Hypocrisy and di­plo­macy...

The Pak Banker - - 4EDITORIAL -

IQBAL pas­sion­ately be­lieved in a world with­out bor­ders and had a healthy con­tempt for the mod­ern con­cept of the na­tion state: In taza khu­daon mein bada sab­say watan hai/Jo paira­han iska hai woh mazhab ka kafan hai(Of all the new false gods, the big­gest is the na­tion/The garb of this idea is the death shroud of re­li­gion)

This de­spite the three eventful years that the po­etic ge­nius spent in Europe dur­ing which he ac­quired a BA at Cam­bridge, a law de­gree at Lin­coln’s Inn and a Doc­tor of Phi­los­o­phy at Mu­nich Univer­sity. The farce this past week at the United Na­tions over a res­o­lu­tion that was sup­posed to con­demn the war crimes against Sri Lankan Tamils re­minds one of Iqbal’s ob­ser­va­tion.

De­fy­ing pub­lic opin­ion and pres­sure from the Tamil par­ties, the In­dian government chick­ened out of a UN re­buke of the Lankan government. In­stead, work­ing with – sur­prise, sur­prise – Pak­istan and China, In­dia per­suaded the United States to water down the UN Hu­man Rights Coun­cil res­o­lu­tion. Un­der­stand­ably, the move out­raged the Tamils in In­dia and around the world forc­ing the Dravida Mun­netra Kazhagam (DMK) to quit the coali­tion and pre­cip­i­tate a se­ri­ous cri­sis for the em­bat­tled UPA government.

Now why would the In­dian government bend over back­wards to bail out Sri Lanka at the cost of its own sur­vival, es­pe­cially when it’s al­ready strug­gling on all fronts and a crit­i­cal gen­eral elec­tion looms? Pas­sions have been run­ning high since a re­cent Chan­nel 4 doc­u­men­tary re­vealed the shame­ful killing of the 12-year old son of LTTE chief Prab­hakaran. Government spokesper­sons ex­plained in two words: Na­tional In­ter­est.

Ap­par­ently, our for­eign pol­icy es­tab­lish­ment felt that if In­dia sup­ported the UN res­o­lu­tion it might open the door for sim­i­lar calls on our own role in Kash­mir. In­dia’s ap­pre­hen­sions aren’t with­out ba­sis. Last week, In­dian par­lia­ment in one voice con­demned a unan­i­mous res­o­lu­tion by Pak­istan’s Na­tional As­sem­bly ques­tion­ing the ex­e­cu­tion of Afzal Guru. Since the sur­rep­ti­tious ex­e­cu­tion of Guru in un­seemly haste by a des­per­ate government to de­flect the at­ten­tion from its myr­iad woes, Kash­mir has been on the

Aijaz Zaka Syed boil all over again. Many fear a re­turn of the blood-soaked in­sta­bil­ity of the 1990s.

The Hi­malayan par­adise over which the nu­clear neigh­bours have been squab­bling for the past six decades has seen more than its fair share of grief. Long years of con­flict have claimed more than 100,000 lives. Thou­sands re­main miss­ing.

The pic­turesque re­gion the size of Bri­tain is also one of the most mil­i­tarised, with half a mil­lion se­cu­rity forces breath­ing down the neck of a restive, alien­ated pop­u­la­tion. Re­peated de­mands by Kash­miri par­ties for cur­tail­ing mil­i­tary pres­ence, greater econ­omy and re­peal­ing of black laws that pro­tect se­cu­rity forces from the law and due process have met stony si­lence in Delhi.

The supreme na­tional in­ter­est, as government spokesper­sons put it, pre­vents the Congress government in Delhi from do­ing what is right in Kash­mir. No won­der it chose to res­cue Sri Lanka at the UNHRC to the hor­ror of rights groups and the Tamils. Truth, jus­tice, rights and hu­man­ity it­self are con­ve­niently sac­ri­ficed at the al­tar of the na­tion state and na­tional in­ter­est. What is a na­tion with­out its peo­ple though? And how can for­eign pol­icy pre­vail over hu­man­ity and its ba­sic val­ues?

A veteran diplo­mat has the cheek to ad­mon­ish a DMK law­maker dur­ing a tele­vi­sion de­bate for his ‘ ex­ag­ger­a­tion’ of the Lankan Tamils’ predica­ment say­ing, “Don’t call it geno­cide. It be­comes geno­cide only when hun­dreds of thou­sands are killed!” Ap­par­ently, snuff­ing out a cou­ple of thou­sands of lives here and there counts lit­tle in the pur­suit of na­tional in­ter­est and for­eign pol­icy goals.

Be­sides Kash­mir, what ap­par­ently forced In­dia to go soft on Lanka is the is­land’s grow­ing bon­homie with China and Pak­istan. While the Pak­istan-Lanka re­la­tions go way back – when Mushar­raf was fired by Nawaz Sharif bring­ing about his own fall, the gen­eral was play­ing golf in the is­land – China’s clout and in­vest­ments have been grow­ing at an alarming pace for In­dia.

The Chi­nese arms played a sig­nif­i­cant role in rout­ing of the once in­vin­ci­ble Tamil Tigers. Sri Lanka has just opened its sec­ond in­ter­na­tional air­port, to­tally fi­nanced by the Chi­nese Ren­minbi which is also bankrolling 42 other ma­jor projects at a cost of $4.1bil­lion. No won­der In­dia isn’t keen to nee­dle Pres­i­dent Ra­japaksa.

China too had se­ri­ous is­sues with the UNHRC res­o­lu­tion and the US as­ser­tion that the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity has the right to con­front na­tions that per­se­cute their ci­ti­zens. Given the sit­u­a­tion in Ti­bet and the state of the once vi­brant Uighur Mus­lims in Xin­jiang, this is un­der­stand­able. It was also in Pak­istan’s na­tional in­ter­est to back Colombo on the ques­tion of Tamils ig­nor­ing what Mus­lims have lately been fac­ing in Sri Lanka. This week, the OIC flayed for what it’s worth the es­ca­lat­ing vi­o­lence against Lankan Mus­lims. But then given the state of mi­nori­ties in the Is­lamic repub­lic, it’s hardy in a po­si­tion to lec­ture Lanka.

The ‘re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­tect’ doc­trine sounds no­ble in the­ory and could have saved thou­sands of pre­cious lives if ap­plied ob­jec­tively and uni­ver­sally. Imag­ine the crit­i­cal dif­fer­ence it could have made in Syria where more than 70,000 peo­ple have per­ished on the world com­mu­nity’s watch over the past two years.

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