In current discussions about future prospects of a Palestinian state, we hear about the Quartet. Not particularly musically inclined, these are (in order of power) The United States, The United Nations, The European Union and Russia. Last week, three of the new Gang of Four scurried over to The White House to confer with Bush and his deputies to move the talks along on a Two State proposal in the Middle East, with Israel and Palestine as separate, contiguous, neighboring and perhaps even neighborly entities after the upcoming Israeli election. Where is India, and where is South Asia in all of this? It’s up to us.
Clearly, even indifferent pol watchers among the general public know who is top dog in this less than pretty tableau. The Secretary General, Kofi Annan made a statement last month denying that the UN has “become a rubber stamp” for US policy. That he even had to make a categorical denial on behalf of the world organization illustrates the extent of US military and political dominance within the UN and everywhere else.
That other member of the Quartet, The EU is not wanting to play second fiddle to the US on any global stage. After all, what is the purpose of forming the EU if not to counter US political, economic and military hegemony? The EU itself has been upstaged by one of its members, the UK, with Tony Blair playing loyal (and outspoken) little brother to George W, while unloading weapons in India and wherever else he can obtain a shopping list. The EU (with Japan) is still smarting from its recent faceoff with the U.S., having lost the battle over the Kyoto protocol, with India and China co-opting their own citizens by siding with the US on lackadaisical emission controls. Clearly Vajpayee and his Chinese counterpart think it is just fine to condemn their peoples to live under the Asian Brown Cloud, because they personally wont be around long enough to see the dire results. Also, the Oslo Accords, well-intentioned though Noway at least may have been, have been shown to be a cynical failure, with Israel, under Sharon, doubling its settlements on the West bank and Gaza, since signing. The US has been making noises about a Palestinian state for quite some time now, going back to the Clinton administration. The niggling little problem however, is that the US consistently, over several decades, has backed Israel militarily and politically, and continues to do so, even as the Quartet meet in Washington or New York to discuss the future (it’s always in the future) possibility of a Palestine State. When will we see the Sovereign Democratic State of Palestine take its rightful place in the United Nations? Ask the Quartet.
The least powerful member of the Quartet, Russia, economically bankrupt and trying to head off a full scale war and the prospect of separatism in Chechnya, is relying on its seat in the UN Security Council and its currently cozy relationship with the US. Putin is counting on the US not to raise the question of Chechnya in the Security Council, the U.S. State Department not to raise human rights issues in Chechnya in its annual reports, and to keep the IMF loans coming Russia’s way. Besides, the US could use all that unexploited Russian oil flowing under Siberia.
So now we have the Quartet on the global stage. The mistake would be to see the Quartet as other than fluid, making alliances as expedient. The US with its go-it-alone, we are right-because-we-are-big-trigger-happy-and-rich, US-interests-are-good-for-everybody, is busy in Northern Iraq, getting the hapless Kurds to play war games against the violent and corrupt Saddam Hussein. The United Nations, long operating as a collusion of elites, has joined its own elite leader, the US as a co-sponsor of US foreign policy. That way Kofi Annan gets to keep his job and all the UN functionaries can continue to shop at Saks Fifth Avenue, whether they are from Sierra Leone or Sweden, New York or New Delhi.
Meanwhile, in Africa and Asia, Aids is raging, Afghan babies die of cold for lack of blankets, and in the politics of dominance, the US is king, big banana, numero uno of the Quartet. The #1 manufacturer, seller and user of “weapons of mass destruction” wants Iraq to disarm? The number #1 rogue state wants others to follow the rules of international law? The politics of global dominance works that way.
In the new politics of global dominance. Where are we? In South Asia, we are continually demonstrating that we are leery of economic cooperation and prosperity along all the people of the South Asia region, our neighbors, our sisters, our friends. In India, we are marketing our own brand of internal political dominance, with minorities (of all sorts) being sidelined and marginalized in the political process in Gujarat and elsewhere. Clearly, the world’s largest democracy has yet to develop from the ground up, a more innovative, creative and equitable model of popular, participatory democracy. Our South Asia septet — India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Maldives — is no match for the Quartet. We are no match for the Quartet, not because we should be joining this wretched game of the politics of global dominance . But because we are continuing to neglect our citizens’ need for safe water, adequate food, comprehensive health services, literacy, sustainable development, soft borders and democratic secular practices. Nobody is saying it’s easy. But we all know it’s doable. And only we can do it.