Sino skirmishes kept the two countries disunited in the surging fortunes of East. Both countries could not maximize the benefits of the time dimensional fall out of these favorable geopolitical events. Today any Chinese corporate intervention in India is seen with suspicion, same is true in China. Therefore this third period of Time Dimensional Study is a story of missed opportunities. Unresolved issues of border disputes through out Asia and elsewhere have fueled these missed opportunities.

In short Time Dimension is a saga of mad stories, sometimes bad stories and ideas which have resulted into some very poor geopolitical outcomes. An intertwined world with advancement of technology and transportation is as far apart or even farther apart as had been centuries ago. Multinational businesses, global finance & global technology have however tried to survive on a global scale and are affecting the daily life of every individual on this planet. Thereby shaping the world into a pseudo global village with contradictory ideologies, dangerous powers among rogue groups, lesser control of any clear superpower on the world economy. Downgrade of US rating after 90 years is the recent example of the changing world.

Above issues were discussed in the class of GEB last week. Students are supposed to write the class assignment 2 – Explaining the time dimension and its importance in Geopolitics with the help of an example. In this assignment, students are supposed to do these steps – 1. What is time dimension of geopolitics? 2. Give some examples of geopolitical outcomes which are direct result of historical events explaining those events. 3. Explain how these examples affect the businesses worldwide or on local level. The assignment must be submitted before the end of this week.

Sessions 1 and 2 in the GEB course

Session 1 and 2 of the GEB course was an interactive session with the most interested students who took great interest in understanding what Geopolitics is all about. It seemed that it was the first time they came across this term and the concept of Geopolitical Environment.

It took one example of Soscolo, a place in Italy which has developed into a centre of excellence in the manufacturing of the world’s best ceramic tiles in last 700 years to explain the concept. While Soscolo accounts for 20% of the world production of Ceramic tiles and around 50% of the world export of the commodity, it is interesting to note that most of its hegemony on the product developed after World War II when most of Europe was devastated in the war. The rebuilding efforts of the aftermath of the war created tremendous demand for the ceramic tiles from Soscolo since it was one of the most suitable places to source this material due to its location, availability of skilled labor for this product and technology availability there. Manufacturers in Soscolo took advantage of this opportunity and refined the technology to make it more efficient requiring less labor. At the same time production capacities increased. Related industry developed and today we have the world’s most excellent centre for this product.

Above example of Soscolo of Italy demonstrate how three dimensions of Geopolitics can create a centre of excellence in business. These 3 dimensions are – Time Dimension, Place Dimensions and Demographics Dimension. These entire 3 dimensions were in Soscolo’s favor at the time of rebuilding of Europe. Due to this TRIAD effect, all the demand for ceramic tiles went to this place which was strategically located.

In the subsequent sessions students will understand how these 3 dimensions play an important role in creating Geopolitical advantage for businesses in particular places of the world at particular times of history of the world.

Political and Economic Environment is also a result of these three dimensional forces of Geopolitics. The change in the political and economic systems of the world can also be explained from this 3 dimensional Geopolitical Model of important forces which forces the subjects and political leaders to take decisions in favor of changing geopolitical weather of the nations and cultures around the world. One example of this change explained to the students related to increasing democratization of political systems of the world. Notable examples given were of Nicaragua, Chile, Eastern Europe and more recently the Gulf Region where purple revolution is taking place on the medium of Face book led campaigns in favor of democracy and more powers to the common people. Scores of countries are likely to affect by these changes which may drastically change the political and economic models of countries which are still not ready to accept these Geopolitical Change of Global weather. It was argues in the class that China may not remain unaffected by these Geopolitical changes and may see eruption of popular sentiments in favor of more power to its subjects and right to choose the people who must govern Chinese economy and its people. These changes may be seen in not so distance future.

Discussions in the class with the students brought above important points to the new Geopolitical understanding and helped understand the concepts in most simple manner. Students seemed satisfied with their new understanding of Geopolitical Changes which must be understood well by globetrotting business executives to help themselves take difficult business decisions.

In subsequent sessions, attempt will be made for the students to discuss on the next level of Geopolitical understanding through small case lets and news analysis. Students are expected to have read important global news while doing this course in order to raise their points during class room discussions. Attempt will also be made in the discussions to link several happenings in the world to Geopolitical models. These models will be discussed in detail to enhance the theoretical underpinning of the students.