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The world has changed
Sixteen years after September 11, the world is a much more dangerous and uncertain place
It was early evening in India when first reports of a plane crash into one of the towers of the World Trade Centre and then at news offices across the country came and most journalists though of what an horrible accident it must have been. Unfortunately, just 15 minutes later, it became apparent that the incident was not a tragic accident but a deliberate action by a terrorist organisation. If Osama bin-Laden and his group of radical Saudi terrorists intended to turn the world upside down, they certainly succeeded. The attacks of September 11 in New York City and Washington DC killed 3,000 people that day but the events that spiralled out of those attacks might have already claimed a quarter of a million lives by conservative estimates, led to chaos across the Arab world and the rise of reactionary politicians like US President Donald Trump. Clearly, the world has not stopped hyperventilating from that day. The problem is that 9/11 was not just seen as what it was — a terrorist attack — but unfortunately got classified the centrepiece of a civilisational battle between the Western world and the Islamic world. And there is this horrible feeling that instead of attacking the head of the terrorism snake, which lies across India’s western border, the United States and its allies went after all the wrong targets and ended up making matters worse. Sure, the Taliban had to be removed in Afghanistan but there was no need for events in Iraq and Libya. While Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi were brutal dictators, their removal has led to one country slipping into sectarian chaos and another being run by gangs of people smugglers. The latter has led to a global refugee crisis that tore Europe apart and fanned xenophobia across the West that led not only to the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom but also played a role in the rise of Donald Trump.
The faultlines always existed across the world, as they always have. But the terror attacks that killed people of different races and political persuasions was like a gigantic earthquake that had led to an endless stream of aftershocks. There was a level of hope when Barack Obama came to power in the United States that everybody could step back and take a long, deep breath but the political appeal of Donald Trump which goes far beyond just xenophobic neo-Nazi’s is partially due to Obama’s failures. India has remained relatively unscathed by the aftermath until now, although worryingly Kashmiri terrorists are increasingly using the same pan-Islamic arguments that their counterparts in Iraq and Syria are using. The fallout from the collapse of the towers will take a much longer time to settle down than the dust.
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