When Pope Francis signed an Ecumenical Declaration with the leader of Russian Orthodox Churches, Patriarch Kirill, on February 12, it was an indication of a significant change in the geopolitical scenario across the globe. This communion was established after their split in 1054 – approximately one thousand years since the Great Schism (East-West Schism). Incidentally, the patriarchate in Russia is considered to be very close to the current ruling dispensation; and an extensive agreement between two differing religious institutions after a series of secretive negotiations marks the arrival of a new era. Of course, there are huge differences in the religious thoughts and practices; and thus common people may not see any tangible difference in practising their faith.
It has not been a good year in India or for Indians due to multiple reasons. An apparent schism like the one mentioned above has deepened in the political mind of Indians, but this is around a discourse of the idea of India, economic best practices, and even, functioning of the democratic institutions. The process of demonetisation in the last two months of the year is a rude shock to a quarter of the world population, and has pushed the Indian economy further downward after a continual low performance since past several months. In fact, the incidents of fraud after demonetisation have lowered the trust of general public in the economic institutions of the country. On the other fronts, the year can be considered as bloody looking at large number of deaths of Indian soldiers along the western border and the pervasive unrest in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
In the international front, the event that has surprised many leading intellectuals the most is the referendum in the UK – Brexit. The exit of the Great Britain from the European Union in the era of economic camaraderie and consolidation offers more vulnerability to the expected path of globalisation. Add to it, the triumph of Donald Trump in the USA. You question the conventional wisdom of political theorists about the democratic process and its functioning. Has the core myth of the Third Wave of democratisation been shattered?
Contrary to the belief of the perceived threat from the extreme right wing political outfits or the followers of such ideologies, the near-term menace seems to come from the terror attacks by Muslim fundamentalists. In fact, the series of attacks in the heart of Europe has compelled governments to take strict measures, sometime unreasonable, in the view of expanding right-wing ideologies among the general population. On the other hand, the conflicts and stalemates in the South China Sea and its surroundings have overshadowed the mischief of the only country, North Korea, that has conducted tests of nuclear weapons in this century.
The year has seen accelerated race among countries in space technologies. While private funded startups are excited about the unfolding opportunities in the USA and India, China’s state-funded effort is moving very fast. Russia, Japan and UK are also leading the race with more advanced technologies.
The development in computer technology has successfully settled the course of human interactions and thus the path of evolution of artificial intelligence and related products. Today, we comfortably interact with a piece of algorithm (machine) even though at the far side, it may be another human. To admit, we are now at peace with our digital interface – through small devices close to our body and the ones that are scattered in the area we live in. The use of social media, enterprise software systems, e-wallets and public portals reaffirms our adaptation to this modified ecosystem. The much-hyped Industry 4.0, Farming 4.0, or any term that espouses the fully-automated processes, without human intervention, will not surprise us anymore. The workforce and business houses will undergo significant transformations soon, thus marking a perturbation in job markets and business ecosystems around the globe.
The year has seen health calamities like Zika virus outspread though people may differ about its impact on a globe scale.
Perhaps we now stand at a crossroad. Where will the phase of globalisation lead to in the face of the revival of national orthodoxy? How will the equation of global power balance look like in the months to come? Which new innovations will alleviate or even disrupt the technology scenario in the coming months? How will democracies, public understanding of civility, and the idea of citizenship shape? I have more questions than answers.