Complex global challenges

  • Western powers should adopt an ‘out-of-the-box’ approach and take far-sighted steps to ensure stability
- Zulfiqar Shah

Apr 18, 2017-

Political transitions are taking place throughout the world. A wave of popular protectionism in the West against immigrations, the non-resolution of the Afghan issue, the growing challenge posed by North Korea, and the rising influence and strategic initiatives of China are features of this transition. Relations between Russia and the US are at the core of these developments. This has helped various actors take advantage of the situation. In the meantime, there are heightened threats from the Islamic State (IS) and Al-Qaeda, as exhibited by recent terrorism attempts at the UK Parliament and elsewhere.  

The Afghan crisis

For a while, the US appeared to be temporarily absent from the resolution of the Afghan crisis, giving space to Russia and China to vie for leading the process of peace negotiations. Afghanistan, the US, India and some other countries are of the opinion that Pakistan is the reason that the Taliban phenomenon is persisting. Afghan officials were quoted as saying that the emergence of IS in Afghanistan would be curbed once the Taliban is silenced. The IS-Taliban nexus—with the help of groups that have split from Taliban, Al-Qaeda and Central Asian terrorist outfits—is increasing its activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

Additionally, Afghanistan and several other Central Asian countries are landlocked and the nearest route to the sea for them is either through Pakistan or Iran. Reconnecting Afghanistan with the world through the sea could create stability; however, the world has to choose whether Pakistan or Iran would be most viable for this purpose. But there are other issues to consider here. There are possibilities of US engagement with Iran through India, since India is interested in developing a port in Iran. Pakistan is developing the Gwadar and Karachi ports with the support of China through the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC); this will also connect Afghanistan, Russia and other Central Asian countries with the Indian Ocean.

Threat of terrorism

The IS, in recent years, has emerged as a major security threat to the world. Its continuous recruitment from Iraq, Syria and other West Asian countries, and from India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh through the use of modern means of communication has turned this outfit into a serious security threat to the world. It has a two-pronged strategy: it is fighting guerrilla warfare in Iraq; and it is using terrorism in Europe, USA, Afghanistan, India and to some extent in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Besides, according to some reports, Al-Qaeda is silently working on its resurgence. This situation not only calls for a new collective approach to security, but also a fundamental initiative to alter the thinking of the Muslim population at large. A hitherto minority Salafi sect of Islam has been the major school of thought behind violent Muslim expressions. A Sufi Muslim approach can be a way to address this challenge. 

China is advancing strategically in many directions. It is investing in infrastructure—rails, roads and ports—and businesses in Asia, Africa and probably in some parts of Europe. It is investing $54 billion in Pakistan for CPEC; it is constructing roads and developing the Gwadar Port to link Africa and Europe through the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. It is constructing a “silk route” to Central Asian countries and developing a rail track to Nepal. China is also making its presence felt in the Indian Ocean. In the upcoming decade, China would be strategically present in Asia, Africa and Europe, and would also have a bustling economy. Its importance in achieving peace and stability in the Korean peninsula is undeniable.

This patchy nexus of strategic and security developments in the world is creating a space for various elements to grow. The new situation has been pronounced after the row between Russia, NATO and the EU over Crimea in 2014. To tackle the situation prudently and to maintain stability for our generation, western powers should adopt an “out-of-the-box” approach and take far-sighted steps. An engagement with Russia, China, Iran and other rivals of the west is required. Would the US, the UK and the EU work together to achieve this?  

Shah is a Sindhi refugee journalist, analyst and activist currently staying in New Delhi

Published: 18-04-2017 08:31

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