2017...A Year of the Media
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 19 Jan , 2017

The first fortnight of the new year has been rather sedate; what with the northern hemisphere experiencing a severe cold wave and Barrack Obama bidding tearful farewell to the White House, making the atmosphere generally gloomy.

However, come Jan 20, and we should have the international scene warming up; not because by then the Sun would be well and truly on its northerly course (Utarayan) bringing in some warmth, but because the United States of America chose to elect an unconventional and unlikely person as its president. This should keep the social, print and the electronic media busy throughout 2017.

This, despite the fact that most of his newly appointed cabinet colleagues have adopted a far more conventional approach to international issues than was expected of them. During the senate confirmatory hearings, (the last hurdle in their actually being sworn in as respective members of the Trump cabinet), most spoke in conciliatory tone; at times even contradicting their own boss.

During the past eight years of Obama’s occupancy of the White House, the outgoing President did not believe in shaking the set conventions too vigorously. He proved to be a pacifist and was mostly satisfied with the status quo.

He often stopped short of leveraging the massive U.S. power (which it still enjoys) while confronting the newly emerging international realities/ challenges to its own advantage; be these the looming threat of Islamic radicalism, muscle flexing by China, continuing to stick to the same policy towards Russia as it existed during the cold war, despite the latter ceasing to pose a threat of the old magnitude any more, giving a long rope to North Korea, etc.

Obama’s handling of Pakistan too left much to be desired, as Pakistan continued to exploit American fears about Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile falling into the hands of many terrorist groups operating with impunity in Pakistan. And as far as Afghanistan is concerned, Obama, perhaps, proved once again that the only thing America was interested in  South Asia was to see that Haqqani Network ceased to be a threat to U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and to the U.S. interests worldwide. As a matter of fact, many international observers went to extent of saying that during Barrack Obama’s tenure the United States no longer commanded the same influence round the world as before.

With the new President, even if he sticks to 50 % of his pronouncements on issues of international significance, the world will be shaken as never before. In the past over two decades, the U.S. and its allies have treated China with enormous respect because of the latter’s rising economic and military power. Most countries looked to keeping China in good humour for the sake of deriving huge economic benefits.

This resulted in both Dalai Lama and Taiwan being kept at arm’s length by these countries. The recent contacts between Trump’s emissaries and Taiwan at high levels, has already ruffled the Chinese feathers. Trump has even hinted that giving diplomatic recognition to Taiwan is very much on the table. Such action by America is bound to create tension and lead to serious confrontation. Further, the Chinese have warned America that it (America) will risk war if it were to stop Chinese from claiming the disputed islands in the South China Sea (SCS).

Trump has said often enough that the U.S, during his Presidency, is unlikely to turn a blind eye while the U.S allies are being so openly threatened. Any confrontation between the U.S and China will involve many nations in the Asia –Pacific region, creating a political instability with huge ramifications.

In the Middle East, the abstention by the United States during a crucial vote in the United Nation Security Council (UNSC) recently saw Israel getting condemned for its continued construction of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, 14-0. These settlements by Israel are seen as a stumbling block for the creation of two States (Israel and Palestine) in the Middle East. This was for the first time that America intentionally allowed a U.N Resolution to go against its strongest ally in the Middle East. Trump was quick to react; he asked Israel to ‘hold on for a while’ (till he took over as the U.S. President). In the meanwhile, France hosted more than 70 countries at the Mideast peace summit on 15 Jan. 17, which urged Israel and Palestinians to “officially restate their commitment to the two-state solution”.

Trump’s above statement clearly indicates that he is likely to overturn the decision of the Obama administration in this regard. Coupled with Trump’s stated position that U.S’s European allies will have to take care of their own security needs now onwards without the American help, has rubbed the European Union leaders on the wrong side. Under the circumstances, the U.S relations with its strong allies in Europe are in for some shake up.

Donald Trump’s stand on climate change is also contrary to the stand taken by the previous U.S. administration. Such a stand is bound to undo all the good work done till now to save our planet. This is a serious matter which is likely to have far reaching consequences for the world. Trump will have to face heavy opposition from numerous international organisations, government agencies and NGOs working in this field for years, leading to confusion and lack of consensus on an issue on which hangs the future of our planet. Such confrontation has the potential to turn ugly and acrimonious.

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In South America, the issue of preventing the illegal immigrants from entering into the U.S. was already a big issue during the long electioneering that preceded Trump’s election. Trump has threatened to build a fence along the Maxican border to prevent the influx of these immigrants and make the Maxican Government to pay for the cost of construction of this fence! The proposal has been criticised by the Democrats, leave alone the Maxicans. If Trump follows up on his plan of constructing this fence, the issue is likely to polarise the Americans along divisive lines.

There are other controversial issues within America which are likely to keep the American media busy. These are; Trump’s threat to prevent Muslims from getting into the U.S., the alleged Russian hacking of the U.S. Presidential campaign, Russian intelligence agencies owning material on Trump which can be used by the former to blackmail the latter, Trump’s disdain for his own intelligence agencies, repeal of Obama care, the left/liberal yet not having as yet reconciled to his election, etc., etc.

Unless the newly elected POTUS goes back on all his promises, a la Kejriwal, the international media is likely to have a hectic time during the year that has just begun. That is why 2017 is likely to be the year of the Media!

The fact is that the world still catches a cold whenever the U.S sneezes.

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