Print Edition - 2014-06-01  |  Free the Words

A full stop to the 20th century

- Zulfiqar Shah
A full stop to the 20th century

May 31, 2014-

It was neither the end nor the beginning. It was just a calendar-adjustment globally to the tune of the 21st century. Nevertheless, the inception of the new century some fifteen years ago ought to have left a deep socio-psychological impression on everyone. The global citizenry yearning for change wanted socio-political and eco-economic transformations in the real-time history of their own living generation. Have we really inched ahead, and tried to unbutton the change waiting to be? Not yet! Then, rest assured that the time has come to dig at the microcosm of a time-bound demand for this unavoidable discourse.  

Polarised diversity

We are undergoing a troika of issues and happenings—the transition from a unipolar to a multipolar world; the increasing globalisation of the state and the corporate sector in comparison with society and the resulting widening gap between state and society as well as global frictions; and the menace of terrorism that uses religion as a tool to create brainwashed homicidals.         

Our travel from the post-Soviet collapse to re-engagement in Afghanistan followed by Russia’s annexation of Crimea—no matter legitimately or otherwise—is nothing but a reflection of the emerging multiple centres of global power. What varying degree of geopolitical and strategic spread they possess is of little concern. Hence, an entirely new course of political and academic discourse is needed around this faster-than-ferries development.    

Stagnation in change

The maverick aspect of time and

space in the contemporary socio-political and economic course has been the unending conflict between the statuesque and change. This phenomenon is visible everywhere, with a

variation in degrees.

The unity and later on constructive differences on the issue of Afghanistan; the gradual emergence of India among the Asian powers; the Arab Spring and social movements around the world; the liberation of Kosovo and South Sudan; and the annexation of Crimea are the threadbares of political developments, which need wisdom for appropriate disposition. A wisdom that is beyond the scope of Machiavelli and Clausewitz.

Moreover, the threat of new conflicts among the gradually multi-polarising world that blinks now in Eurasia and then in Syria has made us all prone to a feeling of anxiety concerning global insecurity. As if all powers want to do everything for their interests alone, forgetting that the world requires a strategic balance and the fulfillment of the interests of larger global stakeholders. The world, however, cannot avoid mutually, bilaterally and collectively-agreed upon exceptionalism in their foreign policies for completing the unfinished tasks of the bygone century.

State-society honeymoon

The emergence of new social movements, fostering of freedom movements and secessionism, an increase in the role of the international community, particularly the United Nations, and the resurgence of conflicts in almost all major continents are indicative of a rethink about the relations between today’s society and the state.

The world has never seen a honeymoon between the state and society since both were yet to become full-fledged adults. However, the state has matured earlier than society, particularly in the developing world and the global south. Therefore, a new academic and analytical discourse is needed to engage with so that this new century may prove to be an appropriate time for state-society partnership for human development and collective achievements for attaining a sustainable future for our generations. It does not only require a transformation between state-society relationships. It also requires a new social contract between both so that ongoing socio-political movements may culminate into fruitful ends to the better interests of all.

Besides, the world has to give a final verdict for old and new regional movements brewing around hotspots like Kurdistan, Tamil, Sindh and Balochistan.   

Out of the box

Central and South Asia, as well as Africa, are the potential economic zones for the coming decades, which we need to focus on. Therefore a grand worldly, if not universal, cross can understandably be forecasted predeceasing the future shift in the policies of the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, India, Germany, Japan, Brazil, Australia, South Africa and South Korea. None in the future will be able to bypass this niche of old and new powers in the corridors of global maneuvering. If seen in this new developing arena, any irritant, like a possible Russia, European Union and US conflict, may stall mature engagements, like Afghanistan. If this is seen in the perspective of an alarmingly changing climate and its impacts on economies, a deep maturity towards the wider range of issues becomes inevitable.  

The remaining half of the ongoing and the whole of the next decade need visionary, calculated, and long lasting decisions from the world leadership. The challenges are enormous—eliminating the chances of large-scale wars; culminating the Afghanistan engagement into a meaningful end; strengthening the West’s relationships with Iran and India to further the Asian partnership; deciding about new nations yearning to become sovereign states; reforming the UN; redefining globally agreed legal instruments of sovereignty; creating a forum within the UN for the federated states of federations where they may exercise rights to self-determination without waging wars; and mapping global realignment along collective interests. Actions like these are required for a real transformation from the 20th century into the 21st.

Shah is a Sindhi refugee activist, analyst and journalist

Published: 01-06-2014 09:29

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