India should respond

India should respond

Changing Libya

Events are moving rapidly in Libya. Libya’s rebel forces have said that loyalists to longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi have until September 10 to surrender or face a military assault aimed at completing their takeover of the country. Gadhafi’s home town of Sirte, where the loyalists have gathered, lies along the coastal road that links eastern Libya to the west, and is the last battleground in so far as the final collapse of the regime is concerned.

Pro-Gadhafi forces have apparently retreated from towns taken by rebel fighters and sought refuge in Sirte. It is even possible that Gadhafi himself is hiding there. Gadhafi’s wife and three of his have already fled to Algeria even as Gadhafi continues to remain defiant, urging his supporters to set the country ablaze to defeat Nato and rebel fighters.

Nato has carried out bombing campaigns around Sirte over the past few days, and though rebel fighters have surrounded the city, they continue to face fierce resistance from Sirte residents. Negotiations with tribal leaders have been going on for days now, as rebels consolidated control over much of the rest of the country, but appear to be faltering.

There is no trust between the rebels and the residents of Sirte. The leaders are seeking assurances that no revenge killings will be carried out and that they can have a role in the new Libya, including the formation of a local council and so far they’ve refused to give up their weapons.

With the fall of the Gadhafi regime, Libya has become the latest case of regime change since the start of the popular unrest that broke out in the Arab world this past January and February. Libya’s regime has been led by the Gadhafi family. Despite the fact that Gadhafi took power via a military coup, he did not allow a robust and autonomous military institution that could pose a threat to his authority to develop. This practice, however, seems to have resulted in sizeable defections from the Libyan army, sparking a civil war that now appears close to consuming the regime.

The crisis in Libya will likely play itself out over a long period of time. The country’s geopolitical reality is one where the crisis within the country can continue to evolve without seriously impacting the region or beyond. Meanwhile, the de facto government of new Libya, the National Transitional Council has been feted in Paris by more than 60 nations and international organisations.

The NTC presented its plans for nation building to the international community and the rest of the world pledged to help the new government in meeting urgent needs and begin the formation of a functioning governing authority.

Rapidly evolving milieu
Much like other states, India will have to start re-assessing its policy options in such a rapidly evolving milieu. India was also an invitee to the Friends of New Libya Conference in Paris last week despite a not-so-welcoming attitude of the Nato-backed rebels poised to form the Libya’s new government.

China, India, Russia and Brazil – the rise of whom is supposedly underpinning the shifting global balance of power – all abstained on the resolution that a no-fly zone over Libya and authorised ‘all necessary measures’ for protecting civilians there from Gadhafi’s forces. India had cautioned that “the resolution that the council has adopted authorises far reaching measures under Chapter VII of the UN charter with relatively little credible information on the situation on the ground in Libya.” What was worse, India argued, was that there was no clarity in the resolution about who would enforce it and how.

India, despite being the largest democracy in the world, has largely watched the events unfold in West Asia in silence. In many ways, this reticence is understandable. The region has been witnessing a highly unpredictable situation and the government was taking its time to think through the implications. Moreover, for New Delhi to comment on events unfolding in the region would have been hypocritical given how seriously India takes the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other states.

Yet, India claims to be a rising global power today. America’s endorsement of India’s candidacy to the UN permanent membership, and India’s easy victory in election to the Security Council as a non-permanent member earlier this year, do indeed represent recognition of India’s credentials as a major global power. But India still needs to convince the world that it has a legitimate claim to a permanent seat on the council.

Now in the spotlight, India is finding its actions on critical global issues --including its silence on the democratic turmoil in West Asia – are subjected to close and critical scrutiny. As a result, India is being forced to jettison its old foreign-policy assumptions and strike a delicate balance between the pursuit of its narrow national interest and its responsibility as a rising power to help maintain global peace and stability.

India’s success in this endeavour will, to large extent, determine India’s future global profile. As such, India should seize this opportunity by making a generous offer to assist the new Libyan government with its post-Gadhafi reconstruction and rehabilitation.

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