Peace and stability still elusive in the world

Peace and stability still elusive in the world
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Highlights

A major reason for the absence of peace is the growth of asymmetric relationships, or the presence of an oppressed party, under the rule of oppressing one, causing a situation in which violence is impending.

A major reason for the absence of peace is the growth of asymmetric relationships, or the presence of an oppressed party, under the rule of oppressing one, causing a situation in which violence is impending.

The people of the world are paying a heavy price for the conflicts between countries. Precious resources, acutely needed for primary requirements, are frittered away on conflicts between nations, caused largely by the wicked nexus of politician, businessman and administrator on either side. Political philosophers Hegel and Kant had pointed out long ago that the unscrupulous leaders of some countries engineer situations of conflict, often with the connivance of the opposing side, in the belief that the threat posed by an external enemy will divert attention of the common people away from the internal strife and conditions of miserable poverty and deprivation, in which they are living. I recollect, in this context, a quote, which plagiarises the famous quotation of Lord Acton, about the tendency of power to corrupt. It was used by Professor CL Wayper, the author of a book of the ELBS series titled, 'Teach Yourself Political Thought,' which I used while preparing for the civil services exams - "peace corrupts and everlasting peace corrupts everlastingly."

Even the hectic efforts of well-meaning countries and international organisations have often failed to resolve the differences of opinion between countries at conflict. Many peace treaties, signed in good faith, have soon been reduced to mere paper instruments by renewed escalation of tensions.

The two major wars, which the world witnessed in the 20th century, do not, unfortunately, appear to have served as adequate warning to world leaders to desist from disharmony and competition, leading to conflict and tension. Purely in terms of the human cost, the First World War caused the death of 16 million people, military and civilian, with a generation of young men being wiped out. And the Second World War, probably the deadliest in human history, led to 57 million lives being lost, a large number of them being from Russia, Germany, China and Japan with Britain and France also suffering considerably. Nearly 80 million people are estimated to have abandoned their home countries on account of lack of peace. In Afghanistan alone, according to a UN estimate, the number of civilians who died between 2009 and 2019 was a staggering 1,00,000. And in 2020 another 10,000 lives were lost.

Among the other disastrous consequences of the First World War was the great depression that hit the world economy. It, however, in a welcome development, led to the establishment of United Nations, in 1945, with substantial help and support from the US. The US, in subsequent years, also played a significant role in the birth of many other multilateral international organisations such as the IMF, the World Bank and General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the fore runner of World Trade Organization (WTO). Many years later, in 1961 to be precise, the USA, with John Kennedy as the President, a commendable step was taken to constitute a Peace Corps to enable Americans to volunteer in programmes aimed at the growth and development of poor countries, as a measure of self-sacrifice and redefining American relations with the countries of the third world.

In the last century, leaders of a majority of countries were heaving a sigh of relief at the establishment of the 'detente' between the superpowers, which, at last, appeared to herald the end of the Cold War. But vested interests, in both the superpowers managed once again to fuel their military and political ambitions to ensure the return of an atmosphere of animosity, confrontation and conflict, resulting in untold suffering to millions of people of other countries.

It is indeed ironic that, quite apart from the exorbitant burden on the economies of the countries at conflict, the United Nations on its part spends a huge sum of money on the raising, training, equipping and deploying of an International Peacekeeping Force. India also constituted a Peace Keeping Force, primarily meant for disarming the militants in Sri Lanka, in the wake of the violence and the uprisals that shook Sri Lanka following a demand by extremist organisations, including the Liberation Tiger of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), for a separate state for the north-eastern parts of the country.

Even as this piece is being written, strife and conflict, of acute dimensions, are in evidence, in several places in the world, mostly concentrated in Asia and Africa. While territorial disputes, and civil wars, are the most common forms of conflict, a few have arisen on account of terrorism. The face-off between Israel and Palestine continues unabated, as does the Russo-Ukrainian war. Domestic strife, and civil war, are raging in Afghanistan and South Sudan, to mention only two instances, while the US-Iran confrontation, and the ever-simmering uneasy relationship between India and Pakistan, continue. Many other countries, including Ethiopia and Lebanon, are facing instability which is threatening to erupt into violence any moment.

It is indeed sad and distressing that despite the opening up of the world economy following the advent of the forces of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation in the last decade of the previous century, naked greed, imperialistic ambition and the lust for power and authority continue to cause conflict and tension within countries and between them, while the burning issues of poverty, and deprivation remain relegated to the background.

It is time for mankind to accept, and understand, that peace is the only way out of the world's current state. It is the answer to violence and equity is the main foundation for lasting peace and sustainable growth.

(The writer is former Chief Secretary, Government of Andhra Pradesh) 

(The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of The Hans India)

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