Sunday, July 10, 2011

Not an Option for Us

July 9, 2011 went down in history as the day when the 193rd member of the United Nations came into being. After a bloody civil war, a peace deal and several flare-ups, South Sudan finally seceded from its northern, Arab neighbour led by Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court.

The secession of the South marks an end to decades of strife but also marks the beginning of a new kind of strife. South Sudan is the world's newest oil-exporter, but it is also landlocked and requires the North's Port Sudan to export oil. In addition, it is also looking to construct oil pipelines to neighbouring states.

A lesson for India from South Sudan is that we should not use this method. Although India has never had a civil war, let alone one that spanned more than a decade, we have had a string of insurgencies, some seeking secession (in the Northeast as well as Kashmir) and some seeking subversion (the Naxalites). However, as the Government engages in peace talks with some of these groups, it is clear that the option that South Sudan took is not an option for us.

As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pointed out on Kashmir, India is open to all options except those that alter borders. Indeed, India's democratic system ensures that everyone gets a share in the pie, while liberalization has brought prosperity to large parts of the nation (definitely larger than what the License Raj brought in any case).

So, while Vice President Hamid Ansari, India's point-man for African ties ex-South Africa, attended the Independence ceremony in Juba, we mist remember that secession and loss of territory is not an option at all for us when it comes to conflict resolution.

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