India Play Holi Amid Frayed Nerves Over Russian-Ukraine War And Concerns For A COVID-19 4th Wave!


The Festival of Colors, Holi, began in India with the symbolic burning of Holika (a demoness of ancient times representing the evil or the Satan) effigy last night. This festival is celebrated every year in the last full moon night of the Hindu calendar year. Today, the colors are submerging the country in a spirit of joy. The Indians righteously feel and justify the celebrations across the country as they have missed this for the last two years, and after all, this signifies the victory of good over evil. For the last one month the country has seen a return to near normalcy with all restrictions except for the mask removed, the schools/colleges reopening; and just when they felt that the Pandemic had finally entered the endemic phase came the WHO (World Health Organization) warning that the pandemic is far from over and it has been spiking globally again with more than 11 million cases new cases and over 43,000 deaths in the last week. Combine this with the Russia-Ukraine war raging now for over three weeks. Therefore, the Globe is in a real soup at the moment with the heady mix of war, pandemic and inflation—the last being fueled by the firsts. Indeed, we need victory over the evil forces desperately now.

 

Most of the international powers, super or otherwise, are really getting ruffled up now by what they call the Russian belligerence. True to its strategic interests Russia has been talking peace with Ukraine (that once Ukraine agrees to Russian conditions there'd be instant ceasefire) while stepping up the attacks, particularly targeting the civil population as alleged by Ukraine. The Ukraine official media has released pictures of airports, hospitals, schools, theatres and so on being hit by Russian missiles. The siege of Kyiv and other major cities continue. As anticipated, Russia had ignored the order of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to suspend its war immediately. Somewhat inspired by the recent Indian trends perhaps, Putin’s government has decided to label all antiwar Russians as traitors.

 

Photo: cnn.com

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, in his trademark green t-shirt, has addressed the US Congress recently, urging them to help now or never to avert the invasion. Although he has been renewing his appeals for a no-fly zone it was made clear to him that the no-fly zone declaration or sending MiG fighter jets was not possible as it would escalate the war globally. So, Zelensky asked for other military aid from the US and the European countries in his last address. President Joe Biden responded by granting a $800 million worth military aid in terms of anti-aircraft systems, anti-tank weapons and drones. President Zelensky’s passionately emotional appeal earned him a standing ovation from the US Congress while a sort of comedy was created too as one lawmaker raised the query as to whether Zelensky did not own a suit.

 

Unable to either stop or defeat Russia through endless rounds of economic sanctions President Biden used the strongest words so far calling Putin ‘a war criminal’ while maintaining his stand to not send US ground troops to Ukraine as any direct conflict between Russia and the NATO would result in World War-III. The US Senate also called for an investigation into the alleged war crimes by Putin. The US lawmakers are applying more pressure now on India to take a stand against Russia while India’s Indian Oil Corporation has bought 3 million barrels of crude oil from Russia reportedly at a heavy discount. It was also reported that an Indian judge in the ICJ had voted against Russia in support of the court’s order.

 

With no end in sight for the Ukraine crisis the pandemic resurge has added more problems. The WHO warning said that one of the three sub-variants of Omicron, namely the BA.2 variant, has been found to be the dominant virus in the recent surge in China, South Korea and Hong Kong—China already putting nearly 37 million of its citizens under lockdown after reaching the highest ever daily-infection figures since the pandemic started; South Korea registering a record daily new cases of around 600,000 only yesterday, a supposed peak for the country; and Hong Kong reporting a rising trend of deaths, particularly because a large chunk of its elderly population is yet to be vaccinated.  A few cases of the BA.2 virus, also called the ‘stealth virus’ due to its ability to escape detection through the normal RT-PCR tests, are also being found in Israel. European nations like Germany, France and the UK among others are also showing rising infections in recent days. The WHO warns that the surge may be heading toward countries in eastern Europe too including Belarus and Ukraine, and appealed to the nations to not lax the testing/detection/contact measures further. President Biden is also put under more pressure due to the surge.

 

Some studies have reportedly said that the new surge or the COVID-19 Fourth Wave may reach India by June this year and may last for four months. Amid the relaxations, the elections and the celebrations the Government of India had taken a high-level meeting to study the new threat. In all, we are looking at a very volatile and uncertain future at the moment, confounded by the Ukraine war and an obstinately resurging two-year-old pandemic. The crude oil prices had come down to around $100 a barrel on the hopes of a truce between Russia and Ukraine; but now the uncertainty is bound to come back. All the growth rates as far as the starting-to-revive economies are being concerned are set to be revised downwards at any time. 

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