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After a chaotic 2020, new year starts on promising note

Last Updated : 04 January 2021, 02:01 IST
Last Updated : 04 January 2021, 02:01 IST

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Although the number of coronavirus infections around the world continues to surge and new variants of the virus pose new challenges, the New Year has begun on a somewhat promising note for the world. Vaccination of people against Covid-19 has begun in several countries. The fact that it is the wealthier countries that have access to the vaccine is troubling. The world’s experience of the pandemic in the year gone by, underscored the need for global co-operation in dealing with it. The international community must focus on universal rather than privileged access not just to the Covid-19 vaccine but to medical treatment and resources in general. Studies continue to stress that disparities are widening. Can global organisations move beyond producing reports about these disparities to implementing strategies to narrow them?

In 2020, the world looked away while Saudi Arabia continued its war against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Azerbaijani and Armenia went to war over Nagorno-Karabakh. A deadly conflict erupted in Ethiopia’s Tigray region. The world held its breath when a top Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani and the chief of its nuclear programme, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, were assassinated by the US and Israel, respectively. Would the already volatile West Asia plunge into war? Historic talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban began but violence in the war-ravaged country persisted, even surged. A rising China repeatedly flexed its muscles vis-à-vis its neighbours in East, South and Southeast Asia. India suffered the most this account, with Chinese troops occupying territory on the Indian side of their disputed border.

A new year has dawned but there are no signs of a de-escalation of tension between India and China. However, prospects of an improvement of relations between the US and Iran have brightened. The Joe Biden administration is likely to pursue a revival of the nuclear agreement. Adoption of a more diplomatic approach towards Tehran could yield some stability on that front. Biden is expected to take steps towards normalising relations with China too. How will 2021 pan out for Afghanistan? Another year of uncertainty lies ahead. Will the Taliban move closer to power in Kabul? Or will the Biden administration reconsider the decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan to force the Taliban to declare a ceasefire?

Forest fires, floods and pandemics caused much havoc and suffering in 2020. These crises should serve as a wake-up call for the international community to pay attention to non-traditional threats to human security, like climate change, viral outbreaks and human trafficking. A co-operative effort to tackle these threats would be more rewarding.

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Published 03 January 2021, 20:05 IST

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