THE ROVING DIPLOMAT
PEACE ON THE BACK BURNER
Rival nations around the world are torn by ongoing strife and conflict
In Myanmar, the problem of Aung San Suu Kyi – the opposition leader who has defied the military government in a lone battle for several years – has come to the forefront with the regime blocking her movements and confining her to an uncomfortable roadside standoff.
This confrontation comes at a crucial time for the government both in the context of its recent admission to ASEAN and forthcoming talks with the EU.
The ‘no war no peace’ situation between India and Pakistan is having paradoxical consequences in the alternation between violence and affirmations of peace, which have marked the recent past. The leader of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen in Kashmir has called for the resumption of talks with India and offered a ceasefire on condition that Pakistan is invited to the negotiating table.
Meanwhile, the newly elected Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has affirmed a desire to take advantage of the offer of talks by Muslim militant groups in Kashmir but suggested that they should be accompanied by tough measures against the terrorists.
At the same time, there’s an ongoing conflict between Indian and Pakistani armed forces on the Kashmiri border. Pakistan is also unhappy over the recent expulsion of a member of its high commission staff in New Delhi on charges of spying – it claims that the accusations are baseless.
Also, Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon is due to visit Pakistan shortly. It is likely that the meeting with General Pervez Musharraf will be strained due to the matter of the suspension of Pakistan from the Commonwealth.
The suspension occurred following the coup in 1999 – that was when Musharraf and others in the army seized power in a bloodless coup from the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Musharraf is expected to request British cooperation in dealing with corrupt Pakistani officials and others who had fled to Britain.
There is speculation about the repercussions within Russia with regard to the Kursk submarine disaster in the Barents Sea – especially in the context of President Vladimir Putin’s standing. The conclusion seems to be that it reflects a breakdown in Russia’s technology and its armed forces in general, which are apparently in a shocking financial state.
Russia has a military budget of only US$ 5 billion compared to the US defence allocation of 300 billion dollars. Therefore, the onus is on Putin at this juncture to take action to resolve these security challenges – and indeed, the submarine disaster highlights the need for urgency.
A disquieting development has been reported from Africa, which has the potential to aggravate the ongoing crisis in Sudan. The immediate reason for obtaining military help from China is that the rebel movement has been making headway recently and is threatening the oilfields in the country, which have become increasingly productive and enhanced Sudan’s resources.
It’s said that oil revenue has enabled Sudan to undertake a large-scale armaments manufacturing programme.
There is continuing uncertainty over the future of the Middle East peace process as negotiators who have continued to meet since the failure of the last Camp David Summit have been unable to reach agreement on key issues – especially the status of Jerusalem. It is suggested that in view of this deadlock, the Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization Yasser Arafat may consider delaying the date for the declaration of a Palestinian state.
The latest development is that Egypt may intervene in an effort to break the deadlock following President Bill Clinton’s recent visit to Egypt where he sought the help of President Hosni Mubarak to break the impasse. Clinton’s anxiety seems to stem from his desire to negotiate a settlement before the end of his term of office.
Regarding other areas of potential crises, Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid has announced a new cabinet but it seems that Megawati Sukarnoputri (who was appointed vice president) is unhappy that she was not consulted on its formation.
There is a general feeling of doubt that the president, with his physical disabilities, would be able to continue to offer the leadership that Indonesia needs at this juncture. There are also questions about Megawati’s plans but she has remained noncommittal.
BY The late Deshamanya Dr. Vernon L. B. Mendis