May 25, 2020
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No More Morality Bombs

Instead of condemning, the attempt should be to bring NATO and Milosevic back to the negotiation table.

No More Morality Bombs

THAT large segments of the international community are getting high blood pressure because the US-led NATO military operations against Yugoslavia are against the objective principles of international law, is, frankly speaking, irrelevant. States or groups of states acting against the principles of international law and the stipulation of the UN Charter is an abiding and recurring phenomenon in inter-state relations. Such actions are always rooted in subjective perceptions and assessments of the individual and collective interests of the powers which initiate such actions. The situation becomes ideal if such initiatives can be fitted in the framework of international law and the objectives of the UN Charter. When this isn't possible, the rationale and justification resorted to are of higher moral considerations of good governance, human rights and so on.

The NATO air strikes on Yugoslavia manifest this latter rationale. It is important to recall facts before proceeding to value judgement. Serb president Milosevic has resorted to violence and military oppression against the inhabitants of various parts of former Yugoslavia since 1991. Two, there is undoubtedly extensive violation of human rights by his government. The other side of the picture involves an assessment of why Milosevic has behaved in the manner in which he has. It is true the fragmentation of Yugoslavia was due to the resurgence of suppressed ethno-religious rivalries between the republics of former Yugoslavia. It's also true that the Collegial leadership, which Marshal Tito envisaged as his successor, descended into a struggle for personal power. More importantly, the break-up of Yugoslavia occurred because West European nations, led by Germany, rushed to recognise the secessionist states, allowing no time for the Yugoslav leadership to resolve their differences. The Kosovo crisis is the latest tragic result of the encouragement of the break-up of pluralistic states. It's a legitimate speculation whether this doesn't have the underlying motive of weakening states formerly part of the Soviet Bloc, to ensure domination of Eurasian politics by Western powers led by the US.

Getting back to specifics, Kosovo, unlike Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia and Macedonia, is an integral part of the truncated Yugoslav Republic. Kosovo is also of politico-ethnic importance to the Serbs as the point where they resisted the Ottoman expansion in the 13th and 14th centuries. It was a Serb majority area till the end of World War II. Then Tito allowed the liberal migration of Albanians into Yugoslavia from the oppressive communist regime of Albania. This resulted in Albanians constituting nearly 14 per cent of the Yugoslav population, most of them in Kosovo.

The territorial integrity of Yugoslavia has been under threat since 1992. This pressure was generated mainly by the NATO, led by the US. Not able to mount political resistance, Milosevic resorted to military means. The extent to which Yugoslavia's territorial integrity is challenged is manifest in the Rambouillet Agreement which stipulated the creation of an autonomous Kosovo region, with law and order and monitoring the political situation assigned to troops of the NATO Alliance, totally excluding Serbian administration and security. Even Yugoslav leaders opposed to Milosevic have asserted that Yugoslavia didn't agree to these provisions. So, the excuse, of Yugoslavia reneging on its agreement, for indulging in air strikes is specious.

The basic issues involved: a part of Yugoslavia, desiring secession, resorted to violence. Second, the Yugoslav government resisted this, leading to human right violations and exodus of refugees. Third, NATO took military action against a sovereign state grappling with an internal secessionist movement. The justification: it was intervening to ensure human rights.

NOW the value judgement. NATO is essentially a defensive alliance with a Charter to act only in retaliation against communist aggression in Europe. There is no authorisation in the agreements governing NATO that allows military operations inside another state. The action violates Article 2(4) of Chapter 1 of the UN Charter, and Article 53 of Chapter 8. It also violates the spirit of Chapters 5, 6, 7 and 8. NATO members sidelined the UN knowing two permanent members of the Security Council, Russia and China, would object. (Not due to moral considerations but for their respective strategic interests.) It's pertinent that the Kosovo Liberation Army received funds and arms from NGOs in Europe and the US. One does not have to speculate whether such activities do not have the backing of the governmental agencies of these nations. In any case, the air strikes only caused more suffering. Most refugees moved out due to the massive air strikes. NATO will soon have to deploy ground troops, which will accentuate regional tension. Chinese Prime Minister Zhou Rongji even speculated about the possibility of a global conflict due to Kosovo.

The declared objective of the NATO military initiative is to sanitise Kosovo against Serbian pressure and ensure self-determination for the people of Kosovo. Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair, indulging in moral hyperbole, has labelled it a fight of 'good against evil'. The NATO initiative in Kosovo signals dangerous and intrusive trends in the new international order sought to be put in place by Pax Americana. The precedent of Kosovo should forewarn India about likely implications about Kashmir or the North East.

Any comparison of Kosovo operations with Indian support for the liberation of Bangladesh or Indian military aid to Sri Lanka and Maldives is not politically and factually correct. There is no point in a condemnation of the US or the NATO. They have motivations in terms of strategy and realpolitik which impelled them to this unfortunate initiative. The attempt should be to generate international pressure in tandem with like-minded countries to bring Milose-vic and the NATO back to the negotiation table.

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