The Middle-East Bias
The divisions within the international community over how to deal with events in
the Arab world, particularly Libya, underscore the sensitivity that has accrued
around the issue of intervention in a sovereign nation. The problem now is what
to do in the event of a stalemate in Libya, with fighting continuing, and
comparatively under-equipped opposition forces unable to take advantage of the
air strikes and push back Gaddafi's forces.
The idea of a de facto divided country is being bandied around as a possibility.
That, per se, would be undesirable. It would recall the Iraq experience -
difficulties associated with continually enforcing a no-fly zone and sanctions - as
well as invite charges of western countries working to keep oil flowing from
opposition areas. True, with Gaddafi having issued ominous threats, and his
forces attacking opposition-held cities, the immediate need was to stop a
But the West has remained quiet on, and maybe passively colluded with, Saudi
Arabia's intervention in Bahrain. If the underlying principle of the widespread
protests in the region has been the removal of autocratic regimes, that applies
just as well to Bahrain as to Libya. The Saudis may have sent in their forces
under the legality of a regional pact, but that does not take away from the fact
that Bahrain is also witnessing protests for democracy.
There is an open but never-admitted partisan approach, based on big-power
strategic considerations, at work in the region. That ambiguity has also reflected
itself in India's stand on enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya. After abstaining
from the vote at the UN, New Delhi has voiced opposition to the air strikes being
carried out against forces loyal to Gaddafi but has remained largely silent on the
clampdown against peaceful protestors in Bahrain.
The cause of freedom and democracy must be upheld unreservedly. True, tribal
complexity, like in Yemen and Libya, might complicate the picture. But an
international consensus on first exerting pressure, and using force only to prevent
civilian deaths, while seeking a negotiated, peaceful transition, must emerge.