By Fazlur Rahman Chowdhury
In our childhood we used to study how the Kings and Emperors conquered land and territories to show how mighty they were. They would always find a reason to wage war. Most of the wars took place for expansion of borders. But the European conquerors established colonies overseas. The history of wars continued for centuries. It continued the same way even in the last century when the world witnessed two great wars. Since the end of World War II the world has witnessed comparatively better peace than ever before. Most of it may be credited to the creation of the United Nations, a common world forum to ventilate grievances, discuss problems and find solutions.
There were still a few localised wars. The United Nations may not have succeeded in preventing or immediate stopping of the wars but managed to keep them under control by confining the spread of war. Something is better than nothing. The one that took place in Korea eventually ended in ceasefire and remains so. The one in Vietnam culminated with the liberation of South Vietnam to unify Vietnam. The Arab-Israeli wars in the Middle-East were brought to cease-fire through the UN on each occasion but with no final solution. The wars in Kashmir were also stopped on each occasion through UN mediation but a permanent solution is yet to be found.
Palestine: This may be considered as the oldest perpetual problem to world peace. We all know how the Jews were persecuted by the Nazi forces during the WWII. They were virtually exterminated from Germany and Poland became the largest graveyard of European Jews. This was the real dark chapter in the history of Europe. Jews ran for their lives in every possible direction. Lot of them came to Middle-East. They came to British administered Palestine. That was a time when Palestinians were also engaged in struggle for freedom. The British failed to restrict the influx of Jews and eventually left Palestine allowing the Jews to declare independent Israel as the homeland for Jews. Mr Weizmann became the first president and David Ben-Gurion the prime minister. After what happened to the Jews during the war almost everybody sympathised with the Jews. Establishment of Israel was also accepted to some extent. But it was not acceptable when it came to an extent of evicting the Palestinians from their homes to make room for Israel.
Thousands of Palestinians became refugees in their own country. Surrounded by Arab States – Egypt, Jordan and Syria, Israel had to fight at least three major wars. On each occasion Israel had to win for its survival but at the same time it extended and consolidated its border. Palestinians are now left with Gaza strip and occupied West bank of Jordan River. In the occupied territories Israel has been building new Jewish settlement by grabbing lands from the Arabs. Israel does not care about condemnation by other states or even the UN resolution against such settlements. Palestinian lands remain land-locked except for a small strip of coast along Sinai desert. Arabs are not allowed to build a port there. Even the Palestine fishing boats cannot operate freely. It is virtually under blockade. Gaza strip survives on supplies from Egypt and West bank on similar supplies from Jordan. The oil rich Arab states provide lot of financial help but that cannot meet their appetite for freedom. There is no quality of life for the Palestinians. Any Palestinian movement for freedom is brutally suppressed by the Israel. The Palestinians have no choice but to resort to prolonged movement and surprise attack on Israeli military units. Israel in retaliation has been bombing and killing the Palestinians. It is all done in the name of fighting terrorism. The Western powers support the state sponsored terrorism of Israel by saying that Israel has every right to defend itself.
Israel is a racist state. It normally does not accept African Jews whereas it welcomes European Jews with open arms. It hates all Islamic States. It encourages US sanctions and other actions against Iran. It developed closer ties with India only to counter Pakistan. It is jealous of military strength of Pakistan, Turkey and Iran. India is the biggest purchaser of Israeli military equipment including bombs and missiles. Myanmar has been recently condemned by the whole world for their military crack-down on minority Muslims. Thousands have been raped, killed and tortured. Over seven hundred thousand ran for their lives and took shelter in Bangladesh. Yet, they are the best friend of Israel. Israel is selling military hardware to Myanmar. It is their reward for killing the Muslims.
Even though United States was one of the first countries to recognize Israel, it also recognised the legitimate rights of the Palestinians. President Carter, Clinton and Obama believed in two state solutions. Things turned abruptly against Palestine after Trump came to power in the United States. He recognised the disputed Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and shifted US mission from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This was followed by the closure of Consulate that provided service to Palestine and asked Palestinians to contact US embassy in Israel (Jerusalem) for any necessity as if Palestine is a part of Israel and Palestinians are Israelis. The change in US policy is deplorable. With this action the US lost its fatherly neutral image. It can no longer play any role in dispute resolution. It will harden the resolve of the Palestinians. They are not terrorists. They are great freedom fighters.Nobody will be able to suppress them. One day they will win. That win will not be good for Israel.
The Palestine issue is a big bottleneck for world peace. World peace cannot be achieved without a solution of the Palestine problem. Israel has every right to remain as it is. It should, for its own interest, allow an independent Palestine based on equality and justice. The West Bank is after all a gift of Jordan to Palestinians. The world should recognise and support the struggle for Palestinian independence. They cannot be side-tracked as terrorists. World peace can only be assured when independent Israel and Palestine live peacefully side by side.
Kashmir: It is perhaps the second biggest bottleneck to world peace. The problem is almost as old as Palestine is. British-India played an important role in the victory of the allies. In 1947, Britain left India creating two independent countries – India and Pakistan. The partition was done on religious lines. The Muslim majority parts of India formed Pakistan (in two wings). Kashmir was left alone to join according to their wishes. Kashmir had more than 80% Muslim population. Yet, the Hindu King, against the wishes of the people, wanted to join India. Pakistan, on matter of principle, could not accept it. The dispute erupted into a war. Cease-fire was achieved through the United Nations when India agreed for a plebiscite in Kashmir. India has since come back from its promise and the referendum never took place.
Since 1948, India and Pakistan fought several wars on Kashmir. The stalemate continues. Mean time both India and Pakistan have become nuclear powers with missiles of their own to destroy each other. It is a dangerous situation. India has been suppressing all freedom movement of Kashmiris by its military might. All agitation and movement are referred to as terrorist activities incited by Pakistan. The systematic massacre of innocent civilians in Kashmir continues in the name of fighting terrorism. India does not accept any foreign mediation or intervention by calling it their internal matter. India maintains seven hundred thousand regular troops and another three thousand para-military force in Kashmir making it more than a police state. It is the highest civil-military ratio anywhere in the world. Kashmiris are being regularly tortured, raped and killed. There is no education or medical service. There is no quality of life. India’s state sponsored terrorism in the name of killing terrorists cannot be accepted. Blaming Pakistan is not a solution. On the other hand India sends spies to Baluchistan and Peshawar regions to incite anti-Pakistan break-away movement.
Kashmir is like a time bomb. It may explode any time. Once it ignites, it will be difficult to stop. Kashmiris are not terrorists, they are great freedom fighters. Today or tomorrow they will win. The world should take a note of it. Let us solve it for the sake of world peace.
Possible solution: The United Nations should pass a resolution to:
- Ask India and Pakistan to abandon their claim and occupation of Kashmir;
- Both India and Pakistan to withdraw their troops and other security forces back to their original international border;
- Leave only local police force made up of Kashmiris;
- Hand-over governance of Kashmir to UN Trusteeship with an UN appointed Governor supported by about ten thousand UN peace-keepers for a year;
- The Governor should, after restoring order and public confidence, arrange for a referendum;
- The referendum should have three options: a) Join India; b) Join Pakistan; c) Become independent.
- If the Kashmiris vote for independence then the Governor should extend his rule by another six months to hand-over to a properly elected government.
With these perpetual problems gone, the world should see relatively better peaceful condition. India and Pakistan should become friendly neighbours. They can both invest more in development for a better future.
Fazlur Rahman Chowdhury was the Commandant of the Marine Academy and then Director General of Shipping in Bangladesh. He graduated from Juldia Marine Academy and World Maritime University. He pursued a career as a merchant ship cadet. He eventually retired from the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency.