Jaipur, Jan – The West is relinquishing its predominant role in global politics and economics to the East – Asia spreading from the Middle to the Far East – in this century and the significance of the ancient “Silk Roads”, which were once the hub of commerce, culture and knowledge, is slowly getting restored, says a historian.
The Silk Roads area will shape the next century as it plays a significant role in the hydrocarbon economy, and in one sense, the terrorist outrages taking place in the European capitals and elsewhere arise from the Middle East, which is its significant part, said Oxford academician Peter Frankopan at a session titled “The Silk Roads” at the Jaipur Literature Festival on Sunday.
“Control over networks was the story of the 19th century, the 20th century and will be the story of the 21st century but now Eastern nations like India and China will be resuming eminence,” he contended.
Frankopan, who in his new book “The Silk Roads: A New History of the World” seeks to reassess the role of the east where civilization itself began and the world’s great religions were born and flourished but was eclipsed by the advent of colonialism from the western hemisphere from around the 15th century, says the East’s role in shaping the world has not been sufficiently known.
Confessing himself influenced by Luke Skywalker, Alexander the Great and Indiana Jones, he said that he is in his book had sought to address the deficiency of the role of East.
Legendary travel writer Colin Thubron, who has travelled most of the Silk Roads region and described his adventures in a series of inimitable travelogues, noted Frankopan’s book takes history back from the West and was an awesome feat of scholarship and the range of sources that had been consulted would need one knowing 15 to 16 languages.
Frankopan also sought to clarify that there was no such thing as a single Silk Road but rather a series of Silk Roads or networks that linked continents and oceans together, and “along which flowed ideas, goods, disease and death and empires were won and lost”.
And in the contemporary world, the patterns of exchange are mirroring those that were seen in the Silk Roads, as his book says.
On the significance of the area, he said it represented three things were the best of the human species – the willingness and ability to communicate, the ability to cooperate and curiousity.
“This is what brings me and you all to the Jaipur Literature Festival,” he noted, adding it was along the Silk Roads that the goods and ideas that have shaped and influenced the world flowed till nearly half a millenia ago, when the focus shifted to the western hemisphere and colonialism which was based on unequal relationships and duplicity.
He noted that in the era that the Silk Roads set the pattern for the world and Europe didn’t figure into it, since it never had any resources thad could be traded, while there were more Christians in Asia then that had been in Europe till at least the 13th century
On the role of India vis-a-vis China in the new order he sketches, Frankopan quipped he was a “historian, not a prophet”, but noted from what he understood India and China had been in competition for several centuries now for the leadership of neighbouring areas.
Stressing that regional cooperation was important, he said he got the impression that India was disengaging itself from the region.
By Vikas Datta
(Vikas Datta can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)