The world in 2022: Threats and Hopes

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Ambassador G R Baluch

The human instinct to survive will hopefully prevail and ultimately a vaccine might be found, which is potent against all variants of Covid

The year 2022 dawned with fireworks and crowds chanting “Happy New Year” in several world capitals; demonstrating the human resolve to be optimistic and keep the flame of hope aloft for a better tomorrow. This was despite the reality of the emergence of the Fifth wave of Omicron variant of the COVID-19, and resultant deaths and global disruptions. In the following paragraphs, we will try to summarize some of the Natural and man-made threats, which the world is likely to face and also try to briefly touch upon the silver lining on the horizon.
Covid-19 Threat: Omicron variant will continue to ravage the world, constituting a global health hazard; resulting in death and disruptions. The pressure will be relatively more on states with weak economies, and inadequate health infrastructure. The epidemic has defied all predictions of waning away. Rather it has mutated into more virulent variants not responsive to the existing family of vaccines. The Omicron variant has spread to European countries and the US, and is, unfortunately, spreading fast into Asia and other parts of the world. The variant has already disrupted air traffic, about 4000 flights were cancelled on account of warnings of the spread of Omicron. The global supply chains are likely to remain disrupted resulting in shortages and resultant high prices of commodities as well as finished goods. The Vaccine inequity will accentuate and deepen the political polarization between the developing and the developed world, as the supply of vaccines to poorer countries is restricted on account of the inadequacy of the quantity, supply chain disruption, and lack of adequate funding for vaccines. The experts have already warned that “Only a fully vaccinated world will be safe world from the deadly virus.”
The Hope: The human instinct to survive will hopefully prevail and ultimately a vaccine might be found, which is potent against all variants of Covid 19. The supply chain disruptions and travel restrictions will hopefully ease as people learn smart ways to respond to restricted physical mobility. The robotic planes carrying vaccines have already been used in the USA by major courier/ logistics companies including UPS. As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention, creative technological solutions will be found to replace the physical presence of people at the workplace with remote working and robots. There are even pilot projects in the offing to create holograms for delivering lectures to students by teachers.
Military Flash Points: The Threats
The major threats to the world are military flashpoints i.e. Taiwan, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Kashmir, the Middle East and Africa. The new cold war between the US-the existing Super Power-and the emerging Super Power-China-is looming as a great danger to the peace and security of the world in general and the Asia Pacific in particular. Any miscalculation on the part of antagonists could have serious consequences for world peace and security. Taiwan remains a Chinese raw nerve, any attempt to change the status quo is likely to bring the two superpowers eyeball to eyeball with grave consequences for world peace and security.
Russia has been threatening to invade Ukraine, while the US has declared such a move as a threat to its vital national interests. Ukraine has also been lobbying for joining NATO as an ultimate guarantee against Russian threats. Russia has warned against stationing any NATO forces in Ukraine and has declared such a move as a “red line.”
Afghanistan has emerged as a huge international humanitarian challenge as the western-backed Ashraf Ghani Government melted into thin air while the US made an ignominious withdrawal after futile 2-decade bloodletting costing over 2000 US lives and thousands of wounded US soldiers and citizens working with the “contractors”. The over US $ 1.2 Trillion US afghan misadventure resulted in hundreds of thousands of Afghan lives and over 80 thousand lives in Pakistan and loss of US$ 150 Billion to an already heavily indebted country.
The Fascist and retrogressive BJP government continues a virtual siege of people of illegally Indian occupied Kashmir. Mass arrests, extrajudicial killings, and disappearances continue to be daily occurrences for the hapless residents of this most beautiful valley. India has virtually created an apartheid enclave in Kashmir.
The Middle East continues to be a bloody war zone for Palestinians, with forced evictions, arrests, and humiliation by the Israeli Military. The Muslim and the Arab World remains silent spectators in the face of Israeli atrocities. African countries are beset with tribal rivalries that have degenerated into fratricidal wars tearing apart states like Ethiopia.
The Hope: Big Powers overwhelmed by their internal economic and political challenges are keeping a distance from these conflict zones so far. These small fires of local conflicts might keep simmering but are not likely to be stoked into a conflagration by any of the so-called big powers. However, the retreat of big powers to their internal domains has deprived the world of any Global Political or Economic leadership, to keep Global Political and Economic order on a predictable trajectory. The world will remain in flux due to Natural and man-made crises during the year 2022.
For Pakistan the greatest threat comes from its unsustainable economy, due to three-prong threats as described by Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, one of the leading economists ” Pakistan s’ Economy is facing a three-prong challenge; internally, its facing soaring prices of essential commodities such as oil, gas, wheat, sugar and unusually high shipping charges on its foreign trade; regionally, it is grappling with the economic and financial fallout of an extremely volatile situation in Afghanistan; and domestically it is trying to come to grips with a falling rupee value and the lack of resources to keep the prices of electricity, gas, and oil in check.
The economic woes of the people of Pakistan are compounded by a mutually destructive political war of attrition among major political parties, which has prevented the Government from evolving national consensus on vital economic issues. The partisan political debate has only weakened a national narrative and consensus on working out a sustainable National Economic Road Map.
The hope: Pakistan with its large pool of economic and financial experts, who will hopefully play an enabling role and help the Government readjust the sails of the economic ship of the country and sail through the headwinds.