THERE is something Hitlerian in the United States’ ambition to dominate the world.
It used the 20th century to show that during the First World War of 1914-18 it had the economic resources to rescue Europe, and during the Second World War of 1939-45, the military might to defeat enemies of the Free World in the West and in the East.
Since 1945, the distinguishing features of US foreign policy have been unimaginable military power, the dollar’s supremacy and high moral purpose. For decades, the American bald eagle soared supreme over continents. The 21st century has seen an emergence of two quadrupeds — the Russian bear and the Chinese dragon — that might bring it down to earth.
The fragmentation of the USSR should have been success enough for the United States. Within Russia, some modernists felt that Russia should fulfil Peter the Great’s dream of ‘Europeanising’ Russia. Hence the integration of Russian energy surpluses with a hydrocarbon-hungry Germany, France and Italy. This cosy interdependence was disturbed first by president Trump’s damaging attack on Nato soon after taking office, and subsequently by President Joe Biden’s ham-handed attempt to broaden Nato’s membership by including Ukraine, Finland and Sweden. Had Gorbachev or Yeltsin been in the Kremlin, such a provocation might have been swallowed with a pinch of Siberian salt and a quaff of Smirnoff vodka. President Vladimir Putin is not so easily bought or baited. He is retaliating with every weapon (short of nuclear) in his diverse arsenal. He does not intend Ukraine to be another Afghanistan. His plan is to make Ukraine another Vietnam for the US.
The US has deliberately baited the Chinese dragon over Taiwan.
Sharp-eyed observers cannot have failed to notice the insidious role being played by the UN in brokering the export of wheat from Ukraine. Its last intervention in a situation of similar distress was in 1996, when the UN Security Council conducted an oil-for-food programme to allow a sanction-slapped Iraq to sell its oil to pay for food. An investigation by the UN 10 years later “accused nearly half of the 4,500 participating companies of paying kickbacks and illegal surcharges to win lucrative contracts, and allowing Saddam Hussein to pocket $1.8 billion at the expense of Iraqis suffering under UN economic sanctions”.
This time, a Joint Coordination Centre agreed between the UN, Ukraine, Russia and Türkiye has authorised the export of 58,041 tonnes of grain through a designated “maritime humanitarian corridor”. The exports of this precious wheat are part of the UN’s “initiative aimed at lowering prices of essential foods and easing the global crisis”. The first three consignments are destined for the ports of Tripoli (Lebanon), Karasu in Türkiye, and Ringaskiddy in Ireland — all ‘humanitarian’ hotspots. President Putin must be rejoicing at the birth of a new breed of UN-fed oligarchs.
As if Ukraine is not enough, the US has deliberately baited the Chinese dragon over Taiwan. Speaker Nancy Pelosi clearly did not do her homework before visiting Taiwan. She would have learned that in February 1972, president Richard Nixon declared, while in Beijing, that “there is one China and Taiwan is part of that China”. That was modified subsequently in the official communiqué issued in Shanghai: “The US acknowledges that ‘all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China’ and that the United States Government does not challenge that position”. It further reiterated the US’s “interest in a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question by the Chinese people from both the mainland and Taiwanese island”. So who will join whom? Will 24 million Taiwanese join 1.4 billion PRC Chinese, or will the Chinese mainland become part of Taiwan island?
It has been 50 years since the Shanghai Communiqué, and the two Chinas are no closer to reunification. No more than both sides of Kashmir are closer to implementation of the UN resolution regarding a conclusive plebiscite. It has been 74 years since our demand for that plebiscite. We commemorate Kashmir Day, with diminishing fervour and weakening resolve. Would it be profane for someone to question whether we should re-examine our ‘principled stand’ on Kashmir? PM Modi has made India’s position clear and irreversible by integrating Jammu and Kashmir in 2019 into Indian Union territory. We maintain the notional independence of an Azad Jammu & Kashmir governed from Islamabad.
How many of our ministers responsible for Kashmir Affairs have actually visited Indian-occupied Kashmir? I have. I have travelled in occupied Jammu and Kashmir as far north as Sonmarg. The impression I had there was that Pakistan was not an option. It was an apprehension.
Chairman Mao Zedong once said that Taiwan would fall in China’s lap like an overripe apple. How long will the Kashmiri apple remain on the branch?
The writer is an author.
Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2022