QUESTION : Discuss the challenges faced by multilateral world order, especially in the context of the United Nation system.






Challenges to UN




The United Nations commemorated(celebrated) its 75th anniversary on September 21, 2020 by adopting a Declaration.The anniversary comes at a time when the world is witnessing a retreat(going back) from multilateralism.




Multilateralism is the process of organizing relations between groups of three or more states. Beyond that basic quantitative aspect, multilateralism is generally considered to comprise certain qualitative elements or principles that shape the character of the arrangement or institution. Those principles are:


  • An indivisibility of interests among participants,


  • A system of dispute settlement intended to enforce a particular mode of behavior.





  1. Leadership withdrawal from West


  • The U.S., which created the international system as we know today, is no longer willing to be its “guarantor of last resort”.


  • U.S. President Donald Trump has stressed repeatedly on “America First” and suggested that others too should put their countries first.


  • The U.S. is not alone in withdrawing from multilateralism. Brexit has shown that nationalism remains strong in Europe.


  1. China not poised to occupy the space left by US


  • China’s assertion of a role on the world stage is not an embrace of the idea of multilateralism.


  • Its flagship Belt and Road Initiative consists of a series of bilateral credit agreements with recipient countries with no mechanism for multilateral consultation or oversight.


  1. Increasing Polarisation of World


  • President Trump has often highlighted China’s culpability in the spread of the pandemic.


  • He pointed out that China had banned internal flights but allowed international flights from Wuhan to continue. This set the stage for the spread of COVID-19.


  • President Xi’s sought to project the fight against COVID-19 as a matter of collective responsibility of the international community.


  • US-China Trade war has further increased the animosity between two countries and threatens to split the world into two economic camps.


  1. Resource Crunch for UN


  • Over 40 UN political missions and peacekeeping operations engage 95,000 troops, police, and civil personnel. To be effective, they have to be put on a sound financial basis.
  • The UN peacekeeping budget, a little over $8 billion, is a small fraction of the $1.9 trillion military expenditure governments made in 2019.


  • There was an outstanding assessed contribution of $1.7 billion for peacekeeping activities by the end of the financial year.


  1. Prospects for Public-Private partnership model for UN seems bleak


  • Most of the humanitarian assistance, developmental work, and budgets of the UN specialised agencies are based on voluntary contributions. Hence, there are calls for increasing public-private partnerships


  • The UN provides ‘public goods’ in terms of peace and development often in remote parts of the world and there may not be enough appetite on the part of corporations to fund UN initiatives.


  1. SDGs and Climate Goals are threatened


  • COVID-19 pandemic has brought in its wake the deepest recession the world has seen since the 1930s


  • This has made it more difficult to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) the UN had adopted.





  • Geopolitical competition. [E.g. USA vs. Russia = NATO & Warsaw Pact & Syrian Crisis]


  • Faith in multilateral institutions has dropped because of rigid rules, and slow paced reforms.


–       WTO negotiations are stuck in gridlock.


–       Developing nations are not getting due membership in UNSC.


  • Multilateral institutions have become prone to conflict instead of consensus.


  • Bilateral and Regional groups are considered as offering better deals through access to deep market, while balancing free trade with social goals (Subsidy, poverty, etc.)


  • Developed societies have changed, embracing individualism over social democracy [Joint family to Nuclear family].


  • Negative consequences of Globalization – income inequalities between developed and developing, crony capitalism, WTO like organizations favoring developed countries over developing, etc.




  • The value of multilateralism and the necessity to preserve it is newly reminded by the coronavirus pandemic.


  • Cooperation among nations will be necessary –


  1. to reduce the further spread of the virus


  1. to develop effective medical treatments


iii. to curtail the worst effects of the inevitable recession that is already in the offing.




Shift from Non-Alignment to Multi-Alignment


  • In the Post cold war era, Indian foreign policy has moved from a policy of non-alignment (policy of being neutral with US and USSR blocs) to the policy of Multi-alignment (India is having friendly relations with almost all great powers and developing world).


  • Multi-alignment is the very essence of India’s foreign policy and the economic policy of India today.


  • This presents an opportunity for India to become a global mediator and help in developing a framework on Global Issues.


India’s Role in International Activism


  • India is a key G-20 member country and the world’s fifth-largest economy (and 3rd largest on purchasing power parity) with a long tradition of international activism and promotion of rule-based multilateralism.


Collaborating with Like-minded Countries


  • Working together with a group of countries from the developed and developing countries could further amplify India’s voice.


  • Here, India could work closely with the Alliance for Multilateralism (an initiative launched by Germany and France) to shape both the alliance itself and the reform agenda at large.


  • India must redouble its efforts, along with partners such as the USA, to push for a multi-stakeholder model of internet governance




  • The Prime Minister of India called for reform of its outdated structures, pointing out that in the absence of comprehensive changes, the world body today faces a crisis of confidence.


  • The retreat from multilateralism would undermine the UN’s capacity to face diverse challenges.


  • We need to support reform not only to expand the permanent members’ category of the Security Council but also to revitalise the role of the General Assembly, as it gives greater political space for developing countries





The current context, characterized by a weakening of multilateralism, the return of protectionism and the rise of extremist political movements, undermines the advancement of that global consensus, poses a grave challenge to the world economy and threatens the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.



QUESTION : Throw a light on India-Sri Lanka bilateral relations from ancient time to the recent covid-19 pandemic and explain how are both nations   focusing on the renewal and revitalisation of partnerships. 






India-Sri Lanka Bilateral Relations




India’s appeal to Sri Lanka to address the aspirations of its Tamil minority will certainly find impact among the Tamil-speaking populace on both sides of the Palk Strait, but it is doubtful if it will have any effect.





  • A joint statement by both countries after a virtual summit between PM of India and his counterpart repeated India’s stated policy of seeking to ensure “equality, justice, peace and respect within a united Sri Lanka” for Tamils.


  • It also explicitly mentioned the need to carry forward the reunite process through the implementation of the 13th Amendment to Sri Lanka’s Constitution.


  • It said Sri Lanka’s PM expressed confidence that SL would work towards “realising the expectations” of all ethnic groups, including Tamils.


  • However, he appeared to qualify the commitment by linking it to “reconciliation nurtured as per the mandate of the people of Sri Lanka”


  • India’s interest in the matter is undoubtedly related to speculation that far from implementing the 13th Amendment, Sri Lanka may respond calls to roll back the provincial council system itself.




  • Indo-Srilankan ties is steeped in myth and legend, and influenced by religious, cultural and social affinities.


  • The relationship between India and Sri Lanka is more than 2,500 years old with free exchange of ideas, trade and intellectual discourse.


  • The advent of Buddhism to Sri Lanka during the time of Emperor Ashoka was the result of cross-border discourse


  • Buddhist temples in Sri Lanka, to this day, contain shrines for Hindu deities


  • The colonial expansion of European maritime nations reshaped the Sri Lankan economy.


  • Labour from south India was brought to Sri Lanka to work in plantations which in post-independence era created tensions with indigenous communities and continues to persist till date


  • The Indian freedom struggle had its influence on Sri Lanka as well. There was cross-border support for the revival of culture, tradition, local languages, spiritual practices and philosophies, and education.


  • Both countries transformed into modern nations with constitutional and institutionalised governance under colonial rule.


  • The nearly three-decade long armed conflict between the Sri Lankan forces and the LTTE came to an end in May 2009. During the course of the conflict, India supported the right of the Sri Lankan Government, much to the anger of Srilankan Tamils


  • Trade between the two countries grew particularly rapidly after the India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement which came into force in March 2000 .




  • Geopolitical Significance: Sri Lanka’s location in the Indian Ocean region as an island State has been of strategic geopolitical relevance to India’s maritime interests in region


  • Defence & Security Cooperation: India and Sri Lanka conducts joint Military ( ‘Mitra Shakti’) and Naval exercise (SLINEX). This increases synergy between both militaries thus safeguarding the common interest of countries


  • Economic importance: Sri Lanka is one of India’s largest trading partners among the SAARC countries. India in turn is Sri Lanka’s largest trade partner globally.


  • Collaboration at multilateral fora: Sri Lanka is a member of regional groupings like BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) and SAARC in which India plays a leading role.


  • Containing China: Among others, freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific together with a rules-based international order and peaceful settlement of disputes are of common interest, which is threatened by increasing presence of China in the subcontinent




  • Growing Closeness with China: Sri Lanka has long been in India’s geopolitical orbit, but its relationship with China has strengthened in recent years Ex: Hambantota port built by China; participation in BRI; arms supplies etc


  • Unresolved Tamil Issues: The rehabilitation of Tamils displaced by Sri Lankan civil war and provision of autonomy to Northern & Eastern Sri Lanka where Indian Origin Tamils are in majority, has not progressed at the required pace


  • Fear of Protectionism: Policies and thinking are becoming communally exclusive, localised and inward-looking.


  • Asymmetry in relationship: There is asymmetric in terms of geographic size, population, military and economic power, on the one hand, and social indicators and geographical location, on the other.


  • Trade Balance in favour of India




  • Sri Lanka can encourage Indian entrepreneurs to make Colombo another business hub for them, as logistical capacities are improving in Sri Lanka


  • Integrating the two economies but with special and differential treatment for Sri Lanka due to economic asymmetries needs to be fast-tracked


  • Engagement of legislatures is also essential for promoting multiparty support.

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