Sunday, March 2, 2014

Fault Line States

How are nations formed? Do borders of nations truly represent the cultural and economic sentiments and aspirations of the people, or are borders the result of years of aggrandizing wars, the result of colonialism?

We tell ourselves we belong to the civilized world. That we are moving towards a future of international peace, co-existence and fair trade. But then, we have inherited a million conflicts from our ancestors. And thousands of fault line states.

How are we going to resolve these issues?

Not through the nationalistic route.

The recent crisis in Ukraine is a remainder of Cold War calculations. Pro-West and pro-Russia groups are violently protesting to be heard. Crimea, a pro-Russian region that might want independence, sets a dangerous precent as far as the world is concerned - what if other regions in different parts of the world want to be separate as well?

With the threat of Russian military engagement, we are yet to see how this conflict ends. Should countries use armed forces and intervene in other countries' civil problems?
America has done so in the past. Russia has done so. Anything can happen.

There are fault line states all around the world. Large groups of people find themselves caught in countries they feel no alegiance toward. Linguistic minorities, religious minorities, ethnic minorities, and so on. These minorities may be marginalized, ill-treated, pushed to dwell in poverty, but they are important to the nations they belong to. The parent nations, the bosses, do not listen to their pleas for independence.

In India's case, India considers Kashmir a case in point as proof of Indian secularism. India and Pakistan have fought more than sixty years over the beautiful valley, but nobody cared to ask the people what they wanted for themselves. No referendum was held. Apart from boosting the ego of nationalists, Kashmir being in the Indian political map has done no good for Kashmiris. There has been death, innocent lives injured forever, and suffering.
Palestine. A region still in search of statehood. Xinjiang - a district fighting for independence for over a decade. Kosovo, Somaliland, Azawad, South Ossetia and the list goes on and on.

The countries that hold power over these regions are hungry for more land, more people, more resources. More. India could be excused from this. They only aim to keep what they got in 1947. But separatists are more often than not branded as terrorists by India. Indian nationalism is new, and raw, it makes no compromises.

How could anyone want to be outside the state? The state is absolute. Divine.

But, is it?

People wanted independence from colonizers in the early 1900's as they were oppressed economically and socially. Today, people want freedom from fascism, they want to let their cultures/religions/languages/economies flourish in a society that they choose to create. Something like Gandhi's oceanic circles of independence, "Independence must begin at the bottom. Thus every village will be a republic or panchayat having full powers. It follows, therefore, that every village has to be self-sustained and capable of managing its affairs even to the extent of defending itself against the whole world… In this structure composed of innumerable villages there will be ever-widening, never-ascending circles. Life will not be a pyramid with the apex sustained by the bottom. But it will be an oceanic circle whose centre will be the individual always ready to perish for the village… Therefore the outermost circumference will not wield power to crush the inner circle but will give strength to all within and derive its own strength from it."

Is it wrong to want this sort of independence? Is it the people's fault that they were born into a country history formed for them?

Blind nationalism would not convince these separatists to stay within. Historicity and whom land belongs to is not a simple thing to decode.

Civil war breaks out. One wins over the other. With force, with death.

Recently in Sri Lanka, mass graves of Tamils have been found. Can there be true peace in Sri Lanka?
But the LTTE killed innocent lives as well.

Things are not black and white. The gray areas are enormous. And such conflicts can only be resolved through peaceful dialogue and diplomacy. An open mind. The graciousness to grant people independent states if need be, under a larger economic union like the EU.

Hopefully, we'd wake up to a future where the world is under one such union.
Ultimately, what is the goal of nationalism? If it isn't the larger human good, it need not exist.
What matters is peace. Prosperity for all.


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