This sabre-rattling is dangerous and uncalled for in a world already burdened with so many disruptive events such as natural catastrophes, military conflicts, terrorism
‘North Korea is begging for war,’ said the US Representative Nikki Haley at the Special United Nations Security Council meeting called to consider what should be the response to North Korea’s latest threat, namely the testing of what it averred was a hydrogen bomb, which is many times more powerful than the atom bomb. North Korea’s targets were the USA and Japan, and it has already launched a missile in the latter’s direction. Its leader has also threatened to follow this up with another one against the US island of Guam.
US President Donald Trump has given warnings of a ‘massive military response’ of ‘awe and fury that has never been seen before.’ In contrast, Russian President Putin while condemning North Korea’s latest military test also warned against using military force against the country, calling it a ‘road to nowhere’ that could lead to a ‘global catastrophe.’
From all accounts that have filtered out about North Korea, its people are struggling to have a decent living under a ruthless dictatorship and there have been several famines. Is that why Putin also said that the people of North Korea are prepared to eat grass (or will be forced to do so?) in support of their dictator Kim Jong-un in his nuclear ambition? There is a view that instead of threatening a military response, the US ought to have a dialogue with North Korea and negotiate a peace treaty along the lines of the Armistice Agreement of 1953. In any case this sabre-rattling by either party is dangerous and uncalled for in a world already burdened with so many disruptive events such as natural catastrophes, military conflicts, terrorism and other forms of extreme violence, climate change that puts into question the very survival of the human race.
But thank goodness there is a counterbalancing of this call for war by an appeal for global peace that is a vital precondition for any development. It will be recalled that China and India have recently come to an agreement and cancelled their two-month long standoff in the Doklam area in Bhutan. It is being said that neither the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi nor the Chinese President wanted this standoff to come in the way of the BRICS meeting in Xiamen, China where they both met on the sideline and reiterated their wish to maintain stable border relations so that the two countries could focus on their development.
This is indeed a relief and it has found resonance in the Xiamen Declaration adopted by consensus by the five BRICS countries, namely Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa. Consisting of 70 paragraphs, the document is a comprehensive one covering all fields of human activity under the theme ‘BRICS: Stronger Partnership for a Brighter Future.’ They reiterated that it is that ‘overarching objective and our desire for peace, security, development and cooperation that brought us together 10 years ago. BRICS countries have traversed a remarkable journey together on their respective development paths tailored to their national circumstances, devoted to growing their economies and improving people’s livelihoods.’
They plan to ‘energise our practical cooperation to boost development of BRICS countries’ and ‘to foster a more just and equitable international economic order.’
Significantly, they have addressed the issue of terrorism, for the first time naming the groups involved in Pakistan and elsewhere, as has been explicitly stated in two paragraphs:
‘48. We, in this regard, express concern on the security situation in the region and violence caused by the Taliban, ISIL/DAISH, Al-Qaida and its affiliates including Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, TTP and Hizbut-Tahrir.
‘49. We deplore all terrorist attacks worldwide, including attacks in BRICS countries, and condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations wherever committed and by whomsoever and stress that there can be no justification whatsoever for any act of terrorism. We reaffirm that those responsible for committing, organizing, or supporting terrorist acts must be held accountable.’
Indian publication Swarajya reports that Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif has for the first time admitted that outfits like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) are operating from the country’s soil in a response to the BRICS Declaration, ‘We should impose restrictions on activities of elements like LeT and JeM so that we can show the global community that we’ve put our house in order.’
Between them the BRICS countries have over half the population of the world, and if they keep to their agenda and timelines, they can become a formidable vector for peace globally – and that cannot but be in mankind’s interest.
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Modi – Aung San Suu Kyi Meeting in Myanmar
From Xiamen Indian Prime minister Modi travelled to Myanmar on what was his second visit to this friendly neighbour of India. Besides the bilateral agreements they signed for cooperation and assistance, they also addressed the problem of terrorism there as well. Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, referring to the militancy of and the recent attacks by Rohingya terrorists on army and police posts in Myanmar, in which 12 security officers were killed, commented that sympathy for the Rohingya was being generated by ‘a huge iceberg of misinformation calculated to create a lot of problems between different communities and with the aim of promoting the interest of the terrorists.’
She added: ‘We believe that together we can work to make sure that terrorism is not allowed to take root on our soil or on the soil in any neighbouring countries.’ Responding, Modi supported Suu Kyi’s statement, saying: ‘We share your concerns about the extremist violence in the Rakhine state and especially the violence against the security forces and how innocent lives have been affected and killed.’
A newspaper article in India referred to a ‘now deleted tweet last week by Turkey’s deputy prime minister Mehmet Simsek showing a series of gruesome pictures of bodies he wrongly claimed were of dead Rohingya. Supporters of the Rohingya… have a track record of posting emotive images that are not from the conflict.’
While the focus is on the Rohingyas, one must not forget that the ‘The latest violence has also hit Rakhine’s Buddhist and Hindu populations with nearly 27,000 people displaced and fleeing in the opposite direction and some saying Rohingya militants had murdered their kin.’
One has to be fair and give information that is balanced and presents a true picture of the ground reality. Blogs give an alternative view and also make suggestions for viable solutions. Thus, Rego Fernandes agrees that the situation is ‘sad from a humanitarian perspective, a common solution has to be found. Maybe some Middle East countries, Pakistan, etc., will take them.’ Will the international community similarly put pressure on Middle Eastern states like Saudi Arabia for example to accept the Rohingyas? Another blogger refers to the Uighurs in Xinyang province in China who have engaged in terrorist activities and who have been tackled by the Chinese government without any quarters. And yet no one will dare to fault China for defending its people against terrorism. Why is the same not done when it comes to the people of Myanmar?
There must be a stop to the faked information that goes about on social media with an aim to damage the reputation of the Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and Myanmar’s too. The country has come out of a long history of civil wars, and its government has a mandate to maintain peace and ensure that terrorism does not take hold so that development, with the assistance of mainly India and China, can take place and take the country forward. Myanmar, like any other country facing the threat, surely has a right to ensure that militancy and terrorism is not allowed to set in and ruin the country as it is doing elsewhere in the neighbourhood.
- Published in print edition on 8 September 2017