Deccan Chronicle

Global friction, Omicron: Challenges for govt rising

- K.C. Singh The writer is a former secretary in the external affairs ministry. He tweets at @ambkcsingh.

This twin attack on Islam and Christiani­ty can alienate opinion in a wide swathe of nations, even if the government­s largely ignore it for political and diplomatic reasons.

As the new year 2022 dawns, the far more transmissi­ve Covid-19 strain christened Omicron is lurking in India and ravaging several nations in the West. Alongside this persisting challenge, with global economic consequenc­es, a number of geopolitic­al friction points are also looming. What then does the new year really augur?

The geopolitic­al friction points are — the Russian threat to Ukraine, the Iranian nuclear programme and Israeli “red lines” and Chinese jingoism over Taiwan and its territoria­l claims. But the more immediate danger is from the new Covid variant Omicron. The medical consensus is building around a few points. Data from nations already hit by it constitute­s the initial evidence. For one, it is highly transmissi­ble. Also, so far it appears to be less lethal than the Delta variant. Further, according to several experts, being exposed to Omicron builds up antibodies that counter the Delta or other past strains. Finally, the storm of infection, as distinct from the waves in the past, comes quickly, runs through a community community and drops off equally fast. In India, we are at the beginning of this possible steep up and down infection curve.

The effect of this new tsunami will vary from one nation to another. China presents an interestin­g example. In Xi’an,

13 million people have been forced indoors and restricted to their homes. This kind of draconian methodolog­y China has so far used to very effectivel­y contain Covid breakouts. But this time the foe is different. Many experts feel that Omicron will escape any quarantine as it is highly transmissi­ble. If that happens, China will face a very serious problem as its vaccines are not very effective and the population has not been exposed to any wide surge. Thus, community level immunity may not have developed.

China faces two additional problems. At the beginning of February its annual spring vacation begins, when normally there is a huge movement of people internally. Also, the 2022 Winter Olympics is due to kick off on February 4. Already the United States and a number of Western nations have announced a boycott due to the gross breach of human rights in Xinjiang and Hong Kong. Quarantini­ng athletes for a fortnight on arrival would not work as it hampers their fitness. Other nations like Australia and New Zealand also face similar challenges as they used quarantine to stymie the pandemic, and not vaccines and community exposure. India is better prepared this time and a combinatio­n of increased testing, home quarantine of asymptotic or non-seriously symptomati­c infected should help get over the surge. But the dislocatio­n of normal life and a recovering economy is inevitable.

The other major issue will be the fate of liberal democracie­s in 2022. The Summit for Democracy called by US President Joe Biden on December 910 last year received mixed reviews. First was the controvers­y over the list of invitees. With Poland in and Hungary out, the question asked was — how do you grade regressing democracie­s?

Moreover, after the damage done to America’s global image by former President Donald Trump and the ongoing tinkering with electoral rules and gerrymande­ring in attack on Islam and Christiani­ty can alienate opinion in a wide swathe of nations, even if the government­s largely ignore it for political and diplomatic reasons.

This bid by the BJP to systematic­ally implement its Hindutva agenda will face resistance at home as the Opposition consolidat­es around issues of poor governance. Republican-controlled Supplantin­g a constituti­onal states casts further aspersions model on on US democracy. which the nation has That is why it was easier been governed for 75 for China and Russia to years will not be easy. It debunk the summit and is a reminder of Rome in even question the quality AD 384 when supporters of US democracy. The of surging Christiani­ty ambassador­s of both removed the pagan Altar nations penned a joint oped of Victory from the in a major US publicatio­n Roman Senate, after four to decry the “Cold centuries of it being War” thinking. The there. The New York Chinese foreign ministry Times, in a piece on even alleged that the US Christiani­ty’s decline as was turning democracy an organising principle into a “weapon of mass for Western civilisati­on, destructio­n” to interfere notes the views of pagan in the internal affairs of Roman philosophe­r other countries. China Symmachus. He rejected convened a rival gathering the dogmatic claims of of 120 nations, that it the new religion to truth named the Internatio­nal with the injunction that Forum on Democracy. there “cannot be only one

Prime Minister Narendra path toward such great Modi attended Mr mystery”. This is the Biden’s virtual summit question before proponents and described it as a of Hindutva as they “timely platform” for furthering try to constrict the cooperatio­n among Ganga-like openness and democracie­s. Pakistan, flow of traditiona­l which was invited Hinduism. but Sri Lanka was not, Archbishop Desmond decided to skip it to make Tutu of South Africa, who common cause with provided the moral moorings China. for his nation during

The Chinese foreign and after the apartheid ministry spokesman instantly era, has just passed away. described Pakistan He argued that anger at as a “real iron brother”. apartheid was natural, But the issue before India but it must not be allowed will be the growing gap to turn into hatred. He between the actions of the correctly noted that “Whites, BJP at home and the government’s in being those who liberal posturing oppress others, dehumanise­d abroad. This may not themselves”. This is continue to be ignored by a lesson that Mahatma the US as President Biden Gandhi also espoused. is planning an in-person Can the BJP also abide by summit to follow up on it and neutralise elements, the cause of democracy aligned to it, that later this year. feed on real and imagined

Even if one discounts historical hurts and religious the BJP’s electoral need prejudices. to polarise when facing Hopefully, the people of extremely vital state elections the five states would vote in Uttar Pradesh sensibly and endorse the and four other states, the thoughts of Mahatma attack on churches and Gandhi and Archbishop the fulminatio­ns by religious Tutu. leaders to eliminate

Islam at Haridwar, including by the use of violence, are condemnabl­e. This twin

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