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An expression of displeasure

Published Jul 15, 2013 02:13pm


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International relations reflect real life situations. The rich and powerful try hard to dominate the poorer and the less powerful. But, like in real life, on occasion this leads to a struggle, often bitter and public.

Whether we are individuals, organisations or nation states, acceptance of the status quo makes life easier and the “system” work for the dominant and the powerful. Raising questions and seeking answers means you could be labelled a trouble maker.

Well, that’s the case with Bolivia and other members of the Mercosur trade block in Latin America who have refused to take lying down the illegal closure of air space by European countries to the aircraft of Bolivian President Evo Morales on July 2.

Instead, Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina and Uruguay have decided to withdraw their ambassadors from Spain, France, Italy and Portugal, whose actions led to the forced diversion of the aircraft to Austria.

These European countries, reportedly acting under American pressure, closed the air space to Morales’ aircraft on the suspicion that he was carrying whistle-blower Edward Snowden on his flight from Moscow to Bolivia.

The suspicions were unfounded and Snowden continues to live at a Moscow airport, his fate uncertain.

A statement issued by the leaders of the five Latin American nations after their Mercosur summit shows that they are in no mood to tolerate the arbitrary and illegal actions of these European countries.

God forbid that instead of Evo Morales of Bolivia’s airplane flying in Europe it was that of French President Francois Hollande. What would have happened if Hollande’s plane was illegally diverted in Latin America on the suspicion that a wanted “fugitive” was on board?

All the diplomatic hell you can imagine would have broken loose.

To their credit, the Mercosur leaders have chosen to speak out and express their displeasure. “The gravity of the incident – indicative of a neocolonial mindset – constitutes an unfriendly and hostile act, which violates human rights and impedes freedom of travel, as well as the treatment and immunity appropriate to a head of state,” they said.

Dilma Roussef (Brazil), Evo Morales (Bolivia), Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (Argentina), Jose Mujica (Uruguay) and Nicolas Maduro (Venezuela) made it clear that they would resist any efforts to tamper with countries’ right to grant asylum.

Reaffirming the “inalienable right of every state to grant asylum,” a right which, “must not be restricted or curbed”, the leaders said in Montevideo (Uruguay): “It is fundamental to ensure that the right of asylees to travel safely to the country granting asylum be guaranteed.”

In a clear reference to American arm-twisting being brought on countries not to give asylum to Edward Snowden, the Mercosur leaders rejected “any attempt at pressure, harassment or criminalisation by a state or third parties”.

Given that we live in a world where countries don’t even stand up for themselves, such a collective decision to protest against the Morales’ incident and uphold the right to asylum can only be welcomed by the rest of the world.

The US and European nations never tire of preaching to others on the virtues of international law when not applied to themselves.

But, when push comes to shove, the US and other Western nations have no qualms in jettisoning international laws when it come to their interests even if it means the violation of diplomatic immunity.

In this pragmatic day and age, when American sovereignty is roughly equal to the sovereignty of other nations, the leaders of Latin America have shown considerable spunk in defying Washington and other European capitals on the Morales-Snowden issues.

More power to them, I say.

BRICS are you listening?

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Amit Baruah is an independent, Delhi-based journalist. He is the author of Dateline Islamabad and reported for The Hindu newspaper from Pakistan. He tweets @abaruah64.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (10) Closed

Jaseem Jul 15, 2013 07:17pm

I wonder why India rejected to give Asylum.

zabardasst Jul 15, 2013 10:26pm

@Jaseem: From one extreme to another, India jumped from the Russian lap into the arms of America, using democracy (shamed) as a tool of oppression and hegemony in the region.

Md Imran Jul 15, 2013 11:50pm

It is incredible that the author did not bother to cross check the facts before quoting from an obscure blog. For the record, NONE of the latin american countries have even mentioned about withdrawing their Ambassadors from european nations for blocking the Bolivian president's plane. Withdrawing an ambassador is akin to severing all diplomatic ties, and why would any nation do that for a whistleblower who divulged nothing new ? Really really poor research on a topic that has ready information available every day.

On the other hand, this was a great opportunity for Pakistan to highlight our independent foreign policy granting Snowden asylum. Unfortunately we did not.

Mir Jul 16, 2013 12:50am

Great article Amit. You said it like it is. Wish the people of Pakistan have the courage to do the same.

Abbastoronto Jul 16, 2013 01:16am

Why should we move away from Jiski Lathi rule. It works.

Was it not ok over 3,000 years when Moses brought a stiffer rod to the pharaohs.

When the Corporate Capitalist West had the lathi it used it to push opium on China, de-industrialization on India.

As the CCW slips on a banana peel the shoe is on the other foot. So be it. It is about time. Let those who have a stronger rod call the shots now. Halleluja

Kalyan Jul 16, 2013 03:17am

@Jaseem: India may have to rely on US intelligence the next time a terrorist attack happens. Further they also rely on the US for the Nuclear deal for power generation and also as a backup against the Chinese. In today's world, morals and ethics have given way to self interests.It would be interesting if Snowden returns to the US and faces his accusers in court.

aisha Jul 16, 2013 03:48am

Ecuador risked American wrath for giving asylum to one inidividual - Julian Assange. As harsh as it may sound, the Pakistani government and the Pakistani military are more than happy to surrender so many of their own civilians to the Americans. Perhaps out of fear, or perhaps to get the $$ for their opulent lifestyles.

farid Jul 16, 2013 10:49am

@Jaseem: Because india has tasted the slavery of dollars.

Susan Koshy Jul 16, 2013 11:13am

More power to this group of Latin American countries. Here are the voices which the mainstream media in the US tries to marginalize. More power to you Amit for writing the truth. Yes I was disappointed with India - not surprised but yes, disappointed as a citizen of India and this world

Vicky Jul 16, 2013 03:50pm

@Jaseem: India is a too important trade partner of the USA. I think they (India) knew that they would not be able to hold back from handing Edward Snowden over to the USA if it came to that and would not want to sever trade ties. Hence they rejected it right in the start.