By Jan Arden
The Chinese year of the Tiger promised to be potentially eventful with flared tempers, fiery impulses, raw power demonstrations and explosions around the world, but few would have predicted that eruption would indeed happen, that it would be so ghastly and world-engulfing, and that European hinterlands would constitute the Kurukshetra plains of such a woeful misfortune between cousins of the same fold.
The naked aggression by Russia, even pushed to its limits by a reckless unnecessary NATO expansion and nuclear encirclement policy, is a repulsive geo-political last resort and has been condemned by many capitals around the world, even by those suffering the most from the immense havoc being caused in food, fuel, currency and commodity markets. In its 40th day, even after all the scars of a deeply disturbing war, there is still no substitute for a meaningful dialogue towards lasting peace in that troublesome continent, withguarantees for a neutral non-NATO Ukraine.
Almost half of the world lives under one form of autocracy or another, with few and erratic civil rights. Democracy, even with its fault-lines or drifts towards kleptocracy, remains an undoubted boon which deserves defending. While we therefore, as many others, should stand with traditional Western and liberal values of democracy and the international structures that have kept the world relatively at peace, most countries and political leaders have been embarrassed at being asked or ordered to throw reason, cultural and historical affinities, their own national security contexts or trade realpolitiks overboard and “take sides”.
At the UN general Assembly or the UN Security Council, in other public fora, they, in effect, have been far more nuanced in their stand than the Manichean constructs of the Westwould have wished. Some, like China’sForeign Minister has stoutly condemned NATO as the prime cause behind the Ukraine crisis, while India, still in the teething phases of Western realignment and QUAD membership, has steadfastly refrained from outright condemnation of the Russian military intervention. It has numerous valid reasons to do so, even if the West fails to appreciate the deeper ties, rationale and perspectives that justify such a stance.
The masterminds of shortsighted US-Western aggressiveness towards Putin will have noted the obvious consequential rapprochement between Moscow and Beijing while, having led a naive President Zelensky up the garden path of robust promises, NATO has vanished from the front-lines.
The BRICS, constituting 40% of the world population, has resisted calls to join some Western-led sanctions overdrive, with, for instance, President Cyril Ramaphosa, hailing from the region, blasting such attempts at pressuring the African continent into West-driven Cold War “games” that should never have been.
Mexico and much of Latin/South America have balked too at those Western pressures. The Saudis and other major oil producers of the Middle East and even staunch US ally Israel have snubbed such crude realpolitiks and refused to play ball with Biden. President Erdogan of Turkey, a full-fledged NATO member, has largely ignored the Western bullying, by playing his cards astutely as a regional mediator between the two warring factions.
Putin may have been surprised by the actual resistance bravely offered by the Ukraine army and people, and each day the war drags on, with its horrific images, is certainly a loss of face and may even drag out a desirable rapid settlement of the national security dispute. On the other hand, the attempt by Joe Biden to brazenly deprive Russia of its international treasury reserves, hound Russian businessmen (as if oligarchs and billionaires exist only in Russia), and destroy that country’s economic infrastructure through sanctions, seem insufficiently thought through. One should not forget that sanctions rarely result in regime change (southern African region or Iran are cases in point) but the primary victims are the largely innocent populations. That sanctions policy could easily backfire, with potential repercussions on promoting non-dollar trade and closer Ruble link-ups with other currencies (namely yuan, rupee or anything else for that matter).
All those countries which constitute the bulk of humanity are not just Putin apologists or US stooges, but they lucidly assess that this costly invasion and continuing dirty war is not about some Western-defined “morality”, which is neither blameless in the formation of this avoidable horror nor exemplified itself in numerous areas of the world which need not be listed here.
We know all too well, at our level, that the UK/US abandoned any moral high ground, when they are bent on ignoring international condemnation of the continued unlawful Chagos occupation even when offered a long-term direct lease for the US naval base with strong guarantees. With Biden’s foreign policy gaffes (unceremonious exit from Afghanistan) and failures (preventing or even leading up to the Ukraine catastrophe, dollar challenges), it is widely reckoned that the Biden-Harris administration may be blasted by the GOP (the Republican Party, also referred to as the “Grand Old Party”), first in November in the House/Senate elections, then at the next Presidential.
Some will mourn Europe’s inability to thrash out a security pact with Russia without NATO and US interference leading today to the shambles on European soil. Others, the end of an era since the collapse of the Soviet Empire after the Cold War, when relative peace and stability reigned across Europe, save for the Baltic region. Still others will try to fathom the mystifying logic of the US deep state priorities when, by its own avowal, its recognized primary global challenger was certainly not Putin’s Russia. As for most African, south American and south Asian populations, they will continue to pay the massive costs of the chaos from the rolling thunderstorm in the Kurukshetra plains that nobody expected or could have predicted, even under the fiery Tiger’s auspices.
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Pandemonium nearby: Sri Lanka and Pakistan
While the chaotic big bang is taking place in Europe, with repercussions worldwide, some countries and allies in our Indian Ocean region are also facing turmoil, if not upheaval, in this rocky year.
We cannot hope to do justice here to the complexities of the pandemonium that have rocked both Sri Lanka and Pakistan over recent days and weeks. Sri Lanka’s population, who had to bear the brunt of price escalations wrought about first by the pandemic then the consequences of the Ukraine conflict, exploded in such angry public manifestations that the whole government was compelled to resign this week.
Sri Lanka’s cloak of democracy has always been besieged by its ethnic rivalries that at one point resulted in the violence of the Tamil minority. As one Sri Lankan observer noted recently: “Ethno-centric policies such as the Ceylon Citizenship Act of 1948 that excluded estate Tamils from citizenship and the later amendment which disenfranchised them, the Sinhala Only Act of 1956, which violated language rights of the Tamils, and Article 9 of the 1978 constitution, which gives Buddhism the foremost place in Sri Lanka.”
While pandering to the majority’s instincts, Sinhalese political parties made corruption and the plunder of public funds a way of life. The Colombo Telegraph titled a documented article in 2012 about the First Family: “Rajapaksa Family stands to receive in commission anywhere between us$1.2 to us$ 1.8 billion during 2005-15.”
During the 2019 election campaign, populist deep tax cuts were promised by Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and enacted several months before the pandemic. With the reduced fiscal revenues, the lucrative tourism industry in limbo, foreign workers’ remittances minimal, national reserves depleted and currency depreciated while corruption had scaled new heights, the inability to pay for almost any food or fuel imports, the prognosis was towards rapid bankruptcy. Sinhalese or Tamil, they all pray for a way out of this nightmare.
In Pakistan, the corruption of the elites is also a way of life with colossal accumulated proceeds stashed overseas, as the current PM Imran Khan Niazi has consistently alleged as he promised changes galore and bringing to court the powerful families (reputed at 22) that have ruled Pakistan’s deep state.
But with only 155 seats in the National Assembly and reliant on Army backing and the support of two allies for a parliamentary majority (172 needed), he and his party – the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf – were always going to find such a task a tall order and a rather risky venture should his allies prove foot-loose and the diverse Opposition united.
That has happened and thus, the pandemonium, as the latter, having the required majority, brought in a no-confidence motion, rejected by the Speaker in a move whose constitutionality is being challenged in the Supreme Court (sc). Chaos meantime reigns supreme in the streets while the Army tries to play “neutral” observer.
As in many Commonwealth jurisdictions, the sc is loathe to intervene in parliamentary affairs and proceedings, unless matters of constitutionality are at stake. An outcome at the SC is expected this week.
Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 8 April 2022
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