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Posted at: Dec 31, 2017, 3:15 PM; last updated: Dec 31, 2017, 3:55 PM (IST)WORLD

At a glance, a topsy-turvy world

From increased global apprehensions of a possible war to a tumultuous Middle East to terror attacks, much changed after Donald Trump became president of the most powerful country
At a glance, a topsy-turvy world

Nobody’s people

The world watched with horror at the forced exodus of more than six lakh Rohingyas who faced loot, arson, rape, murder by the army and Buddhist majority in Myanmar. After meeting the traumatised Rohingya Muslim men, women and babies in dire condition at refugee camps, Pope Francis said, “The presence of God today is also called Rohingya.” He called the stateless minority Rohingya, the ethnic identity denied to them by the Myanmarese, who call them ‘Bengalis’ or Bangladeshi illegal immigrants. The Myanmarese army rejected UN allegations of ‘ethnic cleansing’. Serious questions remained on the right of return of refugees under a repatriation agreement with Dhaka, following Chinese mediation.

The forgotten war

More than 1,50,000 people, with nearly half of them civilians as per UN estimates, have lost their lives so far in the bloody conflict in Yemen. Since the fall of the internationally recognised government in 2014 to Houthis or the Shiite rebels loyal to former President Saleh, Yemen has turned into a regional chessboard. The international champions of human rights are muted over a Saudi-led coalition blockading and bombing the country as it faces a humanitarian catastrophe and famine. Meanwhile, Saleh has indicated his willingness to engage with the Saudi coalition to end the war.

A bloody New Year

The shooting at an Istanbul nightclub in the early hours of the first day of 2017, killing at least 39, ushered in a bloody New Year, which saw some 1,100 terror strikes across the globe. In August, Barcelona witnessed a terrorist plough a van into a crowd, killing at least 13. June shook Londoners as a man mowed down worshippers at the Finsbury Park mosque while terrorists went on a killing spree at pubs and restaurants near Borough market. The world watched with horror as at least 22 lives were lost at an Ariana Grande concert at the Manchester Arena in May. Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Libya, Somalia and Afghanistan, too, saw mass killings. 

Smoke and mirrors

Pakistan called it its humane face, while India termed it a sham. India issued a battery of charges after the meeting in Islamabad between Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav, who was sentenced to death on charges of espionage and terrorism, and his wife and mother. The meeting could have helped open some dialogue between the two neighbours witnessing bloodshed on the Line of Control. Instead, it added to the bitterness with India accusing Pakistan of coercing Jadhav and ill-treating the visiting family. The fight for Jadhav’s consular access meanwhile continues in the ICJ in Hague.

Fall of the Caliphate

The year saw the fall of the last stronghold of the Islamic State in war-torn Syria. Raqqa, political capital of the Caliphate, fell to Kurdish fighters after street battles and bombing by coalition forces. For three years, the IS controlled oilfields, refineries, smuggling routes, arms stockpiles, a nearly eight million population and maintained Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq, as its economic capital. IS has lost territory but return of foreign fighters and affiliates to the US, the UK, Europe will pose challenges of terror strikes, lone wolf attacks and global jihad though in a diminished capacity.

Rise of the Right

Even as 2017 comes to an end, the resurgence of far right in Europe resonates with the Freedom Party of Austria (FPO) forming a coalition government with the conservative People’s Party. Founded by a Nazi functionary in the 1950s, FPO fought on anti-immigrant, extreme nationalism planks similar to Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France, which won 34 per cent of the vote share. In Germany, another far right party Alternative for Germany became the third largest party in the Bundestag while Party for Freedom turned into second largest party in the Netherlands.

The judicial win

Few would have predicted that an election for judges to the International Court of Justice would go down to the wire reflecting the developing versus developed world fight at the United Nations. For the first time since it was established in 1945, the UK lost its seat with India’s nominee Dalveer Bhandari re-elected after a neck and neck contest. The veto wielding permanent members of the Security Council — the US, Russia, France and China threw their weight behind the British candidate Christopher Greenwood, whose nomination ultimately UK withdrew in a sudden move. 

Cry for Catalan

It was a rude jolt for Spain that had to send thousands of police reinforcements to north eastern Catalonia to stop an Independence Referendum on October 1. Scores were injured in violence that marred the polling taking place despite the constitutional court declaring it as illegal. Separatist parties received substantial majority of votes in the ‘illegal’ referendum as well as in early elections held in December after the sacking of Catalan President Puigdemont and imposition of the direct rule from Madrid. Catalan remained a hotspot of confrontation. 

Fire and fury, virtually

Donald Trump versus ‘rocket man’ Kim Jong Un saga has increased global apprehensions of a possible war in the Korean peninsula. Trump promised ‘fire and fury’ on North Korea on Twitter, following it up with increased sanctions against the dictatorial rogue regime. An undeterred Kim tested nearly a dozen short to long range missiles, with claims of the latest ICBM capable of hitting the US mainland. South Korea hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics is edgy. In a significant shift, Japan is acquiring missiles and ground-based interceptors to boost their defence system.

The rise and rise of Xi

A princeling or the son of a top Communist party leader, today Xi Jinping’s name and ideology have been enshrined into the Chinese constitution. As the world watched, Xi was endorsed for a second five-year presidential term. In his first term, Xi strengthened his grip over economic reforms, lashed the whip at some three lakh party members under the anti-corruption drive and purged the military. From South China Sea aggression to holding leverage over North Korea to its mammoth One Belt One Road mission, China entered a new era under Xi’s vision.

Naya national Nepal

Nationalism surge drove outcomes in historic provincial and federal elections in Nepal. K P Oli of CPN-UML and Prachanda of CPN-Maoist joined hands, despite an adversarial past. The Left alliance gained majority to the surprise of India. China’s shadow on the elections was unmissable. Oli had blamed India for his fall from the PM’s post in 2016. He gained popular support through an anti-India sentiment whipped around the economic blockade of 2015, which India blames on agitating Madhesis protesting the new constitution. 

Ignoble silence

The Iron Lady of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, disappointed the world with lack of stand on the Rohingya crisis. When Suu Kyi finally spoke in a televised address, it was too little, too late. There were no condemnations, only a hollow defence and unconvincing assurances in her speech. Activists sought rescinding of her Nobel Peace Prize. She was stripped off the ‘Freedom of Oxford’ honour bestowed on her in 1997, while she invited foreign diplomats for managed tours of the Rakhine state. Amid condemnation, Suu Kyi sought economic and political support during her first official visit to Beijing. 


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