Dr Tabasum Firdous
“In chaos theory, the butterfly effect describes a small change that can have massive, unpredictable consequences. An insect flaps its wings and, weeks later, causes a tornado”, wrote a columnist in a recent issue of the New York Times.
The coronavirus is more like an earthquake, with aftershocks that will permanently reshape the world. Instead of talking about recovery from the wildly spreading virus, pragmatism demands that we focus on what shape the world economy, governments and social institutions will take even if we are able to control the scourge in next six months. We need to visualize the new direction which civilization is likely to shape in the near future.
What needs to be given a serious thought is that the world of today is very closely interconnected. The dense connectivity facilitates the rapid spread of the deadly virus. The inference is that this dense connectivity reflected through a network or human assemblage has to get dissolved if the survival of the human race is the target.
Medicos believe that numerous strains of COVID-19 encircle the world which diminishes the chances of finding an effective vaccine within the 12-18 months time schedule. At present, the system adopted is to lay emphasis on stay home and quarantines techniques but in poor and densely populated countries vulnerability to coronavirus effect is greater.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s broadcast to the nation clearly reflected the serious conflict with which he and maybe some more world leaders are seized with is that of facing a painful choice between reopening national economies and exposing the populations to further infection and disaster. The decision of extending the lockdown till 3 May was preceded by the most intensive interaction between the entire gamut of national leadership, economic and financial experts and input from recognized institutions and individuals all in the background of the predictions made by global experts that the aggregate death toll could cross from under 100,000 at present to nearly one million or more.
At present all countries are self-isolating, commonly called social distancing. However, given the phenomenon of inter-dependence thrust on them by globalization trend, there could be ring-fencing from the physical exchange with others. The question is whether social distancing becomes the new lasting civilizational characteristic?
This may lead some of us to think of U-turn of our existing civilization. Civilizations are not made or unmade overnight. It is a long and sustained process. One thing is clear and that is the near-collapse situation of traditional institutions of economy, international relationship, Social behaviour and community bookmarks. The closing down of world economic hubs, ceasing of supply and marketing chains, locking down congregational destinations (note the closing down of twin holy shrines of the Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia) etc. all point to the necessity of forging and emerging new world order. The current American debacle with surgical masks and ventilators is a case in point. Emerging markets and developing countries are critical both as suppliers and markets. Their demise weakens the world economy as a whole.
Symptoms of change of world order are already loud and clear. President Trump has made no secret of his displeasure of the WHO accusing the organization of failure in cautioning the world. He has ordered stopping US’ financial support to WHO. In knowledgeable circles inside and outside the US, it is believed that the WHO chief has been given unnecessary favourable leverage to the WHO chief who belatedly tried to absolve himself of the blame but surely without tangible success. It has to be noted that President Trump had already withdrawn his country from the membership of the UN Human Rights Council saying that the organization had been politicized. The covert reference was the overarching influence of China in all organs of the UN.
In a very significant development of last week, Japan Prime Minister announced a financial package of 990 billion US dollars by way of a support fund for the Japanese factories and industrial units established in China for withdrawing from that country and re-establishing in any other prospective country five of which including India have been mentioned. A dependable source has said that 200 Japanese and 100 American companies in China have already announced they are shifting to some other countries to continue their economic activity. Japan has also announced financial support to such units of any country as would be willing to shut down their units in China and reopen them anywhere else on the globe.
This is a clear indication that China will be gradually but obviously losing its global economic centrality and multi-polar eco-financial centrality is in the offing. The South-East Asian countries are poised for an economic boost once the virus’ intensity subsides.
China’s economic recession will directly impact some of her mega global projects and fundamentally her world policy of economic expansion. The first casualty could be the Belt and Road programme of which CPEC is a component. Secondly, China’s naval supremacy in the South Asian and China Sea region will receive a big setback. Henceforth, Chinese naval command of the Indian Ocean will increasingly feel to be anchored in hostile and not in a friendly and cooperative region.
More importantly, China’s domination of the UN is likely to take a drubbing. The aims and objectives stipulated the UN Charter, its structure and functionality can undergo a drastic change. In any case, the existing structure of regional and global strategies have to be pulled down. Nationalism is likely to supersede all other identities and denominations. Two largest religions of the world are on the verge of submitting to the supremacy of reason as the guiding force not diehard conviction.
This is a view of how things are likely to shape in the aftermath of the epoch changing pandemic facing humanity. In a narrower sense, the legendry Dajjal has appeared from the East in the shape of a tiny invisible butterfly. It reminds us how the great Mongol Empire has finally brought down by invisible plague in14th century. Those who will survive the Doomsday will be the harbingers of a new world, new civilization, new cosmology and new divinity.
(The writer is Faculty in Center
of Central Asian Studies
University of Kashmir)