Musings by Shekhar Nambiar
Several parts of North India that saw a treacherous and severe winter this season, with temperatures hitting near zero beating even hill stations, are slowly reeling back to normal. And I am back, hopefully for good, from a hiatus!
Our next-door neighbour is yet again going through a tumultuous phase, politically. The court verdict to arrest Imran Khan and his wife has brought Pakistan back in the centre-stage of the world’s attention, not least due to its elections that are just round the corner.
In the Middle East, the Hamas are looking at prospects of a pause, or lull, in fighting, but Iranian-backed Houthis have stepped up attacks on American and other commercial interests in the region. A drone attack has taken the lives of three US soldiers, prompting calls on President Biden to go after Iran and smoke the rebels out.
Big freeze in North India
First, the good news!
The much-awaited western disturbance has struck in the past couple of days, ending what has been a freezing winter and a month’s dry spell. The wet weather has brought in its wake moisture that should help reduce the winter’s severity.
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After suffering the biting cold in January, the likes of which even old-timers do not recall in a long, long time, India’s north is in for moderate weather and relief, until at least the scorching summer heat makes people scamper indoors.
Western disturbances typically build as low pressure ‘systems’ after originating near Europe and the Atlantic Ocean. It passes over the Mediterranean, Iran, Iraq, and then on to India laden with moisture during peak winter. It has been late in coming this season but is a welcome relief from the dry climes.
Severe cold and pollution, a deadly combination
It’s not the biting cold or the icy winds from across Tibet and over the high Himalayan ranges into the plains below that cause angst. The people in the plains have long taken the winter to be the inevitable fourth season with extreme cold conditions, which are also good for the rabi crops, tempting me to fondly remember Vivaldi’s evocative ‘Four Seasons’. The great musician’s composition, a part of which is on the cold winter, takes aficionados to stay indoors, relax, and be at peace and contented.
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What makes the winters really harsh is the impact of pollution, smoke and environmental degradation. Call it climate change from manmade activities, leading to destruction of the ozone layer or the relentless onslaught on our forest cover, the day has come when we must sit up and take stock to try and reverse the process, if we have to prevent its brutal and deleterious effects on us.
Imran Khan and wife, in deep trouble
Pak military strikes
Pakistan’s defacto rulers, the military, has struck where it hurts most for Imran Khan and his party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI). In a case, ostensibly for leaking state secrets, Khan has been sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment.
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This queers the pitch for a stage-managed and predictable parliamentary election that is merely a week away.
Nawaz Sharif in Pakistan with his daughter,biother and party colleague
The one beneficiary of it all – if you can call it that – is Nawaz Sharif, now in his mid-seventies and a former three-time PM. All charges against Sharif have been cleared, including the lifetime ban on him having been deemed unconstitutional. This would pave the way for a possible fourth term for him as prime minister, of course with the blessings of the military.
Not that Sharif is ignorant of the ways of the generals, having been a victim twice before, once ousted and with another term cut short by a military coup.
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This development is nothing new for Pakistan. Observers in India have seen this happen innumerable times in the last over 70 years. The military will never let go of its stranglehold over politics. There are far too many vested interests at play in a country where the military’s hold over politics and economy are total. The army’s control on land holdings, real estate, monopoly business and other such interests are all too well known.
Houthis rebels continue to attack US ships in red sea
Houthi attacks on US interests
In the turbulent Middle East, indications are that Hamas may call for a halt in hostilities as it struggles to keep up with the Israeli Defence Forces’ onslaught.
In the equally volatile Gulf waters and beyond, Hoothi rebels have intensified attacks in the Red Sea, including using drones, on American interests. The killing of three US servicemen has led to pressure on President Biden to retaliate against Iran for it overt and covert backing to the rebels operating in the region. But for now, he is not likely to precipitate matters by going for Iran as have previous US Administrations in the past.
In a world bedevilled with despair and destruction, what better way to end this piece than to recall Shelly’s optimism with his beautiful line “And if winter comes can spring be far behind?”
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