The Telegraph
Monday , January 28 , 2013
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- How the year will go for the region and the planet

Following the same rules I set for myself in the last column, two sets of predictions, for the region and the planet, each set slotted into three tiers: nightmare, normal nightmare (all stays more or less the same), least apocalyptic (as in closest possible to optimism).

The Sub-continent:

Pralaygeddon: This could be bad. Predicting disasters for our little neighbourhood that stretches, arguably, from Rangoon to Rawalpindi and from Mazar-e-Sharif to Matara is as easy and as dangerous as playing Russian roulette with four of six chambers loaded — you’re bound to get something right. All it would take to make this a really bad year would be one event, either natural or part or fully man-made, say a tsunami or a sudden rise in sea levels, say a huge drought, say a war or a wave of genocide. If we were to become victims of a combination of any two disasters we’ve really had it.

Put any of these two together and you’ll see what I mean. From column A choose one: a tsunami that hits Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu, swiping somewhat at coastal Odisha, Po-Bang and Bangladesh; an earthquake in Azadi occupied Kashmir or Kutch, or one that destroys the Tehri-Garhwal dam; a missing monsoon that causes a massive drought in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Gujarat; a rogue monsoon that causes massive flooding in Bihar and south Pakistan. Now pick one favourite (okay, since you’re a masochist, pick two) from column B and add to your first choice: ethnic violence erupts again in the Arakan area, sending droves of Muslim refugees flooding into Bangladesh, something which disrupts our neighbour’s hard-won social balance and allows the Islamists to stage a comeback; Po-Bang, in the meantime, is caught up in a three-way civil war between the Trinamul Congress, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Maoists, a conflict that’s called ‘low-level’ by the media of the outside world only because they have bigger headlines to fry; an undeclared, bloody, ruinously expensive, attritional silent war on the Indo-Pak border; a loudly proclaimed civil war inside Pakistan, again a three-way cluster-ruck between the Pakistan Peoples Party factions, the jihadis and a self-devouring army; a new explosion of anger in the Kashmir Valley; an escalation of the fighting in central India with the air force joining in full time, fighters, swadeshi drones and all; an Indian economy in a tail-spin; a chain effect of violent protests by young people in the major Indian cities, the violence multiplied by a cretinous response by a weak government and a terrified police.

Noermal-sa Sityushun: The Burmese generals control their ethnic strife, the Bangladeshi generals still back the government and it stays in power in spite of hanging a few low-ranking razakars, the Sri Lankan generals stay in their pens, the Indian generals refuse to enter any other war than the one they are engaged in to save their public reputations, the Pakistani generals continue to spread their toxicity but stop short of grabbing back the broken steering wheel in Islamabad.

The economy of Burma improves in leaps and bounds, the Bangladeshi economy stays stable, that of India continues its slow slide but doesn’t quite implode.

At the end of the year, most of us, several million of us Sub-continentals, heave a collective sigh: nothing very much has improved, true, but things could have been much, much worse.

Afeem Khaao, Taali Bajaao: The Indian Sub-continent shows signs of both countrywise as well as collective out-of-the-box thinking and begins to lead the world out of darkness.

Starting west and going east this time, the situation in Pakistan eases like a boil that’s burst, and with its pus drained away. Whatever their base considerations, the Indian government refuses to play the provocation game and pulls back from escalating the conflict with Pakistan. Pressure from the United States of America and internal imperatives reach the point where the majority of the Pak military establishment actually concentrates on ridding the country of its jihadi networks. All over India, the penny drops that doing things like banning visits by the very Pakistani authors who are taking on their military and feudal establishments is both foolish and counter-productive for our security. Increasing normalization of Indo-Pak relations leads to increased trade and, by the end of the year, the businessmen who call the shots in China and India are joined by the Pakistani businessmen in uniform: these profit-parasites come to an agreement that war and simmering tensions are counter to proper dhanda and should be avoided in future. Simultaneously, other things improve inside India in spite of the best efforts of various evil people in power (see ‘Ecstacy-addicted’ section of previous column). Trade and borders with Bangladesh become more and more normal, with a huge beneficial effect on the Indian states around Bangladesh; suddenly there is a realization that we are a sub- region within the larger region of the Sub-continent, an area still united by deep cultural affinities, and this is where the first real steps are taken towards a Sub-continental federation with open borders a la the European Union.

One or two minor natural disasters do take place, as they are bound to, but the unified cross-border response by the Sub-Con group of countries brings relief and some kind of believable peace. The rest of the world looks on, cynical, some powers a bit dismayed perhaps, but no one can deny that the region turned a corner in the crucial year of 2013.

The Planet:

The End of the Whirld (Take 2): Take the combinations mentioned above and multiply by ten. By December 2013, there is an intertwined band of war and violent ecological disaster that runs across the middle latitudes of the globe, from Morocco to Macau. Instead of quietening towards peace, northern Africa explodes, dragging Nato deeper into conflicts it can’t handle. Israel launches a disastrous attack on Iran, one that backfires very badly and pours petrol over the burning ‘Middle’ East. This in turn knocks into Baluchistan and into the already gaping wound that is the Sub-continent.

In the meantime, the US breaks out into its own civil war as NRA types open up on the state police and National Guard elements attempting to confiscate the light machine-guns and rocket-launchers the gun-lovers are toting to supermarkets and high school sports days. British cities explode against the government’s rich-saving austerity measures, in what is dubbed ‘Austerage!’ by the tabloids. George Osborne is the first top minister to flee the country, fearing for his life, the London Metropolitan Police having refused to protect any Tory cabinet members. This last isn’t exactly a tragedy as such, but the part the collapse of British law and order plays in the larger tragedy of the Europe-wide unrest is very bad news indeed. By the end of this year, with Europe in a stalemate between mobs and police, with the aforementioned ‘middle band’ burning and the US in upheaval, the world suddenly looks like an extremely compartmentalized and dangerous place.

The Ball spins on (normally): a repeat of 2013 with small variations except, ecologically, we slide ever closer to the point of no return.

You call it U-Topia, I call it You toh Bahut Piya!: Yes, normally one has to have drunk a lot of some very strong brew to even think of any optimism, but a scribe with predictive predilections must do it, and that too without any liquid help. So here is one, single broad projection, wishful thinking, fantasy (that is, don’t look for logic in what follows), call it what you will. Imagine one of those Hollywood sequences where an out-of-control monster-machine is about to decimate a mega-city, a sequence which ends in an unlikely happy ending when the machine (with a little help from the super-hero) self-destructs at the last possible moment. Similarly, my hope is that whatever be the chain of events, disasters, bad political decisions and wilful mistakes by the rulers of countries, at the end of the year we will suddenly see that huge, gaping, debilitating holes have been left in the juggernauts that have continually driven us closer and closer to ecological meltdown.

Whether it means Obama is so busy dealing with gun-control and Palestine-Israel that he doesn’t get time to okay new oil-drilling in various places, whether the Indian car industry collapses along with the blight of the IPL, whether a combination of a new war in the Middle East and Texas trying to secede from the US cripples the oil industry worldwide, therefore forcing us to do without our private motor-cars, whether it’s an erupting volcano that grounds all aircraft for several months (with eventual beneficial effects to the atmosphere becoming apparent), I hope the accumulative result at the end of 2013 is that the damage we are causing our planet somehow comes to a screeching, clanging halt. Everything else, all other issues, can be picked up from there on. After a cocktail of serendipitous upheavals, most solutions to the world’s pressing problems might suddenly look self-evident in a way they don’t currently, at the grim beginning of this year.