March 2024

Aftershocks of war


Tanya Vatsa’s article in your February edition (‘Trade, turmoil and global tides’) reminds us of the frightening repercussions that conflictswreak on our ever more intertwined world. The ‘ripple effect’ on international trade will surely bring about more casualties in timethan the current fighting,through spiralling costs and consequent poverty that will impactvast numbers of people in developed and developing nations globally (except, of course, the elites who govern them).In showing solidarity with various factions and allies, as the Houthis, Washington and others are doing, where is the solidarity with humanity as a whole?

Puja Chatterjee


Still relevant after all these years

Your report on the Democracy Forum conference about the United Nations’ continuing relevance or otherwise (‘Reform or Rupture’) led me to watch the event itself, a fascinating panel discussion on a topic that has generated endless debateover the decades.

This was an impressive line-up, with every panellist bringing interesting and pertinent arguments to the table, though I was especially taken with Dr Alynna Lyon’s point thatthere are, in effect, ‘two United Nations’ – one whose role is coping with global power politics, the other (arguably more important) tasked with solving the world’s most pressing challenges such as poverty, climate change and immigration issues.

One slight disappointment was a lack of focus on the United States’ hypocrisy in using its powerful veto power to block resolutions on Palestine due to its bilateral relations, while trying to to pass resolutions on territorial integrity in the case of Ukraine. As Dr Joel Ng pointed out, consistency is key in UN member states calling out friend and foe alike on bad practices.

What was most surprising about this seminar was the general view shared by all the participants that, despite some quite serious criticisms of the UN – egproblems inherent in the powerful role Russia still plays as a permanent member of the UNSecurity Council, even as it threatens international peace and security with its invasion of Ukraine; omissions in the UN’s charter to hold great powers to account for rules violation, etc – it is still an institution that has both relevance and effectiveness, provided itcan change apace with the nations it represents, and the fluctuating global scenarios they face.

The overall flavour of the discussion was perhaps best encapsulated in the comments offered by the Forum’s Chair, who suggested that ‘we mustconstantly seek to help the UN evolve and adapt if we are actually to see common sense break out in the world’.

Sean McAvoy


High hopes for India

Dear Sir

I found it very emotional to read MJ Akbar’s piece on the recent consecration of the temple to Lord Ram at Ayodhya (‘Humble in Victory’, Asian Affairs, Feb. 2024 issue).Shri Akbar succeeds topaint a nuanced picture of thesensibilities of a nation and an historic moment in beautiful word images.

But he does more. Bydrawing attention to thevinay as well as the vijay of the occasion presided over by Prime Minister Modi, to the presence, over the centuries, of both mosques and temples at the sacred site, and to the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi, Shri Akbarillustratesthat there is not only one aspect to every story or argument, and that religious reconciliationcan happen in a multi-faceted, multi-faith and open-minded India




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