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Yearender 2014

Posted at: Dec 26, 2014, 7:53 PM; last updated: Dec 26, 2014, 7:53 PM (IST)WORLD

Birth of extremes, death of innocence

Some glimer's of hope came in an otherwise dark year

Roopinder Singh

A wall of mistrust between the US and Cuba was breached by the sagacity of the Presidents of these two countries; SAARC leaders descended on Delhi to attend the swearing-in of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister; Scottish people rejected the lure of separatism...
...And in the meanwhile, terrorists descended to the ever more horrifying levels by targeting children and teenagers.
2014 was a year of darkness for the embattled state of Iraq as an army of militants, calling itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), took control of Falluja, and soon proceeded to take over a vast swath of territory in Iraq. Brutal tactics and a weak Iraqi opposition enabled them to establish themselves quickly. Indians were caught in the quicksand of the shifting geo-political situation and while nurses from Kerala were swiftly evacuated, several immigrants from Punjab are still stuck there — their fate uncertain.
A few months later, Boko Haram militants kidnapped more than 270 teenaged girls from a boarding school in Chibok, Nigeria. The world went “atwitter” with sympathy — some girls were rescued, but most were lost as something else grabbed the world’s attention. ISIS terrorists took hostages and beheaded western captives in a series of acts that the world watched with horror. The US and its allies responded with airpower, but without the boots on the ground that would have made the difference.
The UK became the latest western country to withdraw from Afghanistan, even as the embattled nation successfully conducted elections. Ashraf Ghani became the new President, after protracted negotiations.
Israel’s Operation Protective Edge against Hamas earned it international criticism as it deteriorated into an artillery battle in which many civilians were killed. Russian support for Ukranian separatists and its virtual annexation of Crimea became a flashpoint. Civilian lives, 298 of them, came in the line of fire when a surface-to-air missile, purported to have been fired by Russian supported Ukranian rebels, brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Russia, too, paid the price for this, as crippling Western sanctions have hurt its economy since.
The year was particularly bad for civil aviation. The disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 with 239 on board in March became an enduring mystery. In July, 48 persons were killed in a plane crash in Taiwan, and an Air Algerie plane crashed in Mali, killing 116 persons.
While the shadows of terror loomed large over many parts of the world, human resilience and people power kept hope aloft. The Scottish referendum showed how mature democracies deal with separatist sentiment. A majority of the Scottish people voted to remain in the United Kingdom, and London responded with a string of special measures and sops for them.
In a former British territory, Hong Kong, residents, largely students, came out on the streets to protest peacefully against what they saw as Chinese encroachment into the affairs of this Asian commercial hub. The Chinese have responded with maturity and patience so far.
The Ebola outbreak in Guinea became a pandemic that engulfed its neighbouring nations. The world scrambled to protect itself and the pandemic was contained. It has not been eradicated and has cost over 5,600 lives so far.
India and Pakistan were united in celebration when the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014 was given to Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai jointly “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.” Schoolchildren, however, became the victims of Taliban brutality at the fag end of the year when the terrorists killed 134 students of the Army public school  in Peshawar. India joined the world in strongly condemning the attack and in an outpouring of sympathy for the victims, but this was an aberration.
In spite of starting well when Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other SAARC leaders attended Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing-in, relations between the two neighbours deteriorated. There was increased militant activity and firing by the Pakistani forces on the border even as Lahore was ‘occupied’ by people who demanded Sharif’s resignation. Pakistan suffered as terror imploded, with suicide bombers killing innocent people with a distressing frequency, reminding the world of Hillary Clinton’s statement: “You can’t keep snakes in your backyard and expect them only to bite your neighbours.”
Indian engagement with its neighbours increased under the Prime Minister’s active stewardship. New Delhi hosted important leaders. Chinese President Xi Jinping came to India, promising much, delivering little, even as the incursion by Chinese troops into Indian territory cast a shadow over the visit.
Overall, the Prime Minister’s ‘look- East policy’ has resulted in positive engagement with the neighbours. His visit to Washington caused much excitement. President Vladimir Putin revitalised Moscow’s longstanding military ties with India with the two countries signing a number of agreements.
Terrorism may have dominated the discourse in 2014, but for much of the world, it was a mixed year. The groundwork laid by Modi will bear fruit in the next year with President Obama scheduled to be the first US President to be the Chief Guest at the Republic Day Parade in January.

Race rage:  Police brutality in the USA took
a racial turn as two verdicts let off White cops who had allegedly killed Black suspects, sparking off protests                          

Return of the natives:  The Indian government brought back several stranded nurses from Kerala as violence erupted in Libya                                                                  

nigerian horror: The kidnapping of over 270 girls by Boko Haram militants in Nigeria caused concern among western celebrities, including Michelle Obama

The no vote:  Scottish people gave a huge reason to the UK to celebrate by rejecting the move for independence
in a referendum                                                                 

shared glory: Elections threw up some interesting power combinations in Afghanistan. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai has a lot of ground to cover as the new President

DEMOCRATIC DREAMS: Pro-democracy protesters took over the streets of
Hong Kong following China’s refusal
to grant citizens universal suffrage

New Innings: Imran Khan led massive protest rallies against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Pakistan, but failed to gain any significant advantage                                                 

Holy high: Indian priest Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Indian Carmelite nun Euphrasia Eluvathingal were canonised by Pope Francis in the Vatican                        

INDIAN MATA HARI: Noor-un- Nisa Inayat Khan, a spy who worked for Britain in France during World War II, was commemorated with a Royal Mail stamp

The Rising Sun of recession: Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe won the mid-term poll, which empowers him to take difficult economic decisions                              

russian bear: Coping with economic woes, Russian President Vladimir Putin annexed the Crimean Peninsula, attracting further sanctions by the West                          

DANCE OF DEATH: Blood and gore remained the way of life in the Gaza Strip as Israeli air strikes pummelled  Palestinian areas causing many civilian casualities


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