New Delhi: There are two concepts related to foreign policy and geopolitics which this writer will discuss in this piece. These concepts are not inherent to diplomacy and strategy and are indeed located in the disconnected fields of biological sciences and physics. But they help to capture the essence of a changing world, the rise and fall of Great Powers, and their impact on India.

The first concept is that of an organic state. An organic state is conceived by this writer to be a plural democracy. An organic state is formed naturally when people that share a common culture, a way of life and other attributes come together to constitute a nation. How the nation becomes a state is another process. It takes us back to the nation-state building process that was inaugurated in Europe after the 30-year war. That process is of course important to explain how things are. But the idea of the organic state is embedded in the 21st century in relation and in contrast to states that are not organic: states that are held together by force, coercion, absent democracy, totalitarianism, and so forth.

It is this writer’s contention that organic states will have plainer sailing than states that are not as the world order changes and throws up a new set of Great Powers. There is some respectable enquiry if the new world order will have one dominant power as represented by the United States in the immediate post-Cold War world or two, a dyad of the United States and China, or multiple parties constituting a multi-polar global system. This writer would wager on a multi-polar system because it is already operating and, with a few changes, would go on as before.

But even as the old order gently gives way to the new (short of a nuclear catastrophe), it will bring some changes. This writer believes a future new order would favour organic states over those that are not. Organic states are more coherent and supple. They will generally not break under high stress and pressure. Moreover, an organic state has a capacity to absorb shock, an intuitive ability to adapt to changing circumstances, and is further possessed of inbuilt mechanisms to remain united without any great and special Central effort. If the Chinese state, to imagine a circumstance, is put into an ultra high-speed centrifuge, the parts that are ethnically Han Chinese may still stick together, but likely Xinjiang and Tibet will come flying apart. The internal bonds of an organic state like India are stronger than those of them that are not like China. The new world order, while foreseen to be gently transformed from the old, could also be created by a vigorous churning process. This would endanger states that are not organic. But there are apprehensions also with respect to an organic state like India. It is most vulnerable in Kashmir. And the Indian state’s organic and consensual natures are affected as well by campaigns that target a section of the citizenry. If a nation state does not pass the full organic test, it will be liable to face pain with the loose bits coming off when the universal centrifuge is switched on.

The second concept which this writer wishes to describe is escape velocity. Escape velocity is a term from physics and is defined as “the lowest velocity which a body must possess in order to escape the gravitational attraction of a particular planet or other object”. Related to foreign policy and geopolitics, this physics term takes the following dimension. Nation-states have their predetermined escape velocity. It is a constant fixed by the geographical size of a nation and its industrial and military power combined with the peace and national consensus that reign in its society. These factors can be present in any proportion to reach that constant, and when that constant is reached, the state becomes more or less unassailable in the short term. It is when the constant is reached that Great Powers are made. Once they are made, dislodging them is difficult without a change in the world order. This constant is equivalent to the escape velocity of physics.

India has not attained escape velocity. China has. Japan has. The United States and the remaining Western powers have all attained multiples of escape velocity to reach where they have. In the process of acquiring this escape velocity, India cannot neglect any of the component factors, namely industrial and military power, national consensus and social peace. As said before, the constant may be reached in any proportion of these factors. China exemplifies this. But the escape velocity factor has no inherent permanence. By itself, it has a short life. If its life has to be prolonged, it must pass the test of an organic state. Once the Western powers fail the organic state test, they will plummet from the heights. Russia has been steadily failing the organic test, and its durability as a Great Power is in grave doubt. Unless China democratizes and becomes organic, it too faces an uncertain future.

India is not in a happy situation either. It is still struggling at the first landing of the great upward leading staircase. It is wobbly on the organic test and it is yet to attain escape velocity. India is a work in progress. Hubris would ruin it all.