Defying international law

Published : Apr 11, 2003 00:00 IST

THE United States of America has failed to persuade the world that Iraq constituted a direct threat to its security. Who would take us seriously if we announced that the Maldives were a military threat to India. That the most powerful country in the world should act as the big bully, defying world opinion, the United Nations (U.N.) Security Council, the U.N. Charter and international law, is more than alarming. What an example to set. The fence is swallowing the grass. The gamekeeper has turned poacher.

What is really disconcerting is the blatant double-talk of the United States (U.S.) and the United Kingdom (U.K.) about the fare and failure of their second resolution in the U.N. Security Council. Almost each day these two permanent members had to eat their words. Arm-twisting, misinformation became their full-time preoccupation, to get support for their resolution. "We are one short of nine votes to get the resolution through. We will insist on a vote come what may. We want the world to see who is with us, who against" and so on. Then the truth hit M/s Bush and Blair very soon. There was no support for their second resolution. France would veto it. So also Russia. Maybe China. France was singled out for ridicule in television talk shows in America. Not a mature thing to do.

The stand taken by the majority of the Security Council was eminently sound and wise - give inspectors some more time. Not months, but weeks and thereafter taken a decision to use earned armed force with the sanction of the Security Council. What most galled the Americans was that they were unable to persuade either the Security Council or even the hundreds of millions of people all over the world that Iraq constituted a threat to the U.S. So what did they do? Instead of carrying members-states of the U.N. with them, they decided to have a farcical three-nation summit in mid-Atlantic under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister of Portugal. Thereafter, they announced that there was enough proof that Saddam Hussein was in possession of weapons of mass destruction and had to be disarmed and replaced. The effort of the French to have a Foreign Minister level meeting of the Security Council was dismissed and the Foreign Ministers of the U.S. and the U.K. did not attend the meeting.

The U.S. and the U.K. launched an attack on Iraq on March 20 and the first target was President Saddam Hussein and his family. The language used was quite extraordinary. "The window of opportunity" presented itself and the "decapitating mission" was undertaken. In plain language - that sovereign countries like the U.S. and the U.K. proclaimed openly that they are entitled to assassinate a Head of State of a country who is a member of the U.N. and the Non-aligned Movement.

The world is now faced with the situation without precedents. Let me put down the brutal facts. 1) The U.S. believes in the doctrine of regime change; 2) The U.S. believes in pre-emptive military action without approval of the U.N. Security Council; 3) Article 39, 40 and 41 of the U.N. Charter are of no value; 4) Sovereignty of nations does not matter; 5) International law could be flouted.

This is the situation which humankind has to cope with. India is not a permanent member of the Council, but we are still a country with a potential to become a world power. The least the government could have done was to exchange views with the Heads of governments of China, Russia, France, Germany, South Africa, Indonesia, Brazil, and so on.

ON March 18, an impressive function was held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, The 2002 Gandhi Peace Prize was presented to the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan for the year 2002 by the President. The Gandhi Peace Prize was instituted in 1995. It carries a cash award of Rs.1 crore and a citation. The past recipients of the prize include Dr. Julius Nyerere, former President of Tanzania; Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne, founder President of the Sarvodaya Movement in Sri Lanka; Dr. Gerhard Fischer, who dedicated his life for service to leprosy patients; the Ramakrishna Mission; Baba Amte; Dr. Nelson Mandela; and so on. The prize was received by former President R. Venkataraman on behalf of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. It was a touching moment to see the present incumbent in the Rashtrapati Bhavan handing over the prize to a former President R. Venkataraman who is in his 90s. He walks briskly, stands straight and is intellectually sharp with an astonishing memory.

The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan was founded in 1938 by K.M. Munshi with the approval of Mahatma Gandhi. The Bhavan has come up as a recognised premier non-governmental institution, which promoted ethical, cultural and spiritual values in addition to its ambitious programme of literary and educational emphasis. Its publications are widely read and Rajagopalachari's Ramayana and Mahabharata has sold more than a billion copies.

I HAVE just finished reading Mohit Sen's autobiography, A Traveller and the Road. The Journey of an Indian Communist. It is a fascinating testimony to the disillusionment of a card-carrying member of the Communist Party with the parent party. I particularly enjoyed the first half of his book and his experiences in Mao's China where Sen appeared after finishing his Cambridge degree acquiring a Chinese name. The book is gripping and I hope it will be widely read.

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