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Neeraj Kapoor asked: The Arab Spring has churned the world, including democratic, communist and capitalist countries. What has been the overall impact of the Arab Spring at the wider international level?

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  • Satish Nambiar replies: The overall impact of the Arab Spring has not been uniform. While it has been generally warmly welcomed in the developed world comprising established democracies and free-market economies, and in most developing countries that have evolved into democracies, the response has varied from the muted to the subdued in countries under communist rule and under autocratic regimes. Whereas the former see this as a manifestation of the assertion of the will of the people towards greater personal freedom and an exercise of the rights and privileges of the people, the latter are concerned about the impact the movement can have within their own societies that have long been subjected to rigid control over civil liberties. They perceive the movement as a threat to their survival as the sole dispensers of the well being of their people. The more significant impact that merits close monitoring is on the monarchies that are ruling Saudi Arabia and many of the Gulf states with significant Shia populations that are awakening to their destinies, propelled as they are by what has transpired in a country like Iraq.

    There is of course another dimension to the development. While the assertion of the will of the people, personal freedom and civil liberties is welcome, the outcome of the elections that have followed, have some disturbing connotations. In almost all instances, parties with established radical Islamist inclinations appear to have secured the majority of the votes. Should this trend be benign, there is no need for alarm. But if this becomes the trigger for the more extremist policies that encourage activities like those undertaken by the Al Qaeda and associated movements, the international community will need to evolve policies to deal with the problem. That is the challenge.