Implosion and the risk of insularity

Israel's new PM has already rowed back over his one state single option by seeming to change tack on rejection of Palestinian statehood.

In the past few weeks the globalised world and economy have experienced all the symptoms that could be conducive to an implosion of the worst kind.

Economically, financially and also from a geo strategic perspective. Not to mention the looming threat of environmental deprivation too.

The recent terrorist attacks in Tunisia not only exposed the country’s fragility but also weakened its hopes of economic recovery.

It was a direct threat on hope itself, as this fledgling democracy grappled with its own future.

In Israel, although hawkish leaders have in the past often ended up paving the way for peace breakthroughs, the surprise electoral result led commentators to argue rightly or wrongly that what came across as a ‘scorched earth’ win risks spurring a trend towards global isolation. But since then the new PM has already rowed back over his one state single option by seeming to change tack on rejection of Palestinian statehood.

The first to alerting me to this possibility was a US contact of mine close to Democratic quarters, who had instantly drawn my attention to a curious op-ed in the New York Times that perversely seemed to rejoice in the renewal of the Israeli government by claiming that the Netanyahu win could actually work out to be good for Palestine. Being the only type of result that could bring behavioural change about.

Closer to home developments in Libya remain increasingly worrying although the solid EU position during the recent Brussels summit showed a far stronger closing of ranks than experienced in earlier summitry so far.

If the ISIS spread has become increasingly worrying over the past months, I found equally worrying the global weapons trade surge that has targeted Africa as imports to neighbouring countries such as Algeria and Morocco continued to soar. Even were we to ignore the proxy wars going on in Libya itself with countries, Gulf member states and beyond, competing among themselves in the provision of weaponry and in the ‘buying’ of political influence and clout.

Arms proliferation is always known to increase decade by decade but if there is one region where the global arms trade has grown tremendously in the past decade, this has been in Africa itself where military hardware of all types has grown faster than in any other region.

Compounding such arms sales with the associated violence and destruction as well as the collapse of various infrastructures right across the continent, there is room for much concern when this continent continues to offer so much hope and opportunity for economic growth and prosperity.

Ironically this sharp spending rise came at a time when soaring oil revenues tended to dip due to prevalent market forces.

In my opinion the most destabilising factor of the newly emergent phenomenon in Africa are the domestic insurgencies, as one can easily evidence close to home in Libya.

When I recently visited India I found out that in spite of its economic challenges ahead, India imported the most arms in the area, so much so that it was seriously considering boosting its own indigenous industry and trade. 

The most worrying aspect of the arms trade is that arms exports are often perceived as major foreign policy and security tools, while at the same time utilising such exports to address the increasing need to help one’s own country’s arms industry to maintain its own production levels at a time of decreasing military expenditure.

This applies to a number of Western democracies too.

In retrospect all these symptoms of real politik pale in significance when comparing and contrasting such trends to the fact that big countries like India often punch below their weight, by failing to achieve what they could and should be doing. 

This is indeed the most opportune moment for a timely contribution by the international community to the debate on states’ nationhood – be they small or large – their development process, their exercise of power, people’s own rights as well as the changing demographics of various countries as they face trysts with reality itself.

These are the symptoms that have brought about radical changes among the political class in various countries be they European, Asian or African.

People are fed up with woolly politics and the self-serving and ineffective dynastic leaderships that instilled a mood of defeatism in certain countries.

People all round want prime ministers who would, can and do take clear decisions and implement them, who streamline procedures and who curb corruption.

This explains why India opted for Modi as they were eager for someone to lead them to economic success with job opportunities and continued growth. 

Whether he and other leaders will succeed or not is purely incidental.

What matters is that such leaders have portrayed themselves as the only politicians capable of delivering this brighter future. This also explains why they won.

History is the best yardstick and litmus test to help us understand why certain countries have merely muddled through when they should have succeeded, as well as by turning confusion and adversity into varying degrees of success. 

The biggest threat certain countries face when risking implosion is insularity. They need to integrate fastest within a globalised economy without approaching their work untidily, erratically, argumentatively and corruptly especially once they get round to realising that old models on which their economies and societies were built can no longer survive – let alone thrive.

A need of focus is an imperative. The same way as the urgent need to adapt and show drive in times of increasingly rapid change.

Antonio Armellini, a former Italian Ambassador in Delhi, once wrote that no other country has India’s capacity to project the future into the present.

This is a telling lesson for one and all.

Primarily a neat way of saying that India and other countries enthusiastically take forecasts and projections for granted, projecting themselves as instant reality, while largely ignoring the need to work and make them come about.

We are lucky to have long looked reality straight in the face.

Others who opt for self denial will only do so at their own peril and expense.

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