Colonel Gaddafi is dead. He was killed by the Libyan rebels. Reportedly his last words were: “Don’t shoot me.” The rebels would not have succeeded if NATO planes had not bombed Libya. There is jubilation in the streets of Tripoli. There is satisfaction in the west voiced over TV channels. Gaddafi had his share of excesses. But he also had at various times friends in the West as well as in the Third World including India. His death is a tragedy. I believe it was avoidable. There is hope of democracy entering the Middle East. But violent death is a poor harbinger for democracy. Violent death is a poor start for a century that offered hope of global political reform. The saddest aspect is that possibly India could have avoided these violent events. But the government was too timid. It refused to be pro-active. It refused to accept the role history was thrusting upon it. It shunned the global role that it will inevitably have to play one day.
A little after the revolt in Libya started, I wrote on March 21 in these columns:
“India has expressed regret over the Western nations bombing Libya. India was among the few nations to abstain from the UN resolution against Colonel Gaddafi's government in Libya. These two decisions set the Indian government apart from other nations... Events have set India apart from all other nations. Colonel Gaddafi's appointed Ambassador to New Delhi, Mr Al-Essawi, later defected from the Gaddafi regime to join the protestors. He was subsequently appointed the director of the protest movement insofar as Libya's foreign relations under the new dispensation were concerned…This fact seemed not to have overly angered Colonel Gaddafi… He appealed to India to provide technicians to man his oil fields during the crisis. Given the security hazards New Delhi declined to risk the lives of Indian technicians.
From all these above factors it should be clear that India remains the only nation capable of playing the peace maker's role in the Libyan crisis… Surely if an agreement can be achieved to end bloodshed it should be attempted. There are two parameters within which New Delhi would need to make the attempt. Violence must end. And change must be ensured. That would call for a peace formula that allows Colonel Gaddafi to recognize reality and dilute his power akin to that of a titular head. It would call for the protesters to realize that a smooth transition would enable them to create a more viable and democratic new system… In other words what New Delhi needs is skillful brokering of peace by an adept interlocuting team capable of displaying tact and ingenuity. Why cannot New Delhi make the attempt?”
The government of course attempted nothing. Had the attempt been made it might have succeeded, it might have failed. But now we will never know, will we?