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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2644

‘Independence’ for Kosovo

By Allabaksh - Syndicate Features

For 17 years the former state of Yugoslavia has been undergoing the process of disintegration. Its seventh division has just taken place with Kosovo, a UN protectorate, declaring itself free of Serbia on February 17. But Belgrade on its own cannot do much to undo the ‘independence’ of Kosovo, which it says amounts to violation of ‘international law’. The Serbs also insist that the declaration of ‘independence’ went against the 10 June 1999 resolution (1244) of the Security Council, which had spoken of a ‘political solution’ to resolve the crisis in Kosovo, but had not spelt out the formula for it.

The US and some of its allies linked the crisis in Kosovo to the issue of human rights violations by the Serbs. The US was apparently keenly awaiting Kosovo’s declaration of freedom from Belgrade. The long suffering of ethnic Albanians of Kosovo at the hands of Serbs had alienated the latter so much that they had rejected the Serbian offer of ‘autonomy’ and demanded independence.

With a few notable exceptions, most Western powers rushed to welcome Kosovo’s ‘independence’ while Serbia’s old friend Russia fumed. But the outright happiness expressed over Kosovo’s ‘independence’ by the US and the Big Three of Europe—UK, France and Germany—was not shared by some other European countries—Spain, Greece, Romania, Slovakia and Cyprus among them. India is among the countries where events in Kosovo are undoubtedly being watched with great interest.

As a ‘beacon’ of democracy and freedom India should be supportive of the declaration of ‘independence’ by Kosovo. But how can India endorse freedom for Kosovo if it is not ready to accept the right to ‘self-determination’ within the country? It will be naïve to believe that the declaration of Kosovo’s ‘independence’ will have no bearing on Western approach to Kashmir.

There are at least 100 ‘separatist’ movements in the world today, all of which want nothing short of ‘independence’. Kashmir is not the only territory where separatist sentiments are aired regularly.

Obviously, India cannot afford to take a hasty decision on Kosovo. It has a very good reason to adopt a wait-and-watch policy as the next few months may see some dramatic developments. A clue to that was perhaps provided by the Bosnian Serbs. Citing the Kosovo precedent they demanded independence for the Serb-run half of Bosnia. The process of dividing the former Yugoslavia is not going to end soon.

Whatever be the impact of the split opinion over Kosovo on the solidarity of the 27-member European Union, one thing that looks sure is that the Balkans have got one more problem added to the region’s nearly full plate of misery that began in early 1990s. While the tensions in the former Yugoslavian territories can be traced to the region’s history of ethnic conflicts the latest crisis sparked by Kosovo’s ‘independence’ is sure to involve some powers outside the region also. At a time when the spectre of revival of cold war has begun to haunt the world the Kosovo crisis is quite likely to exacerbate the simmering tension between the Western powers led by the US and Russia.

After the present political and diplomatic hurdles in the way of its full independence are removed the next stage for Kosovo will be joining Nato and EU and thus embrace the US more tightly, adding to the annoyance of Russia and Serbia, the ‘lords’ of the region. One more Western military camp will be sitting at the door of Russia and its ally Serbia and the EU would have expanded deep into the Balkans. A bonus for the West comes from the fact that the Muslim-dominated Kosovo’s ‘independence’ pleases the Muslim world.

It is the US that usually makes it its business to ‘liberate’ countries and expects its allies to rubber stamp that decision. In Kosovo it is the European Union that seems to be playing that role. In the next 120 days the EU is to send a mission to take over Kosovo from the UN. The EU thinks Kosovo is its problem, not UN’s. The Serbs, the Russians and the Chinese are among those who disagree as they think that without the Security Council’s sanction whatever the EU, egged on by its Big Three, is doing in Kosovo will be illegal.

If that message from Russia is ignored Moscow will consider extending recognition to two restive Georgian territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and also Transmistra in Moldova. For the West committed to territorial integrity of Georgia it will be an embarrassment.

Even if the Russian threat over Georgia and Moldova looks empty the self-appointed guardians of Kosovo will have to consider the reservations of some of the European Union members as also of two permanent members of the Security Council, Russia and China. Separatist movements have been boiling within some European countries. In Spain it is often expressed through violent means.

The two separate parts of Cyprus are yet to be united. The Russians will not part with Muslim-dominated territories and nor will China allow its Muslim-majority provinces the kind of freedom they want.

There are obvious reasons for countries that have not shared the welcome extended to Kosovo’s ‘independence’ even when these countries disapproved of the atrocities on the Kosovars perpetrated by the Serbs. The precedent set by Kosovo will encourage ethnic minorities elsewhere to demand independence.

It is doubtful whether countries like the US and the UK unreservedly and enthusiastically support separatist groups in countries closely aligned to them. For instance, the people of Balochistan have been fighting for ‘independence’ from the time of creation of Pakistan in 1947 Will UK and US be as considerate towards Balochis as they are of Kosovars. Doubtful.

- Syndicate Features -

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