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Second Tryst with Destiny? The first brought little!
by Dr. Rajinder Puri Bookmark and Share

The world is in transition. That compounds confusion. Sometimes good goals are pursued for wrong reasons and in the wrong way. That distorts reality. After the Desert Storm war in Iraq the senior President Bush talked of a New World Order. Its failure to emerge exposed him to ridicule. His son sought to create it. His attempt thus far has only blemished the concept. The New World Order (NWO) has become an epithet and object of hate around the world. But NWO is no utopian dream. It is a historical imperative. Without it, civilization is unlikely to survive. Technology dictates this.

India should have special interest in the evolution of NWO. It was the largest victim of colonialism. In modern history colonialism was the first step towards globalization. Along with its repression, injustice and exploitation it also brought about transfer of technology from the more advanced to less advanced nations. The exploitation which survives in some measure till today may eventually end. The transition to globalization will not. How painful or painless that transition is will depend on the wisdom of political leadership.

After the Desert Storm Gulf War when former President Bush talked about NWO, I expressed these views on the subject in a book, Recovery of India:

“Pakistan itself is facing contradictions arising from the denial of provincial autonomy. Already there are incipient freedom movements in Sind and Baluchistan. Civil war within Pakistan, were it to come, would not remain confined to Pakistani territories. Inevitably, it will spill over and involve India. The day of reckoning is not far. If not by the wisdom of our leaders, then despite their follies, if not by peaceful negotiation, then by painful war, the artificially contrived and grotesquely maintained fragmentation of the subcontinent must end. The people of India must prepare for the change. The best among them must actively work for it.”

This was written a decade and half ago. After the recent escalation of the Baluchistan crisis, has the moment of reckoning arrived?

Readers of this column may note that the events in Lebanon and Iran – no matter how slowly and painfully – are moving along the anticipated course. Despite brinkmanship an Iranian flashpoint has yet not come. The hidden Bush agenda to secure a NATO-restrained Israel within a restructured Middle East was identified. Subsequently Miss Condoleezza Rice spoke about creating “a new Middle East”. More recently US Armed Forces Journal, which generally reflects Pentagon views, enlarged on the topic.

In a futuristic article entitled “Blood borders: How a better Middle East would look”, Mr Ralph Peters wrote:

“Iran, a state with madcap boundaries, would lose a great deal of territory to Unified Azerbaijan, Free Kurdistan, the Arab Shia State and Free Baluchistan, but would gain the provinces around Herat in today's Afghanistan — a region with a historical and linguistic affinity for Persia. Iran would, in effect, become an ethnic Persian state again, with the most difficult question being whether or not it should keep the port of Bandar Abbas or surrender it to the Arab Shia State. What Afghanistan would lose to Persia in the west, it would gain in the east, as Pakistan's Northwest Frontier tribes would be reunited with their Afghan brethren (the point of this exercise is not to draw maps as we would like them but as local populations would prefer them). Pakistan, another unnatural state, would also lose its Baluch territory to Free Baluchistan. The remaining ‘natural’ Pakistan would lie entirely east of the Indus, except for a westward spur near Karachi.”

One need not quibble over the detailed forecast of the article. What the article does confirm is that there is recognition at last among credible quarters in the US that the arbitrary international borders in Asia left behind by departing colonial powers cannot ensure stable peace under the present political arrangement. Indians would easily recognize the irrationality of the Radcliffe Award dividing Punjabis and the Durand Line dividing Pushtuns. Both communities were victims. To perpetuate this unnatural arrangement an unnatural political tension was kept alive for six decades.

How is this problem to be resolved?

One course is already being attempted. Both India and Pakistan appear to have left things to America. To propitiate US sentiments an arid “peace process” is kept alive. No clear idea of the final settlement informs the mind of either President Musharraf or Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Experience shows that America’s best initiatives are derailed by polluted motives, flawed strategy and inept handling. The gap between US promise and performance in Iraq is tell-tale. But if the realization of lasting peace in South Asia is to be an indigenous effort, the leaders of India and Pakistan will have to recognize reality.

The reality is that the basic conditions of democracy must be met. Self-rule is the very foundation of democracy. People must be convinced that they decide their own fate. In multi-ethnic and multi-lingual states this makes federalism an imperative. Both India and Pakistan deny sufficient self-rule to their sub-units to qualify as federal polities. The other aspects of democracy may come later. The first need is to respect local sentiment. People should be ruled directly at the ground level by leaders with whom they fully identify. Leaders foisted by outsiders and working under their direction, as America attempts, are self-defeating. This approach is particularly relevant to NWFP, Baluchistan and Kashmir. Solutions, to be lasting must have the consent of people affected directly. In some cases there are demands for autonomy, in others for outright sovereignty. Both the governments of India and Pakistan face these problems.

Fortunately a model has emerged that can effectively address these problems. The European Union has been the most significant political institutional advance during the last century. It started with 15 nations which had shared history and culture. It was succeeding admirably. Only now does it appear to flounder somewhat, after the principle of cultural unity was discarded by indiscriminate expansion of its membership. Apparently, market forces prevailed over people’s political sensibilities.

South Asia is fortunate. Its nations have had greater cultural interaction than EU nations. Whether it is sovereignty or autonomy that will defuse problems, a confederation would preserve diversity and ensure unity in matters of security, culture and trade. India and Pakistan are the two most powerful nations of South Asia. If they settle bilateral problems within the framework of a future South Asian Union, they could eventually co-opt all other South Asian nations. President Musharraf and Dr Manmohan Singh are expected to meet at the NAM summit.

Dare one hope they will raise their dialogue to a new level?     

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