Business Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Wednesday, Jun 21, 2006
A world in the thrall of violence
Though most of us are reconciled to a world becoming increasingly more violent, what causes consternation is that there are no signs of the bloody conflicts abating in some of the most troubled regions Iraq, Afghanistan and the tiny island nation of Sri Lanka.
We are today being forced to watch with horror, and helplessness, the escalating violence and brutality in these pockets.
Even as the chief prosecutor Jaafar al-Moussawi, in his closing arguments, demanded a death penalty for the ousted Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein, as the eight-month trial came to its final phase, Iraq is on the verge of a bloody civil war. So is Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka on boil again
Violence in the tiny island nation has escalated and air attacks against the LTTE draw retaliation by the Tigers attacking the Sri Lankan navy. The people of the country's North and East are also caught in the crossfire between the LTTE and the rival faction of `Colonel' Karuna.
The glimmer of hope generated in Sri Lanka just a year ago on the possibility of the Sri Lankan government-LTTE dialogue resulting in a peaceful resolution of the long-raging conflict is dying out.
The escalating violence in Sri Lanka has serious consequences for India. Mainly the large influx of refugees, and under their garb, all kinds of armed militants, signal dangerous portents for Tamil Nadu, which has had to bear the brunt of the impact of the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict.
Under pressure to do something about the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils, and following a meeting with his allies in Chennai on Monday, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Mr M. Karunanidhi, urged the Centre to take steps to bring peace back to Sri Lanka and end the suffering of people there.
Fully aware that he was walking the thin line when it came to the kind of intervention he wants the UPA Government of which his party is a key component to make in Sri Lanka, the veteran politician couched his appeal, keeping clear of controversies.
While the DMK's ally such as Dr S. Ramadoss's PMK is openly sympathetic to the cause of Sri Lankan Tamils, Mr Karunanidhi is conscious that after the thaw in his party's relationship with the Congress(I), following the interim report of the Jain Commission appointed to probe the Rajiv Gandhi killing, the DMK will have to weigh every word it utters on Sri Lankan Tamils, in general, and the LTTE, in particular.
Anyway, Indian military intervention in Sri Lanka through the IPKF ultimately extracted a heavy price in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, and no government in Delhi, least of all one led by the Congress(I), is ever going to get its hands bloodied meddling in the Sri Lankan conflict. With the peace talks collapsing there, civilians in the North-East are being traumatised.
Over the next few weeks and months, unless some dramatic development happens to change the minds of the key players in the conflict, violence is bound to escalate, and the tear-shaped nation, which was just beginning to attract a larger number of tourists, will surely take a huge hit on its tourism-related revenues.
Dangerous in Kabul
Iraq and Afghanistan are the other two cauldrons of violence, not to mention the spill over into the border that Pakistan shares with Afghanistan.
A visit to Kabul will make it clear to any Indian how much India and Indians are respected in that violence-torn country. But following the regrouping of the Taliban, the spurt in kidnappings and the murder of the Indian engineer Suryanarayana, no Indian can walk the streets of Kabul, much less Kandahar, with any confidence that he/she will be safe in that country.
Worse is that just like Iraq, there seems to be no hope on the horizon that as the task of reconstruction gathers pace in a battered Afghanistan, violence will abate and the distraught people of the Central Asian nation will be left alone to gather the pieces of their shattered lives and move towards normalcy.
As Saddam Hussein's trial reaches the final stage, and the prosecution lawyers demand a death penalty, the whole show appears like a cruel joke played on Iraqis.
No atrocity or crime that the Saddam Hussein regime committed could have caused such untold misery and suffering to the entire population of Iraq as is the case now. For the two leaders most responsible for the war on Iraq the US President, Mr George Bush, and the British Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair to now admit that "mistakes" have been committed in Iraq is to sprinkle salt on the wounds of ordinary Iraqi people.
They might inhabit what was once a prosperous nation, and whose oil resources even now should make it one of the richest. But most Iraqis today lead a hand-to-mouth existence, in a country where the social and civic infrastructure is in tatters, where medical facilities are close to nil, where widows and destitute women ensconced in black burqas sit on the streets, with infants in their laps, begging for food, while the men are busy killing one another.
As one country after another takes the decision to pull out its troops from Iraq the latest being Japan and public opinion in the US and the UK gathers force that they don't want to get more and more body-bags out of that troubled country and that their troops should be recalled at the earliest, there appears little hope for the cradle of civilisation.
As the Shias, the Sunnis and the Kurds, and various shades of militants and religious leaders battle it out in Iraq, it will take years to restore any semblance of normalcy there.
Gloom in Middle East
To add to the atmosphere of gloom, the Middle East peace process has also been derailed, but hardly anybody is talking about it. The media, and the world, attention is for the moment engaged in relating gorier tales from elsewhere.
At home, Jammu and Kashmir continues to fester; tourists are returning to the valley but the militants are doing their best to ensure that this return to "normalcy" comes to a quick end.
And in Nepal, some sanity has returned after long days of violence. But the comfort it can give its neighbours, like India, is little.
At the end of the day isn't it an irony that the more powerful that a few nations become and the more power that their leaders wield in geo-politics, the more unsafe they make the world for its six billion plus inhabitants?
If there is any silver lining, it is the small possibility that the Iran nuclear imbroglio will be sorted out. The last thing we need is the "allied forces" attempting yet another military solution to a problem.
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