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A Rare Show Of Unity?; By Dr. Sridhar Krishnaswami

C3S Paper No. 0205/2015

The rare show of unity at the United Nations Security Council in the passage of Resolution 2249 only underscores the gravity of the threat to the international system, not from mis-guided non state actors but determined terrorists and thugs bent on upsetting the world order, peace and security. Correctly so the 15 member Security Council has identified the ISIS or ISIL as source of “unprecedented threat” and has called on member states to take “all necessary measures” to “prevent and suppress” the terrorist acts of this group in territory controlled in Syria and Iraq.

The backdrop to this Resolution 2249 cannot be missed—the carnage in Paris which was preceded by the downing of a Russian Airliner in Egypt and the bombings in  Turkey, to mention a few. A shell shocked Europe is yet to recover even as the major powers in the West, Russia and China are looking at ways to coordinate efforts against the ISIS/ISIL. Every one of these countries has been a victim to terrorism perpetrated by a group that thrives on the precarious situation in Syria for the most part. And the Asia Pacific especially India can take little comfort in that only the West is being targeted—the cancer of the ISIS has surely spread to this neck of woods, South Asia especially.

Resolutions in the United Nations Security Council come and go and the success of any one of them depends to a very large extent on how members, especially the veto wielding countries are going to act. In the present instance, the French drafted Resolution had the initial Russian language that called for coordination of all efforts through the Bashar-led government in Damascus which naturally many in the West could not stomach due their opposition to President Bashar and in their joint efforts to topple him, a position that Moscow saw as “politically short-sighted”.

And soon after the Paris blasts China lamented that some in the international comity of nations had double standards on terrorism—a clear reference to the West that it has been slow in condemning terror actions against China .  In the aftermath of the Paris bombings, China’s Foreign Ministry called terrorism “ a common challenge faced by all humanity” and urged “ joint efforts… to address both the symptoms and the root causes of terrorism”. The problem with some in the West is that it refuses to subscribe to Beijing’s view that the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) is a domestic terror outfit that seeks to carve out an independent country out of the resource rich Xinjiang province that is home to the  Muslim Uighur community. The West and human rights activists maintain that Beijing’s pointing to every one of the acts of violence at the ETIM is only to justify the suppression of the Uighurs’ legitimate demands for freedom and democracy.

And this is precisely where implementation of Resolution 2249 is likely to be derailed—the political whims and fancies of the major players particularly the veto power holding nations in the Security Council. France, Britain and the United States are “heavily” involved in Syria, not only aggressively targeting the ISIS but also the Bashar regime. Russia is stressing that it is too hitting ISIS targets but reports speak of Russian planes also hitting anti-Bashar forces as well. And a country like China is yet to get into the act in any physical sense and is unlikely to for reasons of geography, strategic compulsions and logistics.

For the major powers to act in a concerted way against the ISIS is one thing but to join hands against terrorism and rid this world of the deadly disease  is a totally different cup of tea. And both China and the United States know how difficult this is when political and strategic stakes are dangled in front of them by so-called allies and client states whose only export credentials is terrorism. Very often these states where representatives of every terror outfit is enjoying not a only safe haven but all comforts of freedom—especially of mouthing vitriol and poison—play the strategic card to gain sympathy as well as valuable economic assistance which in turn is used to export terror to neighboring states.

It is not as though Washington or Beijing is unaware of what is taking place in South Asia but conveniently avoid taking on uncomfortable issues. Unless they get really tough on terrorism and in a comprehensive fashion all these Security Council Resolutions can safely be consigned to the dustbins of history. Perhaps it is not too late to re-collect what George W Bush and his administration often said in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks—“Either you are with us or against us”, in the war against terrorism.

(A former senior journalist with The Hindu in Chennai, Singapore and Washington and with the Press Trust of India in Washington, Dr. Sridhar Krishnaswami is currently Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication at the Faculty of Science and Humanities, SRM University, near Chennai.)

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