An urgent clarion call to build a global fraternity
To deal with challenging circumstances worldover, the world requires compassion, cooperation and complete solidarity, but what is happening is just the opposite.
The tragic war between Russia and Ukraine is now almost in its seventh month. The assault and humiliation faced by Ukrainian citizens in this period will be remembered as the stigma of the 21st century. This war has also shattered the claim that the United States (US) and its allies are committed to humanity, equality and poverty eradication. They have shown themselves to be nothing but selfish.
Did you know that when the US attacked Iraq, neighbouring Arab countries, Germany and Japan bore roughly 80% of the costs? Similarly, Russia and the US fought the Taliban for two decades in Afghanistan, but got nowhere. There was much bloodshed to stop the Taliban, but it is back in power in Kabul. US strategists may continue to claim that the Taliban has changed now, but how could the Taliban government be unaware that Ayman al-Zawahiri had been living in a posh area of Kabul for months?
Let us return to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
This war has not only caused widespread fear of a third World War, but also planted the seeds of some new fears. Even if we were successful in preventing the Chinese-Russian partnership from sparking major wars, the threat of a new imperialism remains. Stalin once sent tanks to Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia; today, imperialist China treats Taiwan in the same manner. China has already caused tensions on the Indian border. There is no guarantee that such encroachments will not occur elsewhere against its neighbours in the future. In these dire circumstances, even if the superpowers manage to avoid a third World War, Cold War 2.0 is already at our doorstep. The ill omens do not stop here.
Unfortunately, 2022 will be remembered as one of the most tragic years in human history in terms of starvation. Even before the war, approximately 830 million people all over the world were doomed to sleep every night without adequate nutrition. Malnutrition used to kill approximately 3.1 million children each year.
As a result, migration, human trafficking and terrorism were flourishing, but this war has worsened this situation. One reason behind this is that Ukraine accounts for 10% of the world’s export of wheat. In the case of sunflower seeds and oil, its market share is 46%. Similarly, Russia is a significant agricultural exporter. Russian farmers export roughly 19% of the world’s wheat. These figures combined suggest a new and troubling picture.
However, on July 22, under the direction of the United Nations, an agreement to resolve such a situation was reached. Food grain exports resumed on August 4, but the impact on the ground will take time to become visible. Another question arises here: How can war and normal trade coexist? Why would Russia want Ukraine to receive any money from anywhere, knowing that it will ultimately be used against it? This war has thrown the world into disarray.
Consider what would happen if China invaded Taiwan and the world imposed nearly the same restrictions on it as it did on Russia. Despite feeding its massive population, China exports 1.66% of its food grains to the rest of the world. It can worsen an already problematic situation. Now, let’s talk about India.
In addition to being self-sufficient in farm products, Indian farmers also make up 2% of the world’s food exporters. Unfortunately, seven states across the nation are currently experiencing a severe drought. Where it rained, it rained so heavily that it damaged the crops; and where it didn’t, the farmland is parched and cracking. It is not just our country that has had such bad luck. The worst drought in Europe’s history has affected Spain, Portugal, France, and Italy. The two biggest economies in the world, the US and China, are experiencing a similar situation. According to US agronomists, 40% of this year’s cotton crop was devastated. In addition, there is a severe drought affecting six Chinese provinces. There, the Yangtze, the third largest river in the world, has dried up.
All this is taking place as a result of La Niña. A warmer atmosphere absorbs more rainfall from the land, increasing the likelihood of drought, according to Isla Simson, a climate scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in the US. La Niña typically lasts between nine and 12 months, but this time it is still manifesting itself, even after this duration. As a result, worries about a further rise in hunger cannot be discounted.
To deal with these challenging circumstances, the world requires compassion, cooperation and complete solidarity, but what is happening is just the opposite. Do the ominous clouds of impending war mean that phrases like “global village” and “global fraternity” are merely political catchphrases?
Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan
The views expressed are personal