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India can borrow from EU, Russia

Over one month has passed since the uprising in the Middle East broke out. Yet, India is struggling to formulate a stance that is coherent, forward-looking and sustainable. No doubt, the uprising is taking different forms from country to country, but what is crystal-clear is that an era in Middle Eastern history is ending. Most major countries have thought through the emergent situation and have begun adopting a consistent position, including neighbouring countries like Turkey or Iran, whose interests are no less vital than India’s. Unfortunately, Indian response still remains episodic. 

The EU-Russia joint statement issued in Brussels on Thursday ought to give food for thought to policy-makers in Delhi. It contains the following general principles: a) concern over developments; b) solidarity with the Arab League stance; c) endorsement of UN SC press statement of Feb 22; d) outright condemnation of use of military force to break up peaceful demonstrations, as in Bahrain; e) use of force against civilians, as in Libya; f) regret and condolences for loss of lives; g) exhortation that all parties should respect human rights, international humanitarian law and safety and security of civilians and foreign nationals. 
Most important, EU-Russia statement takes note that the uprising is ‘massive’ and is genuine, emanating out of factors that are deep-rooted. Two, it suggests that accumulated problems in the region need to be addressed through national dialogue involving all political and social forces so as to reach a consensus over ‘much-needed transformations’. Three, democratisation process should evolve peacefully and within legal framework. Four, EU and Russia unequivocally support the aspirations of the Arab peoples for a ‘more just and prosperous life’. Finally, their own involvement in the emergent situation will be in response to requests from the countries affected rather than unilateral. 
EU-Russia statement considerably waters down the UN SC press statement issued in New York on Tuesday. The strident criticism of the Libyan government, the call for ‘international humanitarian assistance’, demands on the Libyan government and the barely-veiled threat of ‘accountability’, etc. are missing. Obviously, those were US interpolations. (Sarkozy has also distanced France from any intervention in Libya.) The Arab League statement issued on Tuesday was essentially a strong reprimand of Libya and it steered clear of any international intervention. Credit goes to secretary general Amr Mousa for steering such a strong statement in favour of democratic reform, which will be precedent-setting for several Persian Gulf autocracies (Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Yemen, etc.) in the coming weeks and months. 

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