The world in 2022: threats and hopes
The year 2022 has dawned with fireworks and crowds chanting “Happy New Year” in several world capitals; demonstrating the human determination to be optimistic and to keep the flame of hope alive for a better future. This was despite the reality of the emergence of the fifth wave of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, and the resulting deaths and global disruption. In the following paragraphs, we’ll try to summarize some of the natural and man-made threats the world is likely to face and also attempt to briefly touch on the silver lining on the horizon.
Covid-19 threat: Omicron variant will continue to ravage the world, posing a danger to global health; resulting in death and disruption. The pressure will be relatively greater on states with weak economies and inadequate health infrastructure. The epidemic has defied all predictions of decline. Rather, it has mutated into more virulent variants which do not respond to the existing family of vaccines. The Omicron variant has spread to European countries and the United States and, unfortunately, is quickly spreading to Asia and other parts of the world. The variant has already disrupted air traffic, around 4,000 flights have been canceled due to Omicron spread warnings. Global supply chains are likely to remain disrupted, leading to shortages and high prices of raw materials as well as finished products. Vaccine inequality will accentuate and deepen the political polarization between the developing and developed world, as vaccine supply to the poorest countries is limited due to insufficient quantity, disruption of the supply chain. supply and lack of adequate funding for vaccines. Experts have already warned that “Only a fully vaccinated world will be safe from the deadly virus.”
Hope: The human instinct for survival will hopefully prevail, and eventually a vaccine could be found that is potent against all variants of Covid 19. Hopefully supply chain disruptions and travel restrictions will subside as people learn smart ways to respond to restricted physical mobility. Robotic planes carrying vaccines have already been used in the United States by large 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 in the workplace with remote work and robots. Pilot projects are even underway to create holograms for teaching to students by teachers.
The human instinct for survival will hopefully prevail and eventually a vaccine could be found which is potent against all variants of Covid.
Military flashpoints: the threats
The main threats to the world are military hot spots i.e. Taiwan, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Middle East and Africa. The new cold war between the United States – the existing superpower – and the emerging superpower – China – looms 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 the antagonists could have serious consequences for world peace and security. Taiwan remains a raw nerve for China, any attempt to change the status quo is likely to attract the attention of both superpowers with grave consequences for world peace and security.
Russia threatened to invade Ukraine, while the United States declared such a move as a threat to its vital national interests. Ukraine also lobbied to join NATO as the ultimate guarantee against Russian threats. Russia warned against stationing NATO forces in Ukraine and declared such a move a “red line”.
Afghanistan has become a huge international humanitarian challenge as the West-backed government of Ashraf Ghani melted into the air as the United States carried out an ignominious withdrawal after a futile bloodshed by two decades that claimed the lives of more than 2,000 Americans and thousands of injured American soldiers and citizens working with the “contractors.” The Afghan mishap of more than US $ 1.2 trillion claimed hundreds of thousands of Afghan lives and more than 80,000 lives in Pakistan and the loss of US $ 150 billion for an already heavily indebted country.
The fascist and retrograde government of the BJP is pursuing a virtual siege of the inhabitants of Kashmir illegally occupied by the Indians. Mass arrests, extrajudicial killings and disappearances continue to be daily occurrences for the unfortunate inhabitants of this most beautiful valley. India has practically created an apartheid enclave in Kashmir.
The Middle East continues to be a bloody war zone for Palestinians, with forced evictions, arrests and humiliations by the Israeli military. The Muslim and Arab world remains silent spectator in the face of Israeli atrocities. African countries are beset by tribal rivalries that have escalated into fratricidal wars tearing states like Ethiopia apart.
Hope: The great powers overwhelmed by their internal economic and political challenges have so far kept away from these conflict zones. These small fires of local conflicts could continue to simmer but are not likely to be stoked by a conflagration by any of the so-called great powers. However, the retreat of the great powers into their internal domains has deprived the world of any world political or economic leadership, to keep the world political and economic order on a predictable course. The world will remain on the move due to both natural and man-made crises throughout the year 2022.
For Pakistan, the greatest threat comes from its unsustainable economy, due to the three-pronged threats described by Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, one of the leading economists. âPakistan’s economy faces a three-pronged challenge; internally, it faces soaring prices for essential commodities such as oil, gas, wheat, sugar and unusually high shipping costs on its foreign trade; at the regional level, it is grappling with the economic and financial fallout from an extremely volatile situation in Afghanistan; and at the national level, it is trying to cope with the declining value of the rupee and the lack of resources to control the prices of electricity, gas and oil.
The economic hardships of the Pakistani people are compounded by a mutually destructive political war of attrition between the main political parties, which has prevented the Government from building a national consensus on vital economic issues. The partisan political debate has only weakened a national discourse and consensus on crafting a sustainable national economic roadmap.
Hope: Pakistan with its large pool of economic and financial experts, who will hopefully play a facilitating role and help the government readjust the sails of the country’s economic vessel and navigate the headwinds.
The writer is the former Pakistani Ambassador to Vietnam