………….and may 2009 not be as bad as seems likely!
Here are ten thoughts on what might, or might not, happen during the year:
Wouldn’t it be good for South Asia if…………
1. Omar Abdullah, the new 38-year old chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, is allowed to bring a fresh approach to Kashmir. Rahul Gandhi, son and heir to Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi, who knows Abdullah well, can help by persuading the old guard in his party to work with J&K’s youngest-ever chief minister, instead of trying to upstage him and block his initiatives. India needs to start giving Kashmir the greater autonomy that it has demanded for years. This is part of Abdullah’s election platform and should be actively supported by Rahul Gandhi and Congress.
2. Rahul Gandhi becomes India’s deputy prime minister if Congress leads a new coalition government after the April-May general election. Manmohan Singh could continue as prime minister for perhaps two years and then hand over to Gandhi. As readers of this blog will know, I am no fan of dynasties, and believe they do more harm than good to democratic transparency and development. But Rahul Gandhi is going to take over the Congress leadership one day, so the sooner the better because Sonia Gandhi is not a political leader and Rahul could be – his first test could come on how he gets Congress to handle the Kashmir issue.
3. Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh’s newly elected prime minister (also a former prime minister and previously held on murder and corruption charges), manages to rise above her past political failings and lead the country into a new era of political stability and economic development. That means that her leading political opponent, Khaleda Zia, should put an end to the tit-for-tat politics that she and Sheikh Hasina have indulged in for years, and allow the government to govern.
4. Sri Lanka emerges from the current war between its Sinhalese-led government and the Tamil Tigers with a lasting peace deal that enables Tamil activists to feel they have won something in terms of regional autonomy.
And some 2009 forecasts …….
………….on Pakistan and Afghanistan
5. Pakistan will be have another military coup, rationalising the current chaotic leadership of the country.
6. Barack Obama will, as America’s new president, declare Pakistan a terrorist state.
7. America and Britain will tragically continue to waste young soldiers’ lives in their futile Afghanistan army campaigns which serve no useful purpose.
…………and economies in crisis
8. The world’s economy will fail to recover, and it will gradually be realised that the current crisis could affect how people live for a generation or more. There is a lot more bad news to come on bank and company closures, especially in the US and Europe – and China has yet fully to feel the collapse of world-wide demand for its products. Then countries like the US and Britain will have to pay the price for their governments’ banking and other company bail-outs.
9. India, which continues to be primarily an inward looking economy, will fare less badly than most others, though it will find economic growth declining more than currently forecast – and there will be more unexpected spin-offs like the governance lesson currently being learned too late by Satyam, the software company.
10. Gordon Brown, Britain’s prime minister, will resist temptations to call a general election later in the year, when he could claim that he and his Labour Party are what the UK needs to be steered through its dire economic crisis. He’d be on shaky ground because he presided as finance minister over the boom that he famously declared would not turn into “a bust”. Brown’s New Year wish must be that predictions of Britain becoming an Iceland-style economic bankrupt are proved wrong.