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Sarder Ali Haider
The infectious disease COVID 19 (Coronavirus disease 2019) has become a pandemic global crisis in the recent months. Although the scientists of different countries are relentlessly doing their best for inventing some dependable medications, except for some possible drugs and advices of a changed life style there is no tangible outcome yet. Moreover, the total process of new entry of a suitable drug takes time. As a result, the COVID 19 pandemic is being countered by taking some precautionary measures, i.e. social distancing, lockdown, bringing discipline in the day to day and social life etc. While taking all these counter measures, there are shut down of economy generating industries, closure of educational institutions and obstruction of agricultural activities. According to IMF (International Monetary Fund) the coronavirus pandemic will cause a global recession in 2020 that could be worse than the one triggered by the global financial crisis of 2008-2009. Besides the global recession, there might be multi-dimensional other effects due to COVID 19 pandemic. There might be acute poverty and social disorder in the upcoming days. The overall effect of COVID 19 pandemic might generate fresh breeding grounds for terrorism, specially in South Asia. However, the similar impact might also take place in other parts of the world. Global and regional terrorist groups might exploit the situation and enhance their effort for forming new avenues. At the same time mafia groups and the people involved with social crime might start taking undue advantages. Very recently in Italy, mafia gangs have delivered essential goods to the poorest southern regions of Campania, Calabria, Sicily and Puglia. Recently ISIS issued a newsletter which contained calls for attacks in western countries against healthcare systems that are strained by the COVID 19 pandemic. The newsletter also included “directions for ISIS supporters to kill (non-Muslims) wherever you find them.” Therefore, the Sufferers, traumatized and demoralized people of different ages might be exploited by the interested corner towards terrorism and criminal activities or a group of general people might organize themselves to begin a new venture.
The maximum countries of South Asia are densely populated and according to World Health Organization (WHO), these are vulnerable to COVID 19. However, as maximum western countries and many of the Asian countries including China are highly affected by COVID 19, the possible effects of global recession will be fingered in all the South Asian countries also. In the present world there are economic dependencies among the countries. In the following discussion, an endeavor will be taken to discuss about the possibility of fresh breeding grounds for Terrorism in South Asia due to COVID 19.
- Global Recession
A global recession is an extended period of economic decline around the world. It happened last time in 2008. The IMF estimates that global recession occurs over a cycle lasting between eight and ten years. In August 2019, a survey of economists by the National Association for Business Economics concluded that 72% of analysts expect a U.S. recession to hit by the end of 2021. Due to COVID 19, the possibility of global recession might begin a bit early and maximum countries around the world might become highly affected. Global recession creates a widespread lack of economic growth, youth unemployment, rumors of financial collapse etc. This type of situation inspires and inflames a particular group of people to acclimatize the path of terrorism.
- Acute Poverty
A good percentage of people in South Asia lead life below the extreme poverty line. Maximum of these people live on day to day wages. Due to COVID 19 caused long term lockdown, a big percentage of this category people might become a great victim. Among those people, some of them might response to the call of terrorist organization for their survival. Some of those might get involved in various criminal activities and organized crimes.
- Closure of Educational Institutions
Although a good number of educational institutions in South Asia are conducting online classes, maximum of the schools are unable to arrange these facilities. Moreover, online classes cannot be the substitute of regular classes. Due to closure of educational institutions for long days and compulsory staying home because of lockdown process, teen aged students might become extra-habituated to internet. These teen agers might become demotivated by reading fake news circulated by different interested groups and at the same time the recruiters of global and regional terrorist groups might try to exploit them through internet.
- Enormous Unemployment
The impact of recent lockdown and shutdown of maximum industries all over the world will create direct effect in the employment sector. A huge number of populations in South Asia are likely to lose job. According to Centre for Monitoring of Indian Economy (CMIE), there might be 23% rise of unemployment in India. The statistics of other countries in South Asia will be more or less similar. These huge numbers of unemployed people might become the lucrative targets for the recruiters of different terrorist organizations.
- Shortages of Food
According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization, there might be severe uncertainty of food availability worldwide due to COVID 19 pandemic. It will happen due to shortages of workers, inadequate transportations and other required agricultural stuffs. The shortages of food will create unavailability and price hike of food. There likely to be starving cases in many places around the world. The likely acute shortages of food caused by COVID 19 might influence a big group of people towards the easy earning through criminal activities.
- Rohingya Community Centric Potential Vulnerabilities
According to official UN figures, there are around 1.1 million Rohingyas in Bangladesh, of whom over 630,000 live in Kutupalong, believed to be the world’s largest refugee camp. Although Myanmar and Bangladesh have concluded a repatriation agreement, no refugees have so far returned through official channels. Cox’s Bazar-based aid agencies are doing their best to prevent or delay an outbreak of COVID 19 in the camps. It is clear they will be quickly overwhelmed when the virus hits.
The present support of the aid agencies depend on donor countries’ financial back up. Already there are scarcities of funds; it is comparatively less than the previous year’s donation. Recent COVID 19 caused global recession is likely to affect the donor countries’ participation. Besides the fear of Corona virus attack, the possible reduction of support by the aid agencies might influence them to get involved with terrorism, drug trafficking, transnational organized crime etc. It is to be remembered that Rohingya as a community are the worst victims of Myanmar army brutal atrocities. It will be an easy effort for the interested terrorist groups to exploit them for their own cause.
- Possible Modification of China’s Belt and Road Initiative
A possible modification of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) might occur due to domestic economic challenges caused by COVID 19. There might be direct and indirect impact of this modification on the overall regional politics. China has extensive economic interests in Rakhine, including a major port at Kyaukphyu, a planned special economic zone (SEZ) and a road, rail, and pipeline network to move energy and other materials and supplies from the Bay of Bengal through Myanmar to Yunnan Province. So far China had been directly supporting the Myanmar government over the crisis in Rakhine State to the west, where the Tatmadaw carried out a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing of Rohingya community. China has protected Myanmar from sanctions at the United Nations and has offered rhetorical and material support for its handling of the so-called terrorist attacks.
In the recent years, China’s economic interest in Myanmar compelled the maximum secessionist groups to remain in a controlled order. These secessionist groups are directly or indirectly connected with renowned golden triangle, drug trafficking and illegal arms trafficking activities. There is an allegation that the secessionist groups collect illegal arms from Yunnan province, China by utilizing the arms dealers. Analyzing the above aspects, the modified stand of China might have impact on the overall security situation in Rakhine, Northeast India and Southeastern part of Bangladesh.
- Rise of Social Crime
The follow-up of COVID 19 might create social dissatisfaction that usually generate through frustration. Normally maximum people get transformed due to poverty and scarcity of money. As a follow up of Corona virus related crisis, there was robbery in a developed country like Italy. The similar situation might occur in the countries of South Asia. The intensity of social crime might be more in these countries due to prevailing poverty state in comparison to the western countries.
- Escalation of Transnational Organized Crime
COVID 19 centric distress might divert a group of people for resorting to transnational organized crime which includes coordinated crime across national borders, execute illegal business ventures, drug trafficking etc. These crime activities might be correlated to the act of terrorism. Northeast India, Southeastern part of Bangladesh and other vulnerable bordering areas might be affected on the rise of transnational organized crime as a follow-up of COVID 19 crisis.
Violent extremists are likely to exploit public fears associated with the spread of COVID 19 to incite violence, intimidate targets, and promote their ideologies. These efforts will be intensified in the coming months. In the present days, the health and economic effects of COVID 19 will get more priority in comparison to the impact on security and the effective rise of global terrorist organizations. Although, COVID 19 is generating an effect from the extreme right to the extreme left, religious fundamentalists to apocalyptic movements, every development of the vested corners need to be well observed. Besides creating different type of violence in future, the assigned groups might create mistrust between the citizens and their governments by generating hateful speech, conspiracy theories, disinformation, intensify social divisions and sometimes incite violence. All concern organizations of the respective countries might keep an eye on these aspects.