I am currently visiting the American city of Chicago, which is considered one of the best modern major cities in the United States. During my visit to the US, I am also interacting with a variety of people, especially in the context of the withdrawal of American/Nato from Afghanistan.
Historically, the term ‘superpower’ was first introduced for the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union during World War II to acknowledge their influential power status at international level. After the end of the war, the United States and the Soviet Union had proved themselves to achieve the title in terms of strong economy, military dominance, technological advancement and influential role in global politics. However, the end of the cold war resulted in the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, and thus, only the US appeared to be a superpower as of today.
At the start of the last century, Britain was one of the prominent world powers trying to increase influence around the globe. The US, USSR, Japan and France were also considered influential countries. British researcher Halford John Mackinder, in 1904, wrote an interesting article titled: ‘The Geographical Pivot of History’ to present the heartland theory. While extending the scope of geopolitical analysis to cover the entire world, he divided the Earth’s land surface into three main parts: (i) the World-Island, comprising the largest, richest and most populous interlinked continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa; (ii) the offshore islands, which include the British Isles and the islands of Japan; and (iii) the outlying islands, including the continents of North America, South America, and Oceania.
According to the researcher, heartland was the area then ruled by the Russian Empire and after that by the Soviet Union. In 1919, he further elaborated his theory as: “Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island; who rules the World-Island commands the world.” This was the year when confrontation among the British and the Russians was on the rise, and Britain decided to liberate Afghanistan in order to establish a buffer zone state separating both superpowers of that era.
However, Great Britain had to face the bitter consequences of World War II and independence movements achieved momentum in many of the colonies. Later, the US and the USSR, two major allies of World War II, emerged as superpowers to confront in every field of life. During the cold war, the tussle between both superpowers played a key role in maintaining the balance of power.
The Soviet Union was known as an unbeatable superpower until the last decade of the last century. However, it made a severe mistake by invading Afghanistan, which not only resulted in the dissolution of the Soviet Union, but also helped the US emerge as the only superpower. The international community, especially the developing countries, had high expectations that the US was in a better position to resolve world conflicts peacefully.
After the 9/11 attacks, the US led the world community to invade Afghanistan. Although nearly three trillion dollars were spent there over the last twenty years, the reputation of the only superpower country of the 21st century is also at stake due to the war in Afghanistan.
In my view, every superpower in the world has lost its influence by indulging itself in unnecessary wars and conflicts. Today, the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan is in fact the beginning of a new turning point for global politics. In the current context, China is also in the race for becoming a superpower and Russia wants to regain its lost global status. However, the country that succeeds in maintaining its influence in Afghanistan will be able to become the next superpower. Let’s hope that the future superpower will not indulge itself in wars but will play its due role in establishing world peace.
The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.