Kosovo's Independence: Regional and Global Implications
Maj Gen Dipankar Banerjee, Director, IPCS
The declaration of independence by Kosovo has serious regional and international implications. Even though this has not generated much interest in India, it is important to understand its implications nonetheless. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the movement in India's Jammu and Kashmir took inspiration from what was happening in Eastern Europe at the time. Hence it is vital to understand the implications of Kosovo's independence.
Lt. Gen. Satish Nambiar, Director, United Service Institution of India
The role of the international community, led by the United Nations has never been constant and uniform throughout the Kosovo episode. The United Nations became a silent spectator in the larger game of international power play in former Yugoslavia.
In India, there has never been an interest in Kosovo, despite the fact that India was close to Yugoslavia since the 1950s, as a part of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). India had completely ignored what was happening in this region.
Kosovo: The West vs. The Westphalian Order
A unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) by Kosovo Albanians and the likely recognition by some leading countries will send a wrong signal and set a negative precedent for numerous other movements all over the world. For example, the Kurds, with a 40 million population have been demanding an independent country. The Kosovo Albanians, who number only 2 million are the least qualified to have an independent entity.
Since the entry of NATO into this region, all the non-Albanians in these areas have been steadily driven out. More than 150 churches have been demolished. The state, likely to be formed by the KLO, will be a narco-criminal state, creating instability throughout the region.
International intervention in Kosovo has only exacerbated the crisis and led to increased violence. The UN and NATO - both have been adopting a double standard in dealing with the Kosovo crisis. The bombing of Kosovo by NATO forces in the spring of 1999 was a clear violation of the NATO principles and UN Charter. Even though these bombings did not cause any significant military damage, they resulted in huge civilian casualties. The UNSC Resolution 1244, among its many provisions had called for the return of refugees and the disarming of the KLO. Unfortunately, none of the major demands were met.
The premature recognition of Kosovo by Germany, Slovenia, and Croatia shows that Serbia was not consulted in this regard. The Serbs suffered genocide under the Croats during World War II.
No minority group should have the right to declare unilateral independence.
US Kosovo Policy: Turning a Regional Problem into a Global Crisis
Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence and its recognition by the United States and an unknown number of other countries will be upheld despite Serbia's adamant rejection of Kosovo's amputation. The UNSC Resolution 1244 recognizes Serbia's sovereignty over Kosovo and the United States has been unable to push for its modification due to a Russian and a possible Chinese veto.
Political violence in the international system will be no less severe. Notwithstanding claims to the contrary, the precedent set by Kosovo's independence will prove hugely destabilizing in countries with actual or potential secessionist movements. The notion that Albanians cannot live as a minority in Serbia, whatever the degree of self-rule offered to them, calls into question the very concept of multiethnic and multi-confessional states. The consequences for such countries, located in every region in the world, are terrible to contemplate. Kosovo's status, far from being settled, would become the shuttlecock of competition of recognizing and non-recognizing countries. An independent Kosovo will never be admitted into the United Nations.
Even more injurious would be the blow Washington's policy would inflict on the institution of the Security Council itself, the main guarantor of global stability. So the question remains, what possibly could have induced Washington to behave as a bull in the china shop to win the questionable prize of a small, failed, nonviable, criminal and jihad terror-dominated, backwater in the Balkans? The answer to the question is a telling comment on American policy formulation, both bizarre and distasteful.
Today, on the question of Kosovo's independence, Washington has publicly acknowledged the imperative that drives its policy. Given the imperatives of the post-9/11 world, it is perhaps most incredible that our blinkered Balkans policy even trumps our concerns about internal security. Almost no attention has been paid in the American media to the fact that four of the six defendants in the jihad terror plot to attack Fort Dix in New Jersey are Albanian Muslims from the Kosovo region. The State Department and White House, in their public pronouncements, did everything possible to obfuscate the Kosovo Albanian origins of the potential terrorists, instead referring to them as belonging to "the former Yugoslavia," perhaps implying that they were Serbs. Even less noticed is that the malefactors' presence in the United States - three of them illegal aliens, and one brought to the US by the Clinton Administration as a refugee - another example of jihadi "gratitude", stems from the fact that a broad-based support network for the KLA has been allowed to operate with impunity in the New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania region, raising funds and collecting weapons, not to mention peddling influence with American politicians.
The View from Serbia: Farewell EU, Hello Russia
On 3 February 2008, the second round of presidential elections was held in Serbia in which the incumbent President Boris Tadic of the Democratic Party of Serbia was re-elected President, defeating challenger Tomislav Nikolic belonging to the Serbia Radical Party. The first round of elections, held on 20 January, saw a close contest between the candidates with neither securing a clear, absolute majority. Significantly, in the first round, Tadic lost to Nikolic by nearly five per cent of votes. This signifies that the voters have given overwhelming support to the candidate (among other candidates) who is adamant that there can be no compromise over Serbia's fundamental position on Kosovo.
There is a difference in approach between the President and the Prime Minister of Serbia, Vojislav Kostunica of the Democratic Party of Serbia, on the Kosovo issue. The President is seeking closer association with the EU irrespective of the Kosovo issue, and in this regard, is pursuing a dual policy: to agree to disagree with the European Union on the Kosovo issue but, at the same time, work towards signing a Stabilizing and Association Agreement with the EU that will allow the EU to dispatch a civilian administrative and police mission to Kosovo - a key move, viewed as an implicit go-ahead for independence. The Prime Minister who is a coalition partner is opposed to this agreement - a point of difference that could put to test the coalition's ability to survive. Kostunica favors a resolution stating that the EU mission would violate UNSC Resolution 1244 as well as the Serbian Constitution, which would mean that the EU has voluntarily cancelled the agreement initialed last November.
The EU on the other hand holds that allowing Serbia to enter the EU will mean a de facto validation of Serbia's claims over Kosovo. All key Western leaders have stated, in one form or another that Serbia would have to choose between retaining its claim on Kosovo and getting closer to the EU. Such statements have come from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his predecessor Tony Blair, from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and a veritable array of American bureaucrats. This choice is predicated on the premise that Serbia will eventually reconcile with Kosovo's declaration and fall in line with the west's position. Over the past eight years, the former President of Yugoslavia, late Slobodan Milosevic tried to be very accommodative of the western stand, event to the point of signing an agreement with NATO. The Serbs are therefore expected to continue to be cooperative.
However, Serbia is serious this time and it will act decisively. By the time the western leaders realize this, a new geopolitical situation in the Balkans would have emerged. It is therefore important for the west to consider the situation seriously. The EU should realize that it is the one that needs to make the choice, not Serbia. Washington and Brussels need to decide between an illegally-constituted Kosovo that is going to be a black hole of jihad-terrorism, ethnic cleansing, unprecedented corruption, institutionalized criminality, drug peddling, and white slave trading, and a solid partnership with Serbia - the key civilized country in the Western Balkans, which the Albanian-controlled Kosovo never will be.
Squaring the Circle in Kosovo: An Old Balkan Hand's View
It is often said that History is a nightmare and one of Kosovo's problems is its history. Sometimes history befalls the players in the region as a burden. Nationality and ethnicity hold a certain degree of significance for any region. Ethnicity is a valid criterion for the formation of a nation state. In case of Bosnia and Herzegovina, what resulted was the formation of two entities. However, with respect to Kosovo, there are asymmetrical actors in a unified state, struggling to find their places because of conflicting views and institutions that are being externally supported. The embers of discontent were fueled by Milosevic's heavy-handedness and the hasty action of some key members of the international community that resulted in the splintering of Yugoslavia. These events, subsequently, fostered the creation of fragile ethnic states in the Western Balkans.
A multiethnic nation-state, most often, reflects some kind of affinity to its neighbouring state, thereby threatening the integrity of the existing state. Kosovo's situation of two dominant, but asymmetrical ethnic groups is worrisome. Kosovo's separation could embolden Serbian nationalists in the Serb-dominated entities of Bosnia. Similarly, western Macedonia has a large section of Albanians who are sensitive to the situation in Kosovo. If Kosovo were to be granted independence, it would set a precedent that would be hard to contain. Kosovo's separation could engender separatism elsewhere and complicate the integrity of several multiethnic states. What is needed is a multiethnic Serbian state that provides equal rights to all its citizens. It is time to view nations not simply as comprising people of one nationality, but as a civil society that is home to people of multiple ethnicities.
Muslim Majority Provinces in Non-Muslim Majority States
The Kosovo situation is not unique. Notwithstanding the fact that each situation of conflict is different from the other, a common pattern visible in the various conflict zones, be it Kosovo, Chechnya, Xinjiang, or Kashmir is that each is a Muslim-majority state seeking independence. The question that arises is whether Muslim-majority states can coexist with non-Muslims? If not, then how and why is Turkey seeking membership of the European Union?
An underlying concern here is the contradiction between the principles of self-determination and democracy. Abraham Lincoln had once said that self-determination and democracy are not the same thing, though both guarantee freedom. While democracy is based on majority rule, the principle of self-determination implies granting the minority the right to secede if it so desires. The two principles therefore cannot coexist.
The root of the conflict can be traced to the post-Cold War period that gave rise to the preponderance of power and challenged the Westphalian principle of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of nation-states. Many argued that 'hegemonic stability', pursued by America in the post-Cold War period, is preferable to balance of power in international relations. The history of balance of power is replete with wars where the weaker states never really enjoyed any freedom. As opposed to this, under hegemonic stability, there is less chance of the weaker states protesting, thereby maintaining a level of order and stability. This is supposed to have been working in the post-Cold War period but with the NATO attack on Kosovo in 1999, the whole principle collapsed.
Kosovo's strategy has been essentially that of terrorism. There are three types of terrorism: terrorism of the kind of al Qaeda, narco-terrorism, and irredentist terrorism. The most dangerous and disturbing aspect of granting independence to Kosovo is that it will demonstrate that the strategy of irredentist terrorism pays. There will be a certain pattern to this:
Ethnic minorities of a sovereign state will engage in terrorism in order to invite retaliation and human rights violations by the state security forces
This will produce an international outcry and condemnation of the state
International military intervention and occupation will follow
The state will lose control of its province
The province will declare independence from the state
In conclusion, territorial integrity of a state should always be maintained.
Having an influential lobby is not the only factor motivating the United States to take the lead in recognizing Kosovo's likely UDI. Some leading personalities in the Bush administration are also pushing Kosovo's cause.
The problem of Kosovo is whether it should be recognized as a part of Serbia or not. Ethnicity is a strong factor in most states in Europe and this is reflected in European history. Therefore, the crisis in Kosovo should be analyzed from the European point of view rather than from Moscow's or Washington's point of view.
It would be incorrect to compare the Kosovo crisis to the problem in Jammu and Kashmir. While the aspirations in Kosovo have a very strong ethnic bent, the problem in Jammu and Kashmir is because of a proxy war conducted from across the border.
Boundaries in Europe and India were drawn by the British. Redrawing boundaries will however, not solve the problem. It is therefore, imperative to maintain the territorial integrity of states.
The crisis in Kosovo is quite serious and the consequences of recognizing the UDI could be dangerous as it would set precedents for many such secessionist movements. The crisis can be addressed properly only under the auspices of United Nations.
India cannot afford to promote independence of countries wanting to secede, for it is witnessing secessionist movements on its own soil, as is the South Asian region in general.
In recent years there has been a growing sense of religious identity, which is likely to create an entirely new paradigm in international relations.
The levels of development transformation have been different in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Moreover, the intolerance of ethnic groups in Europe is much higher than in Asia or Africa. Afghanistan, for example, has not seen secessionist demands in spite of the several ethnic groups present there.
The trouble lies in the way Islam is being practiced and unless that is changed, clashes cannot be avoided. Islamic fundamentalists should be prepared to adapt with time to changes, if peace has to be restored around the world
The argument that Muslims cannot coexist peacefully with non-Muslims cannot be generalized, especially from the Indian perspective. If that is the case, then why has violence escalated only in the last two decades?
Lobbying involves a lot of money and plays a crucial role in influencing policies, even though it may not be the only factor.
There is a difference between independence and independence by violent means. While gaining independence is possible, it should be done peacefully and democratically and not through violence.
The involvement of the American intelligence in aggravating the crisis in Kosovo is similar to the proxy war being waged in Jammu and Kashmir.
Both the Bush and Clinton administrations have been responsible for the Kosovo crisis. The first Kosovo intervention set the tone for the unilateralist US policy of intervening at will, anywhere, and not holding itself answerable to anyone.
Religious identity is an important factor in the world today, but territorial identity trumps the former. Sometimes belonging to a community can fracture the feeling of belonging to a bigger religion. The sectarian divide between the Shias and Sunnis is a case in point.
The bureaucracy of decision-making can often prove a spoiler in resolving conflicts. People are the real stakeholders and in spite of ground realities being different, decision-makers seldom admit their inefficacy in producing desired results.
It may be argued that Muslims have not been able to coexist with non-Muslims. What starts as a nationalist movement, most often ends up as a jihad movement. Reform of Islam may be considered impossible because Muslims believe that they are on the right path and any change will have to be so massive that the end result will no longer remain Islam, which is not possible.
The US motivation to pursue Kosovo's fight for independence is not just American but also Western in nature. Russophobia is one aspect of the campaign, and any resistance by Orthodox Christians in Eastern Europe is deemed unacceptable by Western Europe and North America.