United we fall?

“Divided we stand, united we fall.” That seems to be the motto of the new world. We talk so much of a new world order and a united globe, but events in Europe, the erstwhile USSR and Asia are contrary to all these ideas.

Europe is turning out to be a real paradox. On one hand there is great talk of Europe’s unification and a European Council, but on the other hand the continent’s individual nations do not appear to be staying in one piece.

The biggest example of this is Yugoslavia which for months has been in the world headlines. The situation there is deteriorating day by day and today a stalemate marks the country’s future. Even the special UN Peace Keeping Force for Yugoslavia does not seem to be making much headway.

The former Yugoslavia had six federal republics and the president was selected on a rota system. What started as a row over who the next president should be ended up as one of the bloodiest battles and secessions seen in recent times. Now everyone, right from the common populace is tired of the hatred and bloodshed that is prevalent there. Even in the breakaway republic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, there is a lot of infighting between the Serbs, Croats and Muslims. A bitter battle was witnessed for the possession of its capital, Sarajevo, recently. So even if Yugoslavia breaks into all its former republics, peace will be prevalent.

Another European country that disintegrated was Czechoslovakia, though the process of division did not witness much bloodshed. Now we have the Czech and Slovak republics.

Even the United Kingdom does not seem to be so united. Ulster has been trying to break away for years with the Irish Republican Army (IRA) causing immense damage. Now even public opinion is Scotland is going strongly in favour of absolute independence. If things in Scotland get as bad as in Ulster, no one might be able to do anything about it. Hence Great Britain may not exist and England might be left all alone.

Even Helmut Kohl, the strongman of Germany (the other EEC power) does not seem to have his country under control. A united Germany has left a lot of disillusionment everywhere and most of the East Germans now wish that Germany should have stayed divided.

The biggest example of disintegration is the former USSR which is currently in total disarray. The Baltic republics — Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia — have already broken away. What is left is the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) which is an uneasy alliance with little in common. This could break into 12 republics anytime. The tensions between the Russian Federation and Ukraine do not help matters. Again, Chechnya in the Russian Federation has witnessed cries of independence. So no one can really tell how many pieces the former USSR will break into in the years to come.

There are also many secessionists waiting like dormant volcanoes in various countries. One does not quite know when the eruptions will take place. The Kurds in West Asia have been nurturing dreams of a separate homeland for ages, waiting for the right chance. They got one when the US attacked and devastated Iraq in the Gulf War. The Kurds then started rebelling and fighting for a separate country. It was only the brute force of Saddam Hussein that stopped them.

Turmoil in Pakistan could result in Sindh, which is shouting for independence. The fall of communism in China will result in Tibet demanding autonomy.

Then India sadly faces a problem in this aspect too. In 1947, Pakistan broke away from India. Since then Bangladesh broke away from Pakistan in 1971. India, however managed to stay in one piece. But for how long? Punjab and Kashmir are two states where there are militant uprisings in order to part ways with India. Now even international attention has been focuses on these two states.

The Punjab problem, with the cry of Khalistan, has been raging on for such a long time that people have finally got bored of it. It is a shame because so many innocent civilians are being killed endlessly day after day.

The problem has so far claimed the lives of a prime minister, a former army chief, umpteen high officials, a large number of security personnel and tens of thousands of innocent victims. On the whole, millions have been badly affected.

The Kashmir problem is different from the one in Punjab in the sense that less people are killed there. But then, the cry for independence (from India) is fast acquiring the dimensions of a mass movement.

We further have the problem of more and more groups asking for statehood, i.e., just as Punjab and Kashmir want to break away from India, these groups want to break away from their respective states. Prominent among these are cries for Jharkhand in Bihar, Bodoland in Assam and Gorkhaland in West Bengal. At present we have 25 states and if everyone has his way, we would end up with 40 states!

So, we still have a long way to go before we can seriously talk of a united world.

(This article appeared in Deccan Chronicle on September 13, 1992)