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Increased Responsibility

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As expected, Turkey immediately launched attacks against the Kurds in Syria after US President Trump’s decision to withdraw troops that were helping the ‘Kurdish People’s Protection Forces’ fight ISIS. Although Trump has threatened to take down Turkey’s economy if the Kurds are attacked, the latest development indicates this has had no effect. It is expected that Syrian Government and Russian forces will also up the ante in their bid to reassert President Bashar al-Assad’s rule. The delicate power balance that had been enforced in this part of Syria has now been upset and ordinary people are in for another round of sustained suffering. There have been objections within the American establishment against withdrawal of US support as it would dissuade others in the future to cooperate with them in the future, but that does not seem to have been taken into consideration. In contrast, the Russians and, to a lesser extent, the Chinese are now being considered more reliable allies. Even as the US is withdrawing its forces from many fronts, globally, others are seeking to fill the vacuum. These countries, be it at the local or regional level, are not interested at all in defending human rights or democratic institutions. Their focus is on occupying territory as part of their expansionist plans, both strategically and economically. This signals a major change in the world order, in which democracy and the UN conventions will take a big hit. In the longer run, the functioning democracies worldwide – particularly the small ones – will come under greater threat from autocratic and totalitarian regimes. This puts a big target on India’s back, which is a liberal democracy in a very crucial part of the world. It also requires that the country takes on greater responsibility, while also strengthening itself internally. Steps need to be taken to rebuild consensus on foreign policy so that internal differences – always open in a democracy – are not exploited by others, particularly China and Pakistan. Recent events have shown that India has many potential partners among the countries of the Gulf and the Pacific if it exhibits resolve in the pursuit of regional peace and stability. Solutions have to be found for not just religious fundamentalism, but also the new economic challenges. Climate change is also a threat that cannot be overlooked any more for the sake of local feuds. India’s maturity as a diverse nation, used to dealing with contradictions, can and, hopefully, will play an important role in resolving these international dilemmas.