IN the extreme international climate hovering over the Kosovo question, the Yugoslav ambassador to India, Dr Cedomir Strbac, finds it apt to relate what he calls a "bitter joke". He says there is a new Jewish nation in Europe, ie Yugoslavia, which is blamed for all the region's evil. Like the Jews, the target of Hitler's Nazi Germany, Yugoslavia has become the target for the whole of Europe, says the ambassador.
The analogy may not be entirely accurate, since the Jews did nothing to provoke the Holocaust, but it is understandable. A single country, small and villainised, facing the might of nato firepower—the image invites one to paint Yugoslavia in the role of victim. This despite one obvious problematic: the Yugoslav security forces committed serious human rights violations in Kosovo now and earlier during the Bosnian civil war.
But Yugoslavia's case against nato's action doesn't rest on emotionalism alone. "True, lots of heinous crimes were committed, but what the US and nato have done is completely wrong in law," says V.S. Mani, professor of international law at jnu and secretary general of the Indian Society of International Law. Right through and before the operation, US and nato spokesmen cited humanitarian reasons for the action, refusing to enter the debate about its legitimacy in terms of international law.
But let's begin at the beginning. What is the problem in Kosovo? Was there an inevitability to its denouement? Are the Yugoslavs completely at fault? What are the implications of the nato action for the world? Is humanitarian intervention a valid motto for violating a nation's territorial integrity and sovereignty? And, the same old question, who decides?
The basic issues in Kosovo are not of recent vintage. Since '74, this tiny southern Yugoslav province had enjoyed autonomy. In '89, Belgrade abolished this and imposed direct rule....