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Partitioning The UK?
|by Dr. A. Adityanjee|
History In Making:
Francis Fukuyama, that naïve American thinker in 1989 in his infamous essay predicted the end of History and followed up the same thesis in his book in 1992. He was so humbled by the geopolitical tsunamis that have followed in the last two decades witnessing two major wars in the Persian gulf and the Af-Pak region; break-up of Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, divorce of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, toppling of some Arab Despots in South-West Asia; and emergence of new nations like Eritrea, Kosovo, Macedonia, and South Sudan. History was, indeed, made in 1947 when the Imperial British Government abdicated its legal responsibility to control a murderous call for “direct action” and hurriedly partitioned the Colonized India into the Republic of India and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
The Scottish Refrendum:
Now it is certain that a referendum on the issue of independence will be held in Scotland in 2014. Although Scottish public currently is 57% opposed to the idea of Scottish independence, nationalism is very potent spirit that changes the public opinion in a matter of days. The Scottish National Party (SNP) is in power currently in Holyrood, Edinburgh and the Scottish First Minister (Chief Minister), Alex Salmond is strongly spearheading the Scottish independence campaign. He articulates cogently:
For the next two and half years a sustained debate on divorce, harsh rhetoric generated from both the sides and rekindled nationalistic fervor in Scotland may eventually swamp the status quo.
The mainstream UK politicians from the three large parties (Tories, Labor and Liberal-democrats) have tried to scare the hell out of Scottish voters. They would allow only two options in the referendum; keep the status quo or have total independence in the 2014 referendum. Alex Salmond and the SNP have demanded a third option of home rule also that would entail maximum devolution of powers under the UK (so-called Devo Max, Devo plus or independence-lite option). In 2011, the UK treasury said the level of public spending per head in Scotland was 1624 pounds higher than in England. The debt to the UK tax-payers for bailing out the Royal Bank of Scotland was 26 billion pounds. Inherent is the implicit threat that with total independence comes the fiscal responsibility.
The differences between the two sides are indeed very real and as Salmond highlights:
Scottish Social Attitudes Survey done in 2009 found that 61 % of Scots trusted the Scottish government to act in Scotland’s interest versus 25% who trusted the British government.
Those who argue that Scotland would be too small to go it alone forget that with a population of 5.2 million, an independent Scotland would be comparable to other European mini-states, e.g. Croatia 4.41 million, Denmark 5.5 million, Estonia 1.34 million, Finland 5.3 million, Macedonia 2.04 million, Norway 4.7 million, Ireland 4.6 million, Kosovo 2.4 million, Latvia 2.24 million, Lithuania 3.26 million, Slovenia 2.03 million and Slovakia 5.5 million. It will certainly be larger in population than tiny Montenegro with a population of less than one million (626000).
Any divorce and demise of the UK, as we currently know it, will have real international geopolitical consequences. Mr. Salmond highlights the implications when he states:
Perhaps, the European Union would be over-eager to embrace an independent Scotland because of highly ambivalent relationship with UK.
Following the World War II, the UK, one of the major colonial powers, was forced to give up its colonial possessions owing to changed geo-political circumstances and its fiscal inability to project power internationally. With a deeply contracted economy, a bankrupt Britain was unable to overextend its forces. It started decolonization process reluctantly and slowly. Liberation of Scotland from the UK would be an ultimate exercise in decolonization since the time original Scottish parliament (Estates of Scotland) was dissolved in 1707 under pressure by the Act of Union 1707 to form a Parliament of the Great Britain. Establishment of an Independent Scotland would unleash the genie of a chain reaction leading ultimately to dissolution of the UK. After independence of Ireland from the UK in 1922, Northern Ireland was retained as a province of the UK. Independent Scotland will act as catalyst to spearhead the drive for re-unification of the eight counties of the Northern Ireland with the rest of Ireland and lead to a united republic of Ireland. In this context one recalls the correspondence and contacts between the Irish freedom fighter Hugo de Valera and MK Gandhi in the early part of the 20th century. Both these wise men appreciated the predicament of their respective countries and provided moral support for the idea of total independence from Britain.
Since the end of WWII, UK has had a disproportionate influence on international affairs. Some of this was achieved by a Machiavellian “special relationship” with the reigning super-power, US earning it the nick-name “America’s poodle”. The fact that it was a former colonial power and continued to have a permanent seat on the United Nations’ Security Council helped UK wield undue geo-political influence that was not commensurate with its economic, mercantile and military power or so-called comprehensive national power. The fact that the UK chose to exercise its soft power judiciously by using British Council scholarships for academics and civil servants from the former colonies served British geo-political interests very well. UK used its higher education system, especially Cambridge and Oxford Universities to continue to impart its footprint on the psyche of newly minted mandarins from the former colonies who liked to be perceived as “British trained” or “UK returned”. UK cleverly continued to hang on to the former colonial possessions by stitching them together in the glue of the Commonwealth. However, after the possible secession of Scotland in 2014 and after the eventual dissolution of the UK, perhaps a tiny England may not be able to hold on to its seat on P5 in the UNSC. This would also have bearing on the remaining 14 British overseas territories (or colonies still under possession of the UK), e.g. Falklands, Bermuda, Jersey Island, Montserrat, Cayman Island, Isle of Man, British Virgin Islands, Gibraltar, Diego Garcia, St. Lucia etc. Will Falkland be still under English control in 2015 is a question English policy establishment needs to ponder over!
2014 may well be the watershed year that would lead to eventual independence of three new European countries historically colonized by the Imperial England, namely Scotland, Wales and the Duchy of Cornwall. If and when that happens, the United Kingdom will be allowed to fade away into geo-political oblivion. Perhaps, at that juncture, a diminished England may choose to republicanize the nation, frame a new written constitution that it currently lacks, have a codified bill of rights, abolish the hereditary House of the Lords, retire the anachronistic Windsors (the English royal family) permanently and award them an annual “privy purse” as compensation just like India did! Such a roadmap may ultimately lead to a tiny England joining the USA as the 51st state just like Hawaii in order to maintain that “special relationship”.
Geo-Political Implications for India:
As the former colonial power, the UK had immense influence on the history of India that still has its impact. Partitioning India and consequent creation of a congenitally antagonistic state of Pakistan was a clever, Machiavellian geo-political ploy by the UK to have her strategic influence in the subcontinent while playing footsie with Pakistan. UK has sided with Pakistan historically on almost every issue of significance to India, starting with the accession of the former princely state of the Jammu and Kashmir. UK continues to meddle in the J& K affairs and inserts itself into every opportunity. UK was the fountainhead of encouragement to the Khalistani separatist movement along with US and Canada while being in bed with Pakistan on this issue. Khalistani separatist leader Jagjeet Singh Chohan was based in London for years under the benevolent patronage of the British Crown. Tamil separatists are traditionally based in UK with their anti-Srilanka activities but also anti-India activities. UK used the state visit of her Queen to humble India by demanding separate state addresses by the British monarch in both Chennai Rajbhavan and Chandigarh Rajbhavan besides a state address in Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi! This would have been a very clear violation of the diplomatic protocol and India’s sovereignty.
UK still has thousands of stolen artifacts from India in its museums, art galleries and private art collections. Unlike the Greeks who have made formal demand for return of the Elgin marbles from London, the Government of India has not had the courage to legally demand repatriation of plundered arts and archeological treasures. Nor did Government of India hold the British Empire and its mandarins responsible for genocide of Indians during the Great famine of Bengal in the 1940s. Unlike Israel which has pursued the former Nazis tenaciously wherever they fled to; Government of India abdicated her national responsibility in bringing the former colonial masters to justice. Perhaps, there will be window of opportunity to get all the stolen treasures repatriated from English museums after the dissolution of the UK. A thoroughly weakened and emasculated England would not be able to justify continuing to hoard stolen Indian treasures and cultural artifacts. Lastly, a fragmented England would not be able to play its Pro-Pakistan game on the issue of J&K.
India must keenly watch the events leading to the Scottish referendum of 2014 and engage the Scottish political elite in advance so that India as an emerging super-power is not left out of policy options. India needs to use the principle of reciprocity in international relations. India must not forget the lessons of history. India has to resolve the outstanding issues left over from the history with the UK or its successor state. India needs to be pro-active instead of reactive in her policy formulations. India needs to shape the geopolitical events by exercising her smart power. Here is a golden opportunity for India to address and correct some of the injustices that were heaped on her in the past.
As a nation formerly colonized by UK, almost all Indians would experience an exhilarating feeling of schadenfreude at the independence of Scotland and possible disintegration of the UK as we know it. India should act as a de facto midwife in the birth of the new nation of independent Scotland. Just like India gave her voice for the cause of decolonization of Africa, it must provide moral, material and diplomatic support for the idea of Scottish independence from the UK because it is the right thing to do.
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Comments on this Article
09/12/2012 20:55 PM
Charles Patrick O'Brien
07/27/2012 18:07 PM
Dinesh Kumar Bohre
06/18/2012 12:10 PM
06/18/2012 11:38 AM
Dinesh Kumar Bohre
06/18/2012 10:32 AM
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06/15/2012 08:00 AM
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