Our 2006 Year End review last week carried the headline, 'Bloody 2006: No End to Violence in 2007'. There were many who were skeptical about prediction of continuance of violence in the year ahead. For every New Year rings in abundance, a new leaf, a hope to leave turbulence of the past behind and begin a new chapter. No doubt there is much hope in the Year ahead.
Indo Pakistan relations appear to be heading towards a rapprochement of sorts. There is increasing realization in the Pakistani elite, that it cannot hold prosperity of an otherwise vibrant nation hostage to a lose-lose conflict with India. On the other hand the problems it faces in its Western areas be it Waziristan or Baluchistan are likely to engage the attention providing a much needed diversion from the single point agenda of a conflict with India.
The situation in Kashmir too appears to be changing for the better. The proposals put forth by the Task Forces set up by the Indian Prime Minister along with other development measures are likely to make a positive impact. The militancy is showing a down trend and if the momentum is carried through, 2007 may be a defining year for the hapless people, after almost two decades of conflict. India's fight against Naxalism is also likely to bear fruit as the security structure has been considerably upgraded over the past two years. The Indian North East may continue to rile, but the issues there will be more political than belligerent and to that extent can be controlled. Nepal and Bhutan in the North are likely to see emergence of a new democratic structure with a decrease in the role for the monarchy, ending many years of violence in Katmandu. Bangladesh hopefully should settle down to a new order of governance, with equity and compatibility amongst its multitudes, particularly the minorities which have been feeling threatened over the years.
In South East Asia, the growth of groups such as the Jemma Islamiya and theAbu Sayyaf whose influence remains relatively unchecked are signs of worry in a region which is otherwise slated to remain peaceful despite the coup in Thailand, which may see some civil disturbances in the state. Fiji and other small states of the Indian Ocean should also retain their calm albeit with some disorder given the intricate nature of relationship of the governance structure with a predominant role for the Armed Forces. North Korea having carried out its nuclear test may be more amenable to restraint unless pushed to the wall. In Africa, Sudan having accepted an African Union-UN peace keeping force may find law and order returning slowly and gradually to the troubled Darfur region which may also bring some relief to neighboring Chad. Congo may or may not settle down under the newly elected regime but we can continue to hope for the best.
Other parts of the World however may not be so fortunate. Iraq is surely and steadily hurtling down the road towards a full fledged civil war and much ethnic blood shed is expected. While Saddam Hussein has been executed, his Baath colleagues are unlikely to rest in peace and will stir the pot in an already turbulent country, fragmenting into many small groups and sub groups. Lebanon and, Palestine are likely to see increased violence which again will be the result of internal rumblings rather than external threats. The various factions in Palestine need to negotiate a common ground which appears remote at present. The Hezbollah propped by Syria and Iran continues to be a spoiler in Beirut.
Somalia remains one of the biggest worries in the critical Horn of Africa. Ethiopia has openly declared war against the Islamic Courts Union. Building an alliance which is favorable to the West appears to be the solution but with reported involvement of the Al Qaeda and the delicate religious and tribal balance in the state, the situation is a likely to remain unstable. The Caucasus and Central Asian States are caught in an ideological cum religious and governance quagmire. Abject poverty in some states along with despotic regimes has created fertile ground for operations by terrorists as well as mercenaries of many hues who have a free access to and from Afghanistan.
NATO forces are likely to face a resurgent and belligerent Taliban in Kabul and Kandahar. Reports already indicate that a large number of militants are being trained and given the safe sanctuaries available in Waziristan, much bloodshed can be expected. Negotiating with the Taliban as Pakistan has done will be playing with fire, a better approach would be to steadfastly support development, create visible improvements in the quality of life, extending the blanket of security and avoiding the collateral damage caused by aerial bombardment. Pakistan will also be singed by violence in Afghanistan as the peace in Waziristan will remain only temporary and the Baluch MMB (Mari-Mengal-Bugti) tribal combine will continue to challenge the state which has left them on the margins of development.
Sri Lanka by far will witness violence and the casualty levels are likely to increase substantially as the LTTE and the Government forces ironically believe to be engaged in one last war before return to peace. This, 'last' war is likely to commence once the monsoons are over by end February unless both parties return to their commitment to a cease fire which appears to be a far cry at present.