The coronavirus pandemic has already become the main event of the leap year, relegating other dramatic news of recent months to the background. It also turned out to be the most severe stress test for the global economic and financial system, for many international organizations and public administration mechanisms in individual countries. This test is far from complete since the peak of the pandemic is still far away, and the repercussions of the global spread of 2019-nCoV (aka SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19) have yet to be assessed. Nevertheless, some preliminary conclusions can already be made. Unfortunately, these findings are disappointing.
Most experts, journalists and politicians focus on the economic and financial impact of the pandemic. How will the coronavirus affect global trade and investment? What will happen to international supply chains? How will global financial markets respond? How will the geography and scale of cross-border migration flows change?
All these questions are, without a doubt, fundamental. And not only for “them”, i.e. governments, top multinational companies and financial holdings but also for “us”, i.e. ordinary people in all corners of the planet. It is already clear today that for a lot of people, life will be divided into “before” and “after” the pandemic: some will have to give up their travelling hobby, some will not be able to get a raise, and some will switch to remote work or be tempted by the possibility of downshifting.
Nonetheless, we should not forget about the political, or rather political and psychological, consequences. They are not as noticeable, but no less important, both for “us” and “them”. Indicators of global political trends and sentiments today are as alarming as are the indicators of global economic trends. The preliminary results of the coronavirus test on humanity reveal clear signs of a political and psychological immunodeficiency or, if you like, an absence of the instinct that is inherent in any biological species to protect one’s own population.
All for One or Each for Themselves?
All epidemics, from the Athenian or so-called Thucydidean” plague (430 BC) to the Ebola epidemic (2014–2015), ultimately ended one way or another. Sooner or later, the current coronavirus pandemic will also be under control. However, different epidemics affected the course of world history in different ways. Some of them could be compared to what programmers call a bug: a random error in a computer program that leads to an unplanned and undesirable result. Others took on the character of a feature, i.e. became an organic property, essential aspect, characteristic trait, permanent function and even “additional functionality” of the program.
The first scenario (bug) is likely if humanity or an individual population that has been affected by the epidemic is able to draw the necessary conclusions from the disaster and prevent it from recurring in the future. The second scenario (feature) is inevitable if appropriate conclusions are not drawn, the lessons of the disaster are forgotten, and the epidemic does not lead to any changes in the usual political priorities, management approaches, psychological attitudes and the old way of life. A bug is perceived as a problem, a feature is seen as an inevitability. You fix a bug, but you live with a feature. Let’s examine the specific case of the current coronavirus pandemic.
Logic suggests that the population should rally against a common threat, especially when it comes to the homo sapiens species, which is at the top of the evolutionary ladder. Man, as we all know, is a social being. Putting aside internal disagreements and group conflicts – at least for a while – mankind should focus on finding a solution to a truly universal problem.
And what are we seeing now, when humanity is faced with a progressing pandemic? Political leaders are remarkably reluctant to make significant changes to their international agendas. The spread of coronavirus neither prevented the recent exacerbation of the situation in Syria nor the breakdown of ceasefire agreements in Libya. Iran’s transformation into one of the leading centers of the pandemic did not prompt Washington to attempt even a symbolic easing of its economic sanctions against Tehran. Nor did the pandemic become an incentive for Russia and Saudi Arabia to make mutual concessions during the OPEC+ negotiations, which could have prevented the collapse in oil prices and the subsequent panic on global financial markets. In each of these and in many other cases, the universal interests of the self-preservation of the human population have invariably been pushed into the background for the sake of opportunistic political, economic or other group interests.
Moreover, the pandemic itself has started to be perceived as an opportunity to strengthen one’s position in geopolitical and economic competition. United States Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Louis Ross is optimistic that the coronavirus epidemic “will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America.” A number of Western economists were quick to announce that the pandemic would spell the end of the “Chinese era” in global manufacturing and the final victory of the United States in the economic confrontation with Beijing. Of course, the fact that China was the first victim of the coronavirus presented an excellent opportunity to talk about the inefficiency of authoritarian systems in preventing epidemics, about the redundancy of the restrictive measures taken by the Chinese authorities, to reiterate concerns about the human rights situation in China, and so on.
In recent weeks, U.S. officials have not once missed an opportunity to refer to the culprit as the “Chinese” (“Wuhan”) virus. In turn, Chinese officials have speculated that the virus may have been brought to Wuhan by the U.S. military, who had participated in the Military World Games held in the city last October.
All in all, we must admit that four months after the start of the pandemic, the world continues its everyday squabbling over momentary disagreements, petty vanity and tactical gains and losses. In other words, the pandemic is perceived not so much as a global bug that needs to be fixed at all costs, but as a new feature of world politics that can be used to advance your interests and counter those of your opponents and competitors. Paraphrasing the famous saying by King Frederick William I of Prussia, modern statesmen may well say: “A pandemic is a pandemic, but the war should be on schedule.”
However, maybe we should blame the whole thing solely on unscrupulous politicians, insatiable defense corporations and irresponsible financial fraudsters? Unfortunately, I cannot agree with this statement. The current pandemic often exposes unseemly features of the human character, not only in the abstract “them” but also in the very specific “us”. All these politicians, corporations and banks turn out to be just as irresponsible, unscrupulous and short-sighted as allowed by the existing social demand.
“You Die Today, and I Die Tomorrow”?
It is natural for the human consciousness (or rather the subconscious) to reject negative scenarios. We are even less willing to consider such scenarios as directly affecting ourselves and our loved ones. This is especially true for countries and even entire continents that have enjoyed peace and the absence of obvious threats to personal security for several generations. Hence the numerous instances of the frivolous attitude to the pandemic at its initial stages, especially in European countries, where we saw a defiant unpreparedness and unwillingness to follow recommendations and even direct orders from the authorities. “They went on doing business, arranged for journeys, and formed views,” wrote Albert Camus in his novel The Plague. “How should they have given a thought to anything like the plague, which rules out any future, cancels journeys, silences the exchange of views. They fancied themselves free, and no one will ever be free so long as there are pestilences.”
At the service of infantile optimists is a whole army of experts who urge us not to dramatize the situation. They inform us that the number of people killed by the new virus over the course of the entire pandemic is comparable to the number of people dying of tuberculosis in the world every day. They remind us that even ordinary flu leads to more deaths today than the coronavirus has managed to cause. They tell us that in the United States, for example, car accidents claim more than a hundred lives every day, and yet no one in America is thinking of banning cars because of that.
When, finally, ordinary people are forced to open their eyes to the true extent of the problem, they often act no better than the cynical and selfish politicians. Of course, the pandemic has already provided many examples of human solidarity, civil initiative and true heroism. And yet.
In the relatively prosperous south of Italy, agitated activists refused to accept refugees from the disadvantaged north of the country, and in some places this reluctance even led them to block roads and railway stations. In the Poltava region of Ukraine, local residents threw stones at buses with fellow citizens evacuated from Wuhan. Fearing the spread of the virus on the African continent, the public in many African countries remained deaf to the requests of their compatriots to help them with their evacuation from Wuhan. In the United States, the federal government was forced to accommodate potential carriers of the virus at military bases. Also telling is the case of the Westerdam cruise ship, which, under pressure from the public, was not allowed to moor in the ports of Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand for two weeks, until, finally, the passengers were able to go ashore in the Cambodian port of Sihanoukville. All of this was despite the fact that not a single infected person was found on board.
Historical experience suggests that the victims of any epidemic or natural disaster are invariably those social, economic, ethnic and religious groups that were the most disadvantaged even before the emergency. These groups are most vulnerable to the threat of the dissolution of traditional social ties, lack of quality medical care, increasing unemployment and other problems. These groups are also the ones that are most often blamed for the consequences of disasters, such as the Jewish pogroms that rolled over Europe during the famous Black Death epidemic of 1348–1351. Under extreme conditions, the processes of social and cultural polarization tend to accelerate, and the much-needed social cohesion in the face of a common threat becomes extremely difficult to achieve.
Carrying this general pattern over to the international level, it would be fair to conclude that, in the event of a global pandemic, the least vulnerable and least wealthy states and territories will ultimately be the most vulnerable. It is one thing when the virus spreads throughout affluent Europe or the effectively managed China. It is an entirely different matter if, for example, the epicenter is Afghanistan, Idlib in Syria, South Sudan or the Gaza Strip. It is hard to imagine the scale of consequences a pandemic may have in places with ravaged infrastructure, numerous hotbeds of political radicalism and extremism and constant outbreaks of armed violence.
What is easy to imagine, though, is how right-wing populists in Europe or extremists in the Middle East will use this situation to strengthen their positions. In fact, they are already exploiting the pandemic heavily, because for them the coronavirus is definitely a feature, not a bug, a novel opportunity, or a new threat. In Europe, the pandemic strengthens the arguments of the right-wing parties in Italy, France, Spain and Poland, who demand that borders be closed and the flow of international migration stopped. One interpretation that arose in the Middle East is that the coronavirus was cast upon the Chinese as a punishment for oppressing Muslims. In Russia, the virus works for those who espouse total isolationism, prophesize the irreversible downfall of the West and preach eschatological optimism.
What about the social responsibility of the media? The pandemic is becoming a source of endless speculation, opportunistic propaganda and misinformation. Conspiracy theories have flourished: the virus is declared to be a product of secret laboratories, and its distribution the diabolical plan of powerful dark forces nesting either in Washington, or Beijing, or Jerusalem, or possibly even Moscow. Fears of the pandemic, fueled by politicians and journalists, are nourishing dark instincts, stirring up the muddy waters that are inevitably present at the bottom of any national identity. Demand for various “horror stories”, in turn, stimulates the supply – and the shabby inventions of countless conspiracy theorists are snapped up by the townsfolk just as soap, salt and matches were swept from the shelves during previous epidemics.
An Epidemic of Minds, Not Bodies
Mankind’s readiness for collective action in the fight against common challenges – be it epidemics, natural disasters or man-made disasters – is generally declining. The systematic cultivation of nationalism and national exclusiveness, the implicit or explicit promotion of xenophobia, the arrogant disregard for international law, the prioritizing of tactical interests over strategic ones – all these features of world politics that we have observed in recent years will not pass without consequence.
Just a couple of decades ago, the willingness for international cooperation was much higher. When the so-called “bird flu” epidemic broke out at the beginning of the century, U.S. epidemiologists immediately came to the aid of their Chinese colleagues in identifying the virus (H5N1). As a result, the extremely dangerous bird flu outbreak (its mortality rate reached 60%) was nipped in the bud, and only several hundred people fell victim to the epidemic. Of course, those were the blessed times when the United States still had no restrictions on scientific cooperation with China, and the People’s Republic was not at all considered an implacable foe of the United States.
Throughout the many years since the deadly epidemic of the Ebola virus, authoritative epidemiologists have time and again proposed a wide variety of measures to bolster international cooperation in combating dangerous infectious diseases. But the new pandemic demonstrated the weakness and fragility of international organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO). Who in the world today believes that the WHO can become a truly effective global headquarters for the fight against coronavirus? Judging by the amount of resources provided to the organization, almost no one: the WHO’s total budget does not exceed the budget of a big American hospital. This is despite the fact that the organization’s outstanding experience in countering dangerous diseases is beyond doubt: just recall the global eradication of smallpox and the undeniable successes in the fight against polio and malaria.
Societies in most countries of the world have ceased to trust international organizations, no longer seeing them as reliable mechanisms to counter epidemics and other threats. Even in the European Union, the most important decisions regarding the coronavirus today are made in national capitals, and not in Brussels. But societies do not trust their own governments either, suspecting them of concealing the true extent of the pandemic, as well as of using the pandemic for their narrow political purposes. Governments, for their part, do not trust each other, and that applies not only to potential adversaries and competitors, but also to allies and partners. As a result, a vicious circle of total distrust is emerging, which is an ideal breeding ground for any epidemic.
It appears that the upcoming G20 Summit in Riyadh in November 2020 will be mainly devoted to the problems posed by the imminent global recession, by new challenges to the global financial system and by the coronavirus. But can humanity wait until November, in the meantime confining itself to helpless attempts to stop the pandemic in each individual country? Is it worth hoping that a miraculous vaccine will be invented in the coming months, or that the coronavirus will not spread during the hot summer period? Should we convene an emergency G20 meeting to discuss the current pandemic?
It appears that without unrelenting pressure from the public, governments will not be willing to take collective action, still perceiving the coronavirus not as a bug, but as a feature of world politics. Such an approach will inevitably doom homo sapiens to degradation and, ultimately, to extinction. And this does not only include the abstract “them” such as governments and corporations, but also the very specific “us”. If not today, it could be in ten or fifty years. If not from coronavirus, it could be from climate change or global nuclear war. What other signal does humanity need to finally wake up the self-preservation instinct that is inherent in any biological species?
From our partner RIAC
A leader of the third world has to lead a movement for reformation of the International law
It is by no means a hyper reality that China has accelerated its geo political influence around the world this year despite the criticism of the West on China’s negligence in concealing the COVID 19 at outset. China being one of the permanent members of security council has widely contributed to the UN system. In this single modern global market, the People’s Republic of China has arguably become the manufacturing hub of the world in producing a large number of goods than any other western country, besides that it has also become the world’s second largest importer of goods. Today the realm of bargaining power in the positivistic international law is completely based in the idea of power politics and the US stands as its cradle beyond a doubt. I would mention America as leader of the first world and China as leader of the third world. As the leader of the western world, the United States relentlessly works for its political, economic and legal dominance, which it has been enjoyed for plenty of years. The third world, which is considered to be the group of states known for its extreme poverty, civil wars, unrest and unemployment, has realized that poverty would become an inevitable obstacle in the process of its development. Mohammed Bedjaoui , who had served as a judge on the International Court of Justice, clearly claimed in his great astonishing work “ Towards a New International Economic Order” that “ It is western exploitation that leads to the poverty of the third world. “The third world pays for the rest and leisure of the inhabitants of the developed world,” and that “Europe created, and the United States has appreciably aggravated, most of the problems which face the third world”.
International law governing the rights and duties of states is perpetually and predominantly being dominated by the first world and its embodiment that is the United States. In this research article, I am going to discuss two essential things which are: what China has to do to reform the west constructed International law and as well as why China should lead a movement of the third world for its reformation?
For knowing these queries, we have to note the origins of International law down and how it works in today’s world?
If we have a look at the brief history of International law, International law has its roots in diverse European civilizations. To say in simple terms, International law is Eurocentric. Natural law which is also considered as a part of International law was developed by ancient Christian thinkers whose ideas were rooted in the Greco Roman ideas on rights and justice, in the due course of time those ideas were imbued with the Catholic theological virtues. However, it was such a sense of sheer irony that ideas such as natural law venerated by the Catholic thinkers were later used to legitimize the colonial expansion in the 16th century. For instance Francesco Vittoria who has been regarded as one of pioneers of modern international law used the very concept of natural law as Spanish justification of its rights over Indian territories in America. Let us turn towards modern International law. Modern International law primarily developed based on two concepts that are the concept of State practice and International treaties.
On the one hand, most of the global scholars perceive the United Nations charter as a founding International treaty of International law that contains rights and duties of states. On the other hand, the third world scholars perceive the United Nations as a founding organization of colonial imperialistic powers. There is a general perception among third world International law scholars that the Security Council of the United Nations is completely dominated and run by the colonial turned imperial powers. Four members out of the five in the Security Council were purely colonial countries who had ruled and economically exploited the world for centuries. The Security Council has also arguably been Eurocentric which is consisted of more western states embodying their own interests. Security Council is the principal organ of the United Nations, which mostly enjoys veto power. Permanent members may use the veto to defend their national interests. Over the years, in history of the Security Council, the United States has used the veto power more than other permanent member for defending west interests including Israeli interests. Most importantly, the third world has no effective role to play and to defend its interests in this globalised world. The colonial super powers met in San Francisco, to establish a predecessor to the League of Nations, have not granted independence to a number of African and Asian countries. Most of the third world countries became independent after establishing the United Nations.
Finally, we reached to the end. I would conclude this article by answering questions that I have put above. The structure of the United Nations is based on the charter of the United Nations, which is considered as a founding document of modern International law. In this way, the United Nations charter grants more absolute powers to the Security Council where third world countries do not have participation. The leader of the third world China must wage a movement for developing countries to reform the Security Council. China has to collaborate with a group of developing countries for removing global financial power that lies with the Bretton Woods Institutions. Obviously, most of the power lies with the Bretton Woods Institutions, where western nations exercise the power on the rest of the world. So far, third world was exploited. So, the rest of the world outside the west has to demand for new international economic order, which would work for developing states.
UN at 75: The Necessity of Having a Stronger & More Effective United Nations
October 24, 2020, marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations. In this context, this article investigates the necessity of having a stronger UN for the benefits of the world’s people. In fact, if one looks at the past, the UN came up in 1945 in response to the Second World War for a more stable, secured, and peaceful world. And the UN has been successful to a larger extent to that goals and objectives, many argue. Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary-General for instance, wrote that ‘The United Nations, with their rules and institutions, are at the heart of the international system. They encourage States to prevent or settle disputes peacefully. The United Nations speaks for the voiceless, feeds the hungry, protects the displaced, combats organized crime and terrorism, and fights disease across the globe’ (Annan 2015).
If one looks at the history, after the Second World War, there are not so many wars on a large scale or conflicts except some bilateral Wars like Vietnam War or Iraq invasion in Kuwait or US invasion in Afghanistan or Iraq or Syrian crisis or Rohingya crisis. One can claim that the present world is more stable and peaceful than the world before the Second World War. Against this backdrop, Ramesh Thakur rightly observes, ‘On balance, the world has been a better and safer place with the UN than would have been the case without it (Thakur 2009:2). And it will not be wrong to claim that the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is playing a crucial role in this regard, focusing both on ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ security issues. Hard security issues ranges from nuclear threat to international terrorism and soft security issues include human security issues to human rights to international criminal justice and international sanctions (For details see, Thakur, 2009).
The UN is not only concerned about international peace and security but also concerned about economic and social issues. There are several UN organizations e.g. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Food Programme (WFP) or the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) which is involved in socio-economic issues that impact millions of people globally.
First, one can look at the role of the UN General Assembly to understand the necessity of having a more robust UN. It is the core organ of the UN. It is the only organ in which all the member countries are represented all of the time. The role of the UN includes to pass resolutions and to create subsidiary agencies to deal with particular issues (Barkin 2006: 58). UN General Assembly works as a forum where the world’s states meet and discuss the pressing global problems. In this context, Eleanor Albert, Leo Schwartz, and Alexandra Abell write that ‘Since its inception seventy-one years ago, the United Nations General Assembly has been a forum for lofty declarations, sometimes audacious rhetoric, and rigorous debate over the world’s most vexing issues, from poverty and development to peace and security’ (Albert et al. 2016). However, in September 2015, the Assembly agreed on a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals, contained in the outcome document of the United Nations summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda (resolution 70/1). Notably, the implementation of SDG goals will have broader implications for the world’s people.
In addition, the Assembly may also take action in cases of a threat to the peace, breach of peace or act of aggression, when the Security Council has failed to act owing to the negative vote of a permanent member. In such instances, according to its “Uniting for Peace” resolution of 3 November 1950, the Assembly may consider the matter immediately and recommend to its Members collective measures to maintain or restore international peace and security.
Second, one should also look at the role of the Security Council to make the case of having a stronger United Nations. The UN Security Council is the most powerful security-related organization in contemporary world politics. As the Charter of the United Nations says: ‘the Security Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security (Article 24). The Security Council takes the lead in determining the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression. It calls upon the parties to a dispute to settle it by peaceful means and recommends methods of adjustment or terms of the settlement. In some cases, the Security Council can resort to imposing sanctions or even authorize the use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security’
In contemporary world politics, the UN Security Council is the most potent security-related organization because it is the only recognized and legitimate international organ which deals with international peace and security. In this regard, Justin Morris and Nicholas J. Wheeler claim that ‘The United Nations Security Council is at the heart of the world’s collective security system’ (Morris and Wheeler 2007: 214). The UNSC play role by passing Resolutions regarding maintaining international peace and security, determining threats to peace and security and finally undertaking peacekeeping operations.
Decisions made by the Security Council are known as the Security Council resolutions. Examples of Security Council resolutions include Resolution 794 (1992), which authorized military intervention in Somalia on humanitarian ground, or the resolution 1325 (2000), which called on states to recognize the role of women in peace, and security and post-conflict situations. In the UN Security Council Working method Handbook, it is noted that the UNSC has adopted over 2,000 resolutions relating to conflict and post-conflict situations around the globe. Another report, titled Repertoire of the Practice of the Security Council noted that between 2008 and 2009, the Security Council adopted 35 out of 65 resolutions in 2008 (53.8 %), and 22 out of 47 resolutions in 2009 under Chapter VII (46. 8 %) concerning threats to the peace, breaches of the peace or acts of aggression. The report also notes about several UN resolutions authorizing United Nations peacekeeping missions. In connection with the mission deployed in the Central African Republic and Chad, the Council approved the deployment of a United Nations military component for the first time in 2009 to follow up operations by the European Union in Chad and Central African Republic (EUFORChad/CAR). The Council continued to authorize enforcement action for United Nations peacekeeping missions in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), Darfur/Sudan (UNAMID), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), Lebanon (UNIFIL) and Sudan (UNMIS). This increased number of UNSC Resolutions dealing with international peace and security reinforces its legitimacy and power as a security organization.
The critical question that comes into the forefront is how much UNSC can implement its mandates neutrally or independently in terms of maintaining world peace and security. The critiques bring the example of Iraq war (2003) where UNSC ‘faces a crisis of legitimacy because of its inability to constrain the unilaterally inclined hegemonic United States.’ (Morris and Wheeler 2007:214). Another critical question is the role of UNSC in resolving the long-standing Syrian crisis or the Rohingya refugee crisis.
It is undeniable the fact that UNSC cannot function with its full potentialities due to the challenges and limitations it faces because ‘in their pursuit of raisons d’état, states use whatever institutions are available to serve their interests’ (Weiss 2003: 151). And here comes the politics in the Security Council which is highly manifested in the past. Against this backdrop, Weiss correctly observes, ‘the politics of the UN system- not only the principal organs of UN like Security Council or General Assembly is highly politicized but even ‘technical’ organizations, for instance, World Health Organization or the Universal Postal Union continue to reflect the global division between the so-called wealthy, industrialized North and the less advantaged, developing South’ (Weiss 2009: 271).
It is, therefore, states and particularly the P5 want to use the Security Council as a means to uphold its interest. Gareth Evans rightly points out ‘for most of its history the Security Council has been a prisoner of great power manoeuvring…’ (Evans 2009:Xi). Hence, using veto by the P5 remains a significant challenge for the UNSC to work in its fullest potentials. In the recent case of the Rohingya refugee crisis, the UNSC is unable to take adequate measures due to veto power used by China and Russia. However, the UNSC is responsible for maintaining world peace and security.
The bottomline is that there is no alternative to having a stronger and more effective UN because it is the only hope for millions of people around the world. The UN is an inevitable international organization in this turbulent world despite its criticism or limitations.Thus, it becomes essential for the P5 nations to think about the broader benefits of the world’s people instead of their narrowly defined interest in the case of using veto power. And the world also needs to acknowledge that the UN reform has been a reality to ensure the neutrality and objectivity of the United Nations for a more peaceful, stable, secured world.
The United Nations and the Neglected Conflict of Kashmir
The principle of ‘right of self-determination’ and its applicability to the 72-year-old Kashmir conflict needs to be considered during the 75th session of the Fourth Committee of the United Nations General Assembly that is taking place between October 8 to November 10, 2020 at its headquarters in New York. The Committee will discuss and deliberate the issues related to international conflicts and decolonization. What I do hope to offer is an unstarry-eyed view of the fate of self-determination in Kashmir; and, the indispensability of convincing the United Nations that international peace and security would be strengthened, not weakened, by resolving the Kashmir conflict to the satisfaction of all parties concerned..
The self-determination of peoples is a basic principle of the United Nation Charter, which has been reaffirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and applied countless times to the settlement of international disputes.
The concept seems to be as old as Government itself and was the basis of French and American revolutions. In 1916, President Wilson stated that self-determination is not a mere phrase. He said that it is an imperative principle of action and included it in the famous 14-point charter. This gave a prominence to the principle. Self-determination as conceived by Wilson was an imprecise amalgamation of several strands of thought, some long associated in his mind with the notion of “self-determination,” others hatched as a result or wartime developments, but all imbued with a general spirit of democracy.
Self- determination is a principle that has been developed in philosophic thought and practice for the last several hundred years. It is an idea that has caused people throughout the world to rise up and shed the chains of oppressive governments at great risk.
Finally, in 1945 the establishment of the UN gave a new dimension to the principle of self-determination. It was made one of the objectives, which the UN would seek to achieve, along with equal rights of all nations. Article 1.2 of the Charter of the Untied Nations reads: “To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.”
From 1952 onwards, the General Assembly of the UN adopted a series of resolutions proclaiming the right to self-determination. The two most important of these are resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960 and resolution 2625 (XXV) of 24 October 1970. Resolution 1514 was seen almost exclusively as part of process of decolonization. 1514 is entitled: Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.”
International Court of Justice considered the several resolutions on decolonization process and noted: “The subsequent development of International Law in regard to non-self governing territories as enshrined in the Charter of the UN made the principle of self-determination applicable to all of them.” This opinion establishes the self-determination as the basic principle for the process of de-colonization.
The principle of self-determination in modern times can be defined as the right of peoples to determine their own political status and pursue their own economic, social and cultural policies. Self-determination in its literal meaning or at a terminological level also implies the right [of a people] to express itself to organize in whatever way it wants. A people must be free to express their will without interference or threat of interference from a controlling authority. This includes alien domination, foreign occupation and colonial rule.
Although, the applicability of the principle of the self-determination to the specific case of Jammu and Kashmir has been explicitly recognized by the United Nations. It was upheld equally by India and Pakistan when the Kashmir dispute was brought before the Security Council. Since, on the establishment of India and Pakistan as sovereign states, Jammu and Kashmir was not part of the territory of either, the two countries entered into an agreement to allow its people to exercise their right of self-determination under impartial auspices and in conditions free from coercion from either side. The agreement is embodied in the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, explicitly accepted by both Governments. It is binding on both Governments and no allegation of non-performance of any of its provisions by either side can render it inoperative.
It is apparent from the record of the Security Council that India articulated the principle, accepted the practical shape the Security Council gave to it and freely participated in negotiations regarding the modalities involved. However, when developments inside Jammu & Kashmir made her doubt her chances of winning the plebiscite, she changed her stand and pleaded that she was no longer bound by the agreement. Of course, she deployed ample arguments to justify the somersault. But even though the arguments were of a legal or quasi-legal nature, she rejected a reference to the World Court to pronounce on their merits. This is how the dispute became frozen with calamitous consequences for Kashmir most of all, with heavy cost for Pakistan and with none too happy results for India itself.
By all customary moral and legal yardsticks, 23 million Kashmiris from both sides of the Ceasefire Line (CFL) enjoy a right to self-determination. Kashmir’s legal history entitles it to self-determination from Indian domination every bit as much as Eritrea’s historical independence entitled it to self-determination from Ethiopian domination.
India’s gruesome human rights violations in Kashmir also militate in favor of self-determination every bit as much as Yugoslavia’s human rights violations and ethnic cleansing created a right to self-determination in Bosnia and Kosovo. Kashmir’s history of social and religious tranquility further bolsters its claim to self-determination every bit as much as East Timor’s history of domestic peace before Indonesia’s annexation in 1975 entitled it to self-determination in 1999.
If law and morality are overwhelmingly on the side of Kashmiri self-determination, then why has that quest been thwarted for 72 years? The answer is self-evident: the military might of India. India is too militarily powerful, including a nuclear arsenal, and too economically mesmerizing to expect the United States, the United Nations, NATO, or the European Union to intervene. The United States is reluctant to exert moral suasion or pressure to prod India because it covets more India’s alluring economic markets and collaboration in fighting global terrorism. Further, the size and wealth of the Indian lobby in the United States dwarfs the corresponding lobbies supporting Kashmir.
The world powers need to understand that there is no way the dispute can be settled once and for all except in harmony with the people’s will, and there is no way the people’s will can be ascertained except through an impartial vote. Secondly, there are no insuperable obstacles to the setting up of a plebiscite administration in Kashmir under the aegis of the United Nations. The world organization has proved its ability, even in the most forbidding circumstances, to institute an electoral process under its supervision and control and with the help of a neutral peace‑keeping force. The striking example of this is Namibia, which was peacefully brought to independence after seven decades of occupation and control by South Africa; East Timor and Southern Sudan, which got independence only through the intervention of the United Nations. Thirdly, as Sir Owen Dixon, the United Nations Representative, envisaged seven decades ago, the plebiscite can be so regionalized that none of the different zones of the state will be forced to accept an outcome contrary to its wishes.
In conclusion, a sincere and serious effort towards a just settlement of the Kashmir dispute must squarely deal with the realities of the situation and fully respond to the people’s rights involved in it. Indeed, any process that ignores the wishes of the people of Kashmir and is designed to sidetrack the United Nations will not only prove to be an exercise in futility but can also cause incalculable human and political damage.
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A pattern of enforced disappearance – and impunity for such acts – persists in Iraq, according to a report published on Friday...
Advancing an International Code for Protection of Tourists
The Committee for the Development of an International Code for the Protection of Tourists has met for a second time,...
The planet is shrinking Geopolitics on this diminishing ball in space is not going away. On the contrary, geopolitics is...
The Effectiveness of Ultraviolet Sterilization
Among the various purification methods, the use of ultraviolet cabinet sterilizer offers a lot of prospects for personal, industrial, and...
Ready for the Dry Years: Building Resilience to Drought in Southeast Asia
Authors: Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana and Lim Jock Hoi* South-East Asia has long endured severe droughts, which occur on average every...
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International Conflicts from the View of Trade Expectations Theory
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