Since its inception in 2002 SFG has undertaken a number of forward looking research projects in the areas of conflict, geopolitics, economics and societal changes. SFG research has examined trends and discontinuities, and has made several projections and careful deductions in the realm of politics, finance, the fate of leaders and nations, and the future of terror. After six years of building on intellectual capital and creating scenarios, several of SFG’s projections have come true. This special article lists a number of these projections, the reports they were featured in, and the time frame in which these situations occurred.
Global Financial Crisis
Writing in his monthly op-ed on the SFG website, in August of 2007, drawing on lessons from the past, Sundeep Waslekar had projected an economic collapse under certain political conditions. Coupled with this is the future of global finance, stated in the report Global Security and Economy, which addresses 20 different emerging issues. The report clearly states that, while fault lines in markets are sometimes unclear, and the direction of politics is uncertain, a major financial crisis would lead to a recession in the US economy creating a spill over effect in Europe and Asia. One of the uncertainties the report lays out is the mortgage market, and the decline of the dollar against the Euro.
It took less than a year, from the launch of the report, for a major financial crisis to grip the attention of the world, causing a significant downward economic spiral in several countries.
Arab Islamic Renaissance
The concept of an inclusive world, which extended from local communities to the global power structure, was first presented at the Nelson Mandela Benefit Dinner in Dubai in 2005. The idea, specially focusing on the Middle East, was thoroughly discussed in several mediums, and put forward as a recommendation in SFG’s Third International Roundtable on ‘Constructing Peace De-constructing Terror’, held at the European Parliament on November 2006.
Recognizing the importance of the revival of an alternative vision of an Arab vision based on successful periods in Islamic history, an Arab Islamic Renaissance Initiative was proposed and laid out in the report An Inclusive World: In which the West, Islam and the Rest have a Stake. The report was launched in January of 2007, and identified key elements for such a renaissance.
On the 28th of October, 2007, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, inaugurated a two day Knowledge Building Conference and pledged $10 billion for the purpose of knowledge development.
Instability in Asia
In March of 2003, following months of extensive research and interactions with experts, SFG published a report on the tensions and structural realities in Asia, covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The report Shifting Sands: Instability in Undefined Asia made the following projections.
In Afghanistan Hamid Karzai, would get re-elected in 2004 and would remain in power till 2008. Afghanistan’s aid economy would create a small group of elite in Kabul, as there has been no serious effort to support reconstruction in the country side outside Kabul. Its warfare and poppy economy will increase trafficking in drugs, illicit arms, extortion and conflicts between warlords. Today, the poppy cultivation in Afghanistan is booming having increased from 8,000 hectares in 2001 to 193,000 hectares in 2007.
In Iran if America’s war on terror is perceived as a war against Islam, and if the Ayatollahs succeed in creating a sense of insecurity about the US motives in the region, people would rally around the clerics. Today the ayatollahs are enjoying high levels of support from the masses where the common rhetoric is the destruction of Israel; and the US is still viewed with great suspicion in the region.
The Future of Pakistan
America’s war on terror and Pakistan’s involvement in the war, especially in Afghanistan have garnered it a lot of world attention. General Musharraf, as the President of Pakistan in 2002 promised a country free of terrorism and sectarianism. In the report The Future of Pakistan, launched in May 2002, SFG conducted a comprehensive study on the internal situation in the country, predicting that the General would be ousted following widespread resentment against him.
Not only was General Musharraf forced to step down in August of 2008, the military still remains in control, and the government present only as a cosmetic democratic force.
From Conflict to Cooperation
After a decade of engaging in a debate on restructuring India Pakistan relations, SFG came out with The Final Settlement: Restructuring India-Pakistan Relations, in March of 2005. Prior to the release of the book in 2002, SFG’s was the lone voice that predicted that a war between the two countries was unlikely, despite the growing tensions across the border. Within weeks this proved to be right.
Subsequently a process of reconciliation began between the two countries, and The Final Settlement lays out several projections as well as suggestions for a comprehensive settlement. One of the core issues is that of water, a commodity that is declining in availability; which in the future could and will most certainly lead to a conflict that moves beyond politics and land. Another projection that the report highlights is that despite tensions across the borders, if the leaders of both countries adhere to some form of the 2004 peace agreement, then in the near future a trade route will open.
Today, water tops the agenda at any major discussion between the two countries, and any move by either nation to violate the terms of the Indus Waters Treaty sparks major protests in the other. On the other hand, in October 2008, trucks laden with fruits and spices waited for the heavily armed border gates at Wagah to open for the first time in decades. Though at present only four trucks are allowed to cross each week, this move has been hailed as a huge confidence building measure, in line with the opening up of rail and bus links.
The Strength of the Bullock Cart Economy
In a report titled Rethinking India’s Future: Prosperity of the Periphery, which was released in 2003, SFG outlines India’s three economies – the Business Class, the Bike Class and the Bullock cart economy. The report outlines how economic policies, in the few years prior to 2003, have clearly benefited the business class; and the bike and bullock cart economies have been neglected.
Using five important drivers, the report predicts that if the present policy mix was extended it could lead to a stagnating economy and a collapse of civil society. The political system would have to take heed that their reforms were benefiting a section of society which represented less than 3% of the country.
In 2004, a year after the report came out, at the time of elections, an estimated 80% of the population lived in the bullock cart economy. In May of 2004, the Bharatiya Janata Party lost the elections to the Indian National Congress in one of the biggest electoral shocks in history. Simply put, the BJP and their India Shining campaign had targeted the booming urban elite, seemingly ignoring the 800 odd million people in the bullock cart economy