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India abstains on Libya vote

The UN Security Council meeting in New York adopted early today morning (around 4 am IST) a resolution proposed by Britain, France and Lebanon imposing ‘no-fly’ zone over Libya. The operative part of the Resolution 1973 has 5 areas – ‘Protection of civilians’; ‘No Fly Zone’; ‘Enforcement of the arms embargo; ‘Ban on flights’; and ‘Asset freeze’.
Ten countries voted for the resolution, while BRIC [Brazil-Russia-India-China] countries and Germany abstained. 

India made an excellent ‘Explanation of Vote’. Salients: Notwithstanding our serious concern and condemnation of the use of force by the Libyan government, we have reservations insofar as: a) SG’s special envoy who just visited Libya hasn’t yet given his report; b) an objective analysis of the ground situation is lacking; c) African Union’s High Level Plan is yet to visit Libya. 
In sum, we underscored the importance of the political effort.
We felt the resolution isn’t backed by credible information on the ground situation or has spelt out how the measures are going to be implemented. India has full respect for the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Libya. The proposed sanctions regime adversely affects trade and investment interests and exacerbate the difficult situation for the Libyan people. Unlike the other BRIC partners, we fleshed out our position with good reasoning and a sense of responsibility. So far so good. 
1973 is an inherently flawed resolution. It is open to interpretation. Controversies are bound to arise. While 1973 says international community can’t have any boots on the ground in Libya, it authorises “all necessary measures” to protect civilians and civilian populated areas. Hillary Clinton put the hat on the ring insisting on Thursday while visiting Tunis that no-fly zone would require measures to protect planes and pilots, which will involve bombing Libyan defence systems. But 1973 says nothing of the kind.
During back room negotiations, US apparently sought specific authorisation for ground operations as well and finally seemed to have settled for the vague general formulation of “all necessary measures”.
This was how it all began in Afghanistan in October 2001 – aerial bombardments and special forces operations to begin with while the Northern Alliance militia did the actual fighting and US ground forces arrived once the real fighting was over in December. 
Russia put on record its apprehension that 1973 may open the door for large scale military intervention. China also pointed out that clarity is lacking and it didn’t receive satisfactory response to the queries it raised during the negotiations, therefore, it has difficulty with ‘parts’ of the resolution. 
Britain and France announced that they are set to begin operations today itself. US said it is preparing. NATO is meeting to work out operational details. Some NATO countries are dissociating – Germany and Turkey, for instance. 
The western powers are putting emphasis on this as a joint NATO-Arab operation. Wall Street Journal Thursday quoted US and Libyan rebel officials admitting that at Washington’s instance, Egypt has been covertly supplying weapons to the rebels. The UAE and Qatar are also in the game. Qatari flags are flying all over Benghazi. Who else will come from Arab League remains to be seen.
The West’s political need to have an Arab fig-leaf will, in turn, compromise their capacity to put pressure on the Persian Gulf regimes and Egypt on democratic reforms. But that is another story. 
All in all, South Block’s decision to abstain was the prudent course. Smart thinking. The statement that was carefully drafted in Delhi kept in view that India can defend its stance on a sustained basis. 
The Libya file may just have opened at the Security Council. 1973 stresses the defence of Benghazi. A division of Libya seems to be on the cards – like the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq becoming virtually autonomous over time with the cover of no-fly zone. 1973 sets a bad precedent of external intervention.

Posted in Diplomacy, Uncategorized.

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