Why 2016 may not be any different

The year 2015 has been challenging for crisis managers across the world trying to tackle terror attacks and disasters – natural as well as man-made – killing lakhs of people and displacing millions out of their homes.  Natural calamities such as typhoons, earthquakes, floods, landslides, forest fires, heat waves and droughts shook administrations in Nepal, India, Australia, Indonesia and Myanmar, among other nations. These disasters had killed nearly 1,00,000 people, destroyed thousands of houses and displaced millions out of their homes in search of new shelters. Suffice to say, the world was also witness to massive year-end natural disasters and hostile weather.

The El Nino effect was partly blamed for the year-end floods in South America, the US, the UK and India. Drought, high temperature, sea level rise due to climate change are increasingly creating havoc across the world. Governments of the affected states have no clue as to how to handle the situation. The gradual warming of the earth has been scientifically established. The factors responsible are not unknown. But, the strong prescriptions recommended by scientists and global non-government organizations, campaigning to protect the climate by reorienting the national development focus, don’t seem acceptable to all nations. 

Developing countries blame the industrially advanced nations for poisoning the climate with carbon emissions for three centuries. These countries can’t make the less developed ones foot the bill and suffer for their protection. The professed battle against climate change comes at a huge cost. The less developed countries have neither the financial ability nor the will to fight the battle head on. The natural disasters in 2015 have been the worst in memory. In India, both drought and floods caused huge damages to its people and the economy. These have severely affected agriculture and industry in states such as Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Maharashtra.

At the same time, the Earth has become a lot more insecure for its people under growing human violence, hate campaigns, armed insurgency, religious intolerance and terrorist attacks. No country seems to be safe from these elements and terror attacks. Hitherto peaceful Europe, Russia and China are facing big threats from radical religious organizations. If Moscow had officially cancelled the traditional New Year celebration in Red Square on security ground, the entire western Europe, including Rome and Italy, spread intelligence networks and deployed strong security personnel to protect their revelers. 

Factional fights in central, western and eastern parts of Africa and insurgency in north-western fringes of India killed hordes of people, including women and children, and held a few thousand school children, mostly in West Africa, as hostages by ultra-rightist religious terror outfits like Boko Haram. In the last week of December alone, Boko Haram killed nearly 100 people in Nigeria. However, nothing could match the human disasters caused by highly radical and heavily armed Islamic State (IS), killing, capturing and executing innocent people at will, forcing nearly two million to flee their homes at great personal risk for safer shelters in Europe through Greece and Turkey. This is the biggest human exodus in 65 years after the partition of India and the creation of the state of Israel. No one really knows the future of West Asian refugees surging into Europe.

The year 2015 witnessed the big rise of IS, which has dwarfed even the human atrocities of the al Qaeda led by the dreaded Osama bin Laden, who was killed by a stealth operation by hand-picked US defence service persons at Abbottabad in Pakistan. To the surprise of the world, bin Laden quietly lived in a bungalow with his family in the Pakistani cantonment area for years under the watchful eyes of Pakistan security establishment until that fateful night. Laden’s fall and the rise of IS under Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi began around the same time. Abu Bakr, however, appears to be the most enterprising commander with an enormous amounts of money, men and military hardware. 

The IS has been attracting youths from across the world using  social media for global communication and support. In 2015, IS struck havoc in parts of Syria, Iraq and Libya inviting the attention of two global military powers –  the US and Russia. Two massacres in France – first, at Charlie Hebdo on the morning of the 7th January of 2015, killing 11 journalists and staff of the satirical magazine and injuring 11 others, and, then, again on the 13th November, killing 130 people. IS may have backtracked from its earlier captured Ramadi in Iraq following heavy shelling by Iraqi forces, but they have vowed to return.

The New Year, 2016, is unlikely to be different from the previous year. In fact, it could be worse. A sense of fear and instability looms large across the world. Natural calamities and terror attacks come mostly unannounced. Yet, countries are gearing up to face their impacts. If Russia cancelled the New Year eve celebrations at the Red Square to avoid a possible terror attack, Brazil is toning up its intelligence and security services to prevent attacks on the prestigious summer Olympics this year. Countries like India, Bangladesh and Myanmar are keeping a constant vigil and gathering intelligence against IS-led recruitment. It is time to improve regional cooperation to ensure peace across the world as terror targets are becoming increasingly unspecified. Highly populated South Asian countries would do well to have a collaborative arrangement to fight terror in the region and help each other against natural calamities.

(The author is a senior political commentator. Views expressed are strictly personal)
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