Foreign Secretary’s interview with Hindu newspaper gives clarity to the Indian stance on Libya. The stance on ‘no-fly’ zone and use of force by the international community is clear-cut. It’s helpful if the Indian thinking is explained more often on various issues.
Fortunately, we are finding ourselves on an utterly safe wicket since the world opinion is also overwhelmingly weighed against the US-British-Israeli enthusiasm for foreign intervention in Libya. Seems highly unlikely that US will press a move in the UN SC for an intervention in Libya. Turkey has virtually vetoed the US-British move on NATO intervention. China is also the chairman of the UN SC by rotation through March and that would have implications for the alchemy of backstage discussions in New York.
But there are a couple of points in FS’s interview that are confusing. First, as regards the Chinese figures about how well their evacuation of nationals is going. Xinhua quoted MFA in Beijing Monday as saying the figure as of that day was 29000. Indian Express newspaper gave the figure as 32000 by Tuesday, which seems to be accurate and based on Chinese media. Today Xinhua updated the figure on and put it as 35860. Evidently, China is doing splendidly. Against this, our evacuation work is indeed pathetic, it is struggling to make progress. Think of it: our entire Indian community in Libya seems to number 18000 people. Unfortunately, FS didn’t divulge the Indian figure of people who have so far been evacuated but according to Indian Express’ estimation, the number is roughly one-tenth of the Chinese figure. Indeed, FS is absolutely right that India should never allow itself to be ‘benchmarked’ against China’s awesome performance. Personally, I’m a fanatic believer in that sort of mature approach to do things our own mature way rather than to worry day in and day out about China or the Yellow Peril. But when a neighbour does extraordinarily well, we should take note also. Incidentally, China is also lending a hand to evacuate Bangladeshis and Vietnamese nationals out of Libya! We don’t have to match that, of course.
A second aspect is about the considerations that India took on board while voting on sanctions against Libya in the UNSC. FS says we allowed ourselves to develop ‘empathy’ with the Libyan PR to the UN. This narrative is a bit confusing. Actually, I heard that the Libyan mission in New York is split down the middle with their PR rooting for Gaddafi and the Deputy PR staunchly anti-Gaddafi. It seems we would have empathised with the DPR rather than the PR? LIbya is a divided house today and its citizens are torn between loyalties and tribal identities. According to Academician Primakov, the well-known Russian Arabist, Gaddafi enjoys quite substantial support still. For the same reason, Fidel Castro thinks Gaddafi won’t be pushover. Be that as it may, why should India predicate its stance on what a rebellious Libyan official might have spoken in his personal capacity in a totally chaotic situation?
Want to hear more about the state of the Libyan mission to the UN in New York? Listen to a hilarious dispatch by the BBC’s veteran diplomatic correspondent Barbara Plett from the UN Headquarters in New York on Saturday. Yes, the same day that the UN SC took up the Libyan resolution. How I wish our officials in New York listen to good old BBC radio when they are in doubt ! I’ve been doing that for years and it helps to know more about men and mice.
– March 4, 2011