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India’s Libya Policy:
Signaling a New World Order?
|by Col. Rahul K. Bhonsle|
In what is seen as a seminal move by India to carve a niche in the new world order, New Delhi abstained from voting in the UN Security Council in a resolution moved by the Anglo French alliance for intervention in Libyan civil conflict and strongly opposed the use of force. India instead sought to let existing mechanisms and efforts to bring about a compromise in the country such as the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy and the African Union’s High Level Panel on Libya work before taking any action.
New Delhi has followed this up with strong statements justifying its stand unlike others who abstained including Russia and China thereby indicating that it was willing to take the plunge of high politics in the New World Order. Will this be India’s announcement of having arrived on the global stage remains to be seen, but New Delhi is certainly determined to make a definite mark in the days ahead.
India’s Permanent Representative in the United Nations minced no words in opposing the resolution in the Security Council thus, “We deplore the use of force, which is totally unacceptable, and must not be resorted to”. These were words showing a new confidence in Indian diplomacy in line with the shift in the global power balance.
The Indian stand in joining China, Russia, Brazil and Germany to abstain on a UN Security Council chapter 7 resolution against Libya which would enforce a no-fly zone over the country can be seen in the light of the overall move led by the Western alliance of US, UK and France and Arab League led by the Gulf States with Egypt staying out. The impact of the same was in some ways felt on the ground with Libya very cleverly announcing a cease fire. So there was some immediate effect of the resolution though this was a smart position adopted by the Gaddafi regime indicating that its survival instincts are strong. The pro Gaddafi forces however continued with their ground offensive moving towards the rebel held town of Benghazi with tanks and guns.
The Indian abstention over UN intervention in Libya was a part of a rising effort to maintain autonomy in decision making in the Security Council which is laudable. The country has also made an attempt to distance itself from the Western alliance though since the motion was led by the UK and France it appears that this has been easier for India rather than if the same had been led by the US. Moreover the country has been able to side with the so called Brazil-Russia-India-China or the BRIC block though this remains an informal grouping and would not represent any substantial change in the overall policy per se as all the countries have been voting differently on different UNSC resolutions. But with Germany also abstaining there is an indication of multi-polarity in the global order. This may not however indicate that these countries are likely to vote commonly but may continue to vote issue based in the UNSC in the future.
The air strikes by UK and French fighters further vindicated the Indian opposition to the Resolution. The Arab League while backing the resolution was not possibly intending to have Gaddafi forces being physically bombed and was expecting that implementation of No Fly Zone would not involved physical intervention by forces through missiles and air strikes. Thus it appears that both the African Union and the Arab League are backing out of the support given to the UN SC resolution to intervene in Libya. The United States which has also been reluctant to support the move in the first place which has been seen more of an Anglo French initiative is also now skeptical of the outcome of the intervention even as more and more countries including the Organization of Islamic Conference are likely to raise their voices against the same.
The impact of the move on the relations of the West with Islam also needs to be debated for this would only add to the growing hiatus today. The final challenge is the threat of terrorist attacks and incidents as the Lockerbie bombing wherein Mr. Gaddafi reportedly authorized the bombing of Boeing 747–121 killing all 243 passengers and 16 crew members on 21 December 1988. Gaddafi is a shrewd and ruthless leader who will not hesitate in taking any extreme measure and thus all guards would have to be up in facing the new challenge.
India’s consistent stance has been against military action in a third country and also secession and new state formation. For India and other states the withdrawal of support to Mr. Gaddafi was also ironic given that the UK and France were till recently on very close terms with the Colonel. What ever be the final outcome of the Libyan crisis, it would be evident to the World that India has emerged in its own right and needs to be listened on the global stage.
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