Out of my mind: A dangerous world

President Vladimir Putin is happy to help him in bombing civilians and aid convoys, and starving Aleppo of medical supplies. No one knows how many have died or how many will yet die.

Written by Meghnad Desai | Updated: October 16, 2016 12:34 am
In this picture taken, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016, provided by the Syrian Civil Defense group known as the White Helmets, Syrian Civil Defense workers take out a boy, alive, from the rubble, in rebel-held eastern Aleppo, Syria. Activists and rescue workers say an intensive day of bombing on besieged rebel-held parts of Aleppo has left at least 25 people dead, including five children. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says Wednesday that Tuesday's bombings killed 25 people. The Syrian Civil Defense, a team of first responders, and activist media platform Aleppo Media Center put the death toll at 41. (Syrian Civil Defense- White Helmets via AP) In this picture taken, Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2016, provided by the Syrian Civil Defense group known as the White Helmets, Syrian Civil Defense workers take out a boy, alive, from the rubble, in rebel-held eastern Aleppo, Syria. (Syrian Civil Defense- White Helmets via AP)

Aleppo is an old city, a Mediterranean entreport mentioned in Shakespeare’s Othello. It is a jewel of the Middle East. Or was. It is being relentlessly bombed. Its water supply has been turned off. President Bashar al-Assad is determined to punish Aleppo because it is held by the rebels. President Vladimir Putin is happy to help him in bombing civilians and aid convoys, and starving Aleppo of medical supplies. No one knows how many have died or how many will yet die.

The most astonishing thing is that all this is happening with no marches down the streets of London or New York, let alone Delhi or Kolkata. There is no shame or outrage felt in the Muslim umma about this genocidal phenomenon. No leader of a Muslim nation — Malaysia, Indonesia or any of the North African Muslim countries, not Pakistan or the Organisation of Islamic Countries — has registered any protest about Muslims killing each other.

The United Nations is of course useless as always. Its Security Council is dysfunctional when the permanent members confront each other. Be it Israel-Palestine, or Cyprus or even Kashmir, the UN does not solve problems or guarantee peace. It could not even manage to elect a woman as secretary general as it planned to. It reminds us of the League of Nations, which failed during the 1930s.

Back then, the Spanish Civil War, between the Fascists and the Communists, was a rehearsal of the Second World War. The bombing of Guernica was immortalised by Picasso in his famous painting. Here we are 80 years later watching a repeat of that horror but in Syria, not Spain. The Cold War may have ended 25 years ago but it looks like it may be hotting up. The Americans and the Russians are once again exchanging insults. Having taken parts of Ukraine without any serious military challenge from America, Putin has become bolder. Russia can acquire access to a salt water port on the Mediterranean which it has wanted for a long time.

The Old Order of US hegemony with some helpful allies like the UK is crumbling. America went into Afghanistan and then into Iraq. Now after a military campaign longer than its Vietnam war, America is exhausted and unwilling to send its army to fight ISIS or restore order in Syria. It is facing a challenge from China in the South China Sea. The Philippines President is openly abusing Barack Obama.

In the days when America was the superior military power or the sole superpower after the collapse of the USSR, many people argued that the world needed a multi-polar order. Now we have got it. Under Obama, America has steadily withdrawn from its previous activist stance. Hillary Clinton, if she wins, will not change that. It is hard to say what Donald Trump might do. He talks tough but may not be effective if Congress refuses to grant him what he asks as President.

The world is much more unsafe than was the case during the Cold War. India will have to figure out who will come to fight beside it if and when serious conflict breaks out in the Himalayas. The alliance that Manmohan Singh forged with the USA may not be as valuable as seemed to be the case 10 years ago. Be prepared.

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    concerned indian muslim
    Oct 16, 2016 at 12:05 pm
    Wow! how shallow knowledge, this columnist has. I used to think a person needs to be really smart and educated to write for Indian Express. Clearly not the case. When he says "There is no shame or outrage felt in the Muslim umma about this genocidal phenomenon" all he is doing is pandering to the right wing Hindus in India and insulting Indian Muslims. Do the non Muslim not need to feel a sense of outrage when scores of toddlers die for no fault of theirs. Or does the author inquire about the religion first and save his empathy for his own kind.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;I am a Muslim and a very avid Indian Express reader. With a very high degree of confidence, I can say that Muslim sentiments are deeply hurt with whats happening in Syria and its embarring that there isn't much we can do, given our weak condition internationally. But adding insult to injury are such columns in respected papers.
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      C S
      Oct 16, 2016 at 11:04 pm
      Good article; in wars the religious affinity does not play a role; each country sees how it was affected and acts according to its self interest. It is therefore natural that there cannot be unanimity among the Islamic states whether to side with ad or with IS. The situation is similar to the World Wars when the Christian countries were pitted against each other.
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      1. G
        GG
        Oct 16, 2016 at 7:49 pm
        I respect your sentiment - but at the same time - the street protests in various countries against certain 'cartoons' and against Rushdie's book - and horrible photos at street corners at certain places in Kerala during the gaza - israel conflict allegedly due to Israel bombings - have not happened during Syria conflict or Saudi bombings of Yemen - if this is not hypocritical what else is??
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          jagar
          Oct 17, 2016 at 7:53 am
          Having started the disturbances,USA is responsible for all the instability.It armed Syrian rebels against a duly elected Govt.But this blinkered eye British refuses to see facts.
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          1. K
            Kalikutty
            Oct 16, 2016 at 2:23 pm
            Your,Lordship,You are really out of your mind if you have any.From London Your Lordship engage in spewing venom against the Dalits and minorities for Modi.Wish you remained in London with all the comforts Your Lordship are from peer ship accorded to Your Lordship by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth
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            1. M
              Murthy
              Oct 16, 2016 at 9:12 am
              Lord Desai is right to say that the USA is now on retreat. The Chinese knew this earlier than anyone else. That is why they poured millions of tons of sand and rubble to enlarge those tiny rocks in the South China sea into Air / Naval bases. As for India, Modi also knows that the USA has never been such a reliable power to help INDIA militarily... Their customary support and military dealings with stan has not diminished. So, Modi continues to buy military hardware from Russia, France and Israel. Modi will ensure that the Indian Army, Air Force and Navy are not 'push overs'. Rafaels and Agnis can carry nuclear loads.
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                Murthy
                Oct 16, 2016 at 9:04 am
                Yes, we know that Muslims have never commented on, or questioned, Muslims killing other Muslims. The OIC never condemned stan for killing three million East stani civilians, about quarter of them Muslims and the rest Hindus. OIC has not condemned Saudi for starving and killing SHIAS in Yemen. Feroz Khan, the Bollywood actor, on a visit to stan condemned Muslims killing Muslims in stan. He was thrown out of stan and declared persona non grata. An Ahmadi or Shia or Ismaili is safer in India than in stan.
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                1. M
                  Manzoor
                  Oct 16, 2016 at 7:15 am
                  But this all started by US only. First they destro the Iraq and then Libya and created a huge vacuum of no polital power. Then they tried to topple Syrian government and doing so they helped Al-Nusra (opposition militia) and from there onward ISIS was created by some members of Al-Nusra. Since there was large political vacuum ISIS expanded rapidly and become a big(world) headache.
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                    naidu kare
                    Oct 16, 2016 at 5:36 am
                    It's about time to sit back and read Ramayana Deasi bhai.
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                    1. S
                      Sitaram
                      Oct 16, 2016 at 6:55 pm
                      The present scenario is because US rushed into things like Afghan or Iraq without any vision or kindness towards the people of the countries, to simply scare off or score brownie points against its perceived opponents. For that it even made really unholy ociations. The resultant anarchy has spawned avoidable mayhem all over. Now not only US has no plans or benevolent objectives, it is also tired if not become weak. So it is not really multi polar, it is a vacuum.
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                      1. R
                        rddy
                        Oct 16, 2016 at 1:55 am
                        There is no shame or outrage felt in the Muslim umma about this genocidal phenomenon. No leader of a Muslim nation — Malaysia, Indonesia or any of the North African Muslim countries, not stan or the Organisation of Islamic Countries — has registered any protest about Muslims killing each other.lt;br/gt;But all Islamic nations are worried and condemned about Human Rights in Kashmir???, this is what true Islamist do, they always unite against a Kaffir ,even though they know that kashmir Terrorism is created and supported by stan
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                        1. S
                          Sawan
                          Oct 16, 2016 at 5:20 pm
                          Ask the question, how can a Hindu oppose the likes of you? And you have your answer. The world today is insecure as never before and the common people who are relatively secure or better off are afraid of losing what they have. Hence they avoid any confrontation and the possibility of losing the relatively better life they have.
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                          1. S
                            SP
                            Oct 16, 2016 at 8:10 am
                            If we step back, US involvement in Syria to unseat ad was at the root of the problem, The regime change in Lybia, Egypt or Iraq have led to more violence, terrorism and sectarian killings. Islamic countries are more stable under secular military dictators like ad, Mubarak and Saddam Hussein and Ghaddafi. Even Turkey has become Islamic now.
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                            1. S
                              S L
                              Oct 16, 2016 at 12:25 pm
                              This is to delude oneself.That hurt has not been seen .How can a muslim oppose what Daesh or Bagdadi does ? As it is done to establish Darul Islam.
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                              1. V
                                Venkatarama Muthuswami
                                Oct 16, 2016 at 4:29 pm
                                As I read the essay this evening at the end of BRICS Goa conclave, the prognosis seems not very encouraging in facing the malaise of Islamic extremism and barbaric terrorism. Because each BRICS member uptake seems less congruent as opposed to their public statements. Nonetheless, must admire Modi initiative to bring in the neighbours, SL, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand, and sending strong message that terror and hatred toward fellow humans know no borders, and we need to unite to protect human dignity.
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                                  Venkatarama Muthuswami
                                  Oct 16, 2016 at 1:56 am
                                  A possible political prognosis, but cannot be sure if our ineffective politico-bureaucrats will understand. Muslims vs Muslims has been old story and history since violence has long been their tradition of settling scores. Communication revolution of the past decades helped to expose these septic situations. Despite all these turbulence, there will continue to be sensible civilised parts to lead normal human life.
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                                    Raj V
                                    Oct 16, 2016 at 3:19 am
                                    This is the truth., It is good that Meghnath Desai understood now.
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                                      VS
                                      Oct 17, 2016 at 12:58 am
                                      China is the elephant in the room at BRICS. It is driven by its aspiration to replace USA as world leader, which ties in with Russia's interests. lt;br/gt;In Syria it is an effective proxy war between USA and Russia - rebels armed by US and ad supported by Russia. The Syrian people are the casualty but does anyone care?
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                                        Vasudevan Venugopal
                                        Oct 16, 2016 at 3:38 pm
                                        Well analyzed Sir Meghnad. The problem is that once having been bitten by marching down the streets of Delhi and Kolkata supporting Khilafat Movement which culminated in Mopla Rebellion, the country has become twice shy. As for the Muslims, they have been generally hesitant in condemning violence within the Ummah.
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