Recognising Kosovo is a bad idea

Kosovo’s independence is a product of the lazy belief that multi-ethnic secular states won’t work

The manner in which Serbia treated its province of Kosovo, the argument goes, leaves it with little legitimacy to retain control over it. Ergo, independence.

Forget that such concern for wronged populations is highly selective and exceptional. Underlying the West’s support for Kosovo’s independence is the lazy surrender to the belief that secular, multi-ethnic, liberal states cannot be realised. The objective issue around Kosovo’s declaration of independence—with the West’s connivance—is whether it helps reconcile age-old Balkan enmities. Leaving Serbia with a sense of grievance is unlikely to help in its transition to a liberal state.

Now, Kosovar Albanians suffered immensely under the repressive rule of the Communist Yugoslavia, and under Slobodan Milosovic’s post-Yugoslav regime. But today’s Serbia is different. Kosovo’s separation will set liberal Serb politics back by strengthening the most chauvinistic elements.

Realists will find nothing surprising about selective application of laws and principles. But it is difficult to see what Kosovo’s promoters will gain from backing its independence. The US will have the gratitude of 1.84 million ethnic-Albanian Muslim citizens of Kosovo, and perhaps some more of their counterparts in neighbouring Albania. But is that worth escalating the confrontation with Russia? Even some EU states and American allies won’t condone an independent Kosovo—Spain, Greece and Turkey are against the idea. China is against it. In other words, Kosovo isn’t going to receive international recognition any time soon.

What of Kosovo itself? How likely is it that it will treat its own Serb minorities well? Its leaders have tried to reach out to the minorities. The new Kosovo flag is supposed to enshrine equal treatment of all its citizens. Yet, in a story that has been replayed over centuries, Kosovo’s Serb minority is declining in number. Popular sentiment is a very different thing:

But in a sign of how hard it will be to forge the kind of multiethnic, secular identity that foreign powers have urged, the distinctive two-headed eagle of the red and black Albanian flag, reviled by Serbs, was everywhere Sunday, held by revelers, draped on horses, flapping out of car windows and hanging outside homes and storefronts across the territory. [NYT]

Not all foreign countries though, will see the “multi-ethnic, secular” identity. Pakistan’s Daily Times heralds the announcement of its independence declaring “A Muslim Kosovo is born”. “Being a Muslim state”, it says, “— not yet Islamic — we hope that it survives”. It warns that the pan-Albanian movement could set off a regional scare, and “when Middle Eastern princes and kingdoms start knocking at the door with pots of money…may seduce the new state and cause its Muslim population to choose the wrong path”.

India must not recognise an independent Kosovo. In a narrow interpretation of its interests, good relations with Russia outweigh any gains from backing the breakway state. In the broadest sense, it is in India’s interests to see the emergence of secular, liberal, multi-ethnic democracies. India must not feed the defeatist logic of ethnic-religious nation states.

Update: In an op-ed in Mint, Bharat Karnad argues that “New Delhi should not only firmly decline to (recognise Kosovo), but it should wage a sustained diplomatic campaign to deny Kosovo international recognition and seating in the United Nations. The principle on which Kosovo is founded is antithetical to the concept of an inclusive democracy and India.”

42 thoughts on “Recognising Kosovo is a bad idea”

  1. Methinks that any ‘secular’ state will be recognized by the Indian government. It might also be a useful thing to brag about in the upcoming elections. Wonder how the Left is going to feel, given that Communists oppressed the people of Kosovo.

  2. While tactically agreeing with the notion of India withholding recognition for Kosovo, I do have two questions:

    1. Does India recognize Bosnia & Croatia? If so, why is Kosovo conceptually any different?

    2. Being a neo-conservative and not a “realist”, I do believe that national cohesion should be born of natural centripetal interests among communities, not legalistic coercion. In the long-run, this is the only way to validate the concept of secular, multi-ethnic, liberal democracies that we both believe in. If so, why should India (the embodiment of this concept) join the illiberal ranks of Russia and China in advocating such coercion?

    Best regards

  3. We can always find the right principles to justify our actions. So, I am not so worried about the principles.

    Considering that there is no reason whatsoever for India to be in a tearing hurry to recognize Kosovo, I would say that it is upto pro-Kosovo forces to justify why India should do so. Our interests in the Kosovo Question are indirect at best. In such cases, it pays to take a cushion and settle down on the fence for a while. In the process, if our “friend” Russia thinks that we are taking their side, I don’t find anything wrong in taking that cookie and eating it.

    The Kosovo Question is very complicated from the p.o.v. of international law as well. Settling that question is going to set legal precedents. Those precedents will settle legal arguments about similar cases in future.

    My good friends Yasin Malik and Shabbir Shah are jubilant, incidentally. I dare say that Brother Prabhakaran might have opened a bottle of bubbly too. There is so much hope to go around.

    For everyone’ reading pleasure:

  4. Very poorly argued blog entry. Instead of shedding any light on what is the current and future dynamics of an independent Kosovo, all it does is ‘rehash’ old mind set of Cold War.

    Of course Serbia has long forfeited its right to have Kosovo as it’s part. Kosovo population or the rest of the world do not own to Serbia to continue their ‘millennium’ long efforts to establish a secular society. When centuries after centuries Serbia was taking revenge and raping hapless population of Kosovo; where were these ‘concerned’ people of secular state? Well, it turns out they were basking in the glow of those atrocities under the disguise of Soviet and Chinese Real Politick. What a shame. Sad part is even West woke up so late and why only Kosovo? What about Darfur? West needs to be more vigilant and active in many other parts of the world. But at least something is better than nothing.

    Clearly Putin’s Russia and China are in no way going to be pleased by this. The side show fun is of Taiwan recognizing Kosovo. That made Chinese Red (well, real red in their face too)! Just watch the fun. Taiwan will continue establishing relationship with Kosovo and in the end Chinese may be compelled to recognize Kosovo least they allow Taiwan’s independence to flourish.

    What about Putin’s Russia – who fears them? Is it not that West survived Cold World? Who cares Russian Bear? They have been playing such games for centuries and West & Rest of the World still have lived good life.

    The question is whether India wants to follow such useless mindset of being a supplicant state of Russia and China. India should not and needs to be bolder here to help a peaceful transition. That doesn’t have to mean full blown ‘political recognition’, though that is good. Nobody is holding their breath for India’s recognition. Kosovo people know, when they were getting slaughtered there was no Indian Beret saving them from Serbia. So where is the ‘locus standi’ for India to get involved in this matter? India should rather go for a low key, quiet diplomacy of having relations on practical matters. Being a day old nation, Kosovo needs help. India has shown how she can help young nations like Afghanistan. India could do same and that will be immensely valuable. Not this regurgitation of Cold War mentality as revealed by this blog.

  5. EU,NATO,US have just sowed the seeds of a future conflict in the region, what with a resurgent Russia on one hand and Saudi’s fear of losing their influence to Iran. Should we really expect Russia to watch and do nothing in its own backyard?

  6. Primary Red,

    I doubt if there can be a one-size-fits-all/standard template policy/position while dealing with creation of new states. I feel we just have to deal with them on a case by case basis depending on *our* national interests, like Nitin said, since the “concern for wronged populations is highly selective and exceptional” and dictated by the interests of the powers involved there, and not based on the same standard around the world, I dont think we need to start developing a standard position which needs to be changed every time a new state is carved out.

  7. Primary Red,

    The neo-conservative position is a moral position. The problem with a moral position is that unless it is applied universally, it is rightly subject to accusations of hypocrisy. Why, for instance, don’t the US-NATO take up cudgels with China over Tibet, with Turkey over the Kurds and so on?

    The realist position is an amoral position. No claims to universal application of legal or moral principles are made. Perhaps the only ‘morality’ involved is to what is necessary to help oneself. [I advise our young readers not apply this in their personal lives. It applies for nation-states in an anarchic international system]

    So realists will not worry about India’s positions on Bosnia and Croatia. [There is a difference in international law, though. The international intervention in Kosovo was against international law. Ref]. From a realist standpoint, there is an objective difference in international conditions between the early 1990s and 2008. Long answer required, but the short answer is Russia’s geopolitical power.

    Yes, I suppose the neo-con view and the realist view (that I have taken) agree on the ends, but differ on the means. But not all realists will agree on the merits of a multi-ethnic secular state. They’ll just say ‘we need not bother’ as long as the balance of power ensures stability in the international order. Just that in India’s case, I think, it is best that more countries are made in its image. The Chinese, Russians and Europeans will see things differently.

  8. Dear Umesh,

    Lofty principles and bravado indeed. The thing is that India is a nation-state whose government is primarily responsible for the well-being and development of its own citizens. Any external intervention must be towards the pursuit of this end.

    India is not an international humanitarian/charitable organisation or a Robin Hood type of outfit—ready to do good, help the weak and go and challenge the big powers.

  9. ‘Lofty principles and bravado indeed’ – when one has seen and heard ‘They said this day will never arrive’ by Barack Obama after his Iowa caucus win; I suppose you would excuse me for such ‘dreamy views’.

    There was a time when the same India had a PM, who regardless of clutches imposed by all pervasive poverty, ongoing religion based blood bath and the entrenched plague of caste system; had a vision to declare ‘India’s tryst with destiny’. Where has that vision gone? After 60 years of proud Indian Republic, is India weaker today than what it was then?

    I am grown up enough to understand that Barack Obama also has feet of clay and nation state relations in the end are without any serious accountability from voters. But too often under the disguise of ‘real politick’; even basic policy actions are ignored. What is this ‘geo-political’ power of Russia? Has not this world withered away one Soviet Union for the betterment of humanity? Then why this ‘chicken’ attitude today due to some discovery of hydrocarbons in Siberia? You will need to read to understand how Russian state is still weak and indeed it is Russia which is simply showing the empty bravado. It is a state which can not maintain the force readiness even to the standard of India even though oil money is gushing.

    It is not a case for India as Robin Hood. But without a proven ability to make difference in ‘world peace’ what interests others have to see India in UNSC – the power hungry club India is so desperate to join?

    I am sucker to ‘lofty principles and bravado’ because I happened to live George Bush’s tyranny for eight years. Any sensible person would see ‘what a neo-con hell is’. And then quite possibly you will excuse me for the craving of life based on principles and morality.

    I suppose you will hesitate in labeling Delaware Sen. Joe Biden as Neo-con. Here is his excellent commentary about Kosovo:

  10. Dear Umesh,

    Good luck to Barack Obama and the United States. That doesn’t concern us here in India. It gets dangerous when Americans attempt to extend their domestic political issues (even the verbiage) to other countries.

    As for

    There was a time when the same India had a PM, who regardless of clutches imposed by all pervasive poverty, ongoing religion based blood bath and the entrenched plague of caste system; had a vision to declare ‘India’s tryst with destiny’. Where has that vision gone? After 60 years of proud Indian Republic, is India weaker today than what it was then?

    We’re still paying the costs of that foolishness. Early non-alignment was the product of realism, but soon degenerated into a dogmatic pursuit of an unrealistic ideal. Btw, so where was the same PM with a vision when the Commies were cracking down in Hungary?

    And sorry, no takers here for arguments that the UNSC will admit India because it starts doing “good”. That argument is wearing off even among its most fervent advocates in India. The P5 will have to admit India because their own interests will require it.

  11. What does concern you then? If elections in India and Pakistan do have impacts outside the borders, how long are you going to live with such a bunker view? On what basis would you argue that ‘globalization’ is opening opportunities as well as challenges? Such selectiveness is hardly going to help India at all.

    Fact of the matter is, there are very few countries which can stay aloof from what happens in rest of the world. India can not be an exception.

    Is it not Congress and Indian Left which denigrated Non-alignment into domestic dogmatism? That was the failure subsequently, not the problem with the vision.

    And as far as India in UNSC – exactly what interests will be served of other countries when she is in? If India always hesitates to take any leadership role in any manner, why bother with India? If you are talking about getting protection for foreign investment in India and access to Indian market; I believe all of that gets negotiated to death in WTO and not in UNSC.

    Finally, I thought one of the most important lessons of foreign policy discussion is not to ignore ‘domestic political’ compulsions from nation state relations. International relations can not exist in vacuum without references to domestic happenings. Hence references to American domestic politics. Such references and cause-effect chains due to domestic acts are needed to explain and understand foreign policy issues.

  12. I think India needs to be more diplomatic in its recognition of Kosovo and grant it a conditional recognition. Where Kosovo will need to respect its minorities and maintain productive relationships with Serbia. If history teaches us anything, we will see Kosovo will not be able to do so and go the same route as Pakistan and struggle with its identity to be an Islamic nation or a world player and a tolerant nation.

    India does not have to take side of either the 1st or the 2nd world. It needs to create its own block with its own principles, agendas and rules. We don’t have to chose democracy or communalism. we need to come up with our own principles which are not black or white, which both the worlds will eventually find better to follow.

  13. Dear Umesh,

    You are all over the place. I’d say the onus is on you to tell us why the US elections and whatever it is you wrote about Mr Obama has a bearing on India’s recognition of Kosovo. You are diverging from the issue with each comment, now Obama, now Nehru, now globalisation, now WTO. All these are beside the point.

    What concerns India? As I wrote in an earlier comment—the well-being and development of its own citizens. That is the primary responsibility. Everything else is in pursuit of this end.

    Now you can disagree, disparage or denigrate this as being a bunker view, that’s fine. But that’s how it is.

  14. YB,

    Recognition of a state is not really a function of its domestic policies (eg how it treats its minorities). India recognises several which have a poor record on this front.

    There is a mechanical formula which the government uses: firm borders, control over territory and legitimate government. Kosovo does not fit the bill, but rules can be bent.

  15. I don’t know why people are even discussing this! Kosovo’s independence and recognition are absolute certainties. Countries which supposedly oppose independence will eventually fall in line bcos of their own geopolitical requirements. India has absolutely no business to mess with this issue at all. Offer no recognition until asked for and if asked, promptly say yes!

    Why complicate a simple decision? Besides India recognizing Kosovo will have no impact on our own separatist movements. GOI need not fear the 15 mins of News coverage the likes of Yaseen Malik will get.

  16. I do not think I am all over the place. Here are my points:

    – If you expect India to play a critical role in world affairs, India got to show leadership and got to undertake the necessary bulk work. Current attitude seems to be – we are going to be the most populous country and growing market; West must reward us with things like UNSC membership and so on. I think that is very lamentable attitude and missing the point of leadership. It also assumes that West and rest of the world are gullible to offer ‘leadership on platter’ to India due to some undefined self interests.

    – Sad part is Nehru and many other leaders did articulate quite a compelling vision of such leadership by India in world affairs and but that vision is missed. Surprisingly while India is getting stronger over the years, the tendency to become more insular or ‘pay our dues’ attitude is on rise. That will not help. Britain may owe something to India. But why America or rest of the world?

    – In today’s highly interdependent world, involvement in world matters is not for the sake of ‘imperial power projection’; but for your own interests. The way India has interests in the domestic politics of USA because it would have impact on ‘outsourcing’ industry; similarly most of today’s global commerce is interlinked.

    – Which means domestic pressures in various countries can not be ignored. Many on American side understand that it is in America’s interest to be ‘patient’ while Indian polity sorts our opposition to Bush-Singh Nuclear Accord. So how can we claim that we ignore domestic politics? I am sure you are erudite enough to understand long lasting impact of today’s Pakistani election on America and many others in rest of the world.

    – For 8 long years, America has been blamed for the ills of the world – Bush the culprit. In many cases true but not all. Now there is an attempt in America to define the political narrative in terms of ‘hope’ and ‘not fear’. The whole ‘Neo-Con Foreign Policy’ is not only discredited, it is getting uprooted. So while this is happening, why do you ever want to look at the world through the eyes of Neo-Con or in terms of geo-political power spectrum? Who cares for Russian Geo-political power? As you keep on repeating, ask what is good for Indian people. More freedom all over the world or tyrannies perpetuated by Russian and China? And then you will realize how incorrect the original post has been.

  17. Dear Umesh,

    It has been a long-standing argument of this blog that India’s foreign policy has to be on the front foot, and muscular interventions and power projection is needed. Look at recent posts. The question is not a general argument about “taking leadership” etc, but about recognising Kosovo’s declaration of independence. [Btw, I would not take all that talk about “got to undertake the necessary bulk” too seriously. Look at UN peacekeeping contributions, or the tsunami response. Oh, so we don’t send troops to places America would want us to, but that’s not the same as not “undertaking the necessary bulk”. You think the US would send its troops to Lebanon, Cote d’Ivoire, as India has done?].

    After so many rounds of arguments, I am compelled to call your arguments confused. None of what you say in your 2nd, 3rd and 4th paragraphs is coherent. Why don’t you take up the challenge I posed and tell us why whatever you said about Mr Obama (in Comment #14) should matter to India’s decision to recognise Kosovo? Don’t give us nice sounding stuff—I can wax eloquent about globalisation, interconnected world etc as well as you—just answer the direct question.

    Who cares for Russian geopolitical power?

    I do. I’m sure the government of India does. I’m sure the government of the United States does too. I don’t follow the American presidential race beyond generalities, but if Mr Obama tells you he doesn’t care, you’d be better off not voting for him.

    More freedom all over the world or tyrannies perpetuated by Russian and China

    Now really, Umesh! Just look at the map of the world and look at the number of tyrannies perpetuated by the United States. Forget the Cold War. Look at today’s map. That’s the problem with wearing morality up your foreign policy sleeve. You become guilty of hypocrisy. And in case you missed the point in the post, the “independent” Kosovo might hardly qualify as a case of “more freedom all over the world”. It’s very easy to profess liberalism after you expel your minorities. It requires a lot more liberalism to live together.

  18. Nitin,

    India must not recognise an independent Kosovo. In a narrow interpretation of its interests, good relations with Russia outweigh any gains from backing the breakway state. In the broadest sense, it is in India’s interests to see the emergence of secular, liberal, multi-ethnic democracies. India must not feed the defeatist logic of ethnic-religious nation states.

    Fair enough. Playing it by the ear and seeing how the situation plays itself out is India’s best bet here. But some points. The most important words here are probably “broadest interests”. It is more in India’s interests to stay in Russia’s good books than to to see that “more countries are made in its [India’s]image” i.e. multi-ethnic secular nation-states. Bharat Karnad’s point (and yours too), that “the principle on which Kosovo is founded is antithetical to the concept of an inclusive democracy and India”, can only be a broad concern – as a principle I can’t see it being applied by itself. Case in point: by this principle it wasn’t in the interests of the U.S. to recognize any Communist States and indeed, they didn’t have diplomatic relations with China for a long time.

    All this talk of more states being made in India’s image would make one think that states in India was on the verge of seceding. That, certainly, is far from the case today, even if it was a possibility in the few years after independence. Yes, yes, I know there’s Kashmir and there’s Maoism, and Islamic fundamentalism, and Raj Thackeray-style chauvinism. But the probability of a Yugoslavia-style breakup is very very low. Now if Pakistan were to break up — hmmmmmmmmmm.

  19. Here are my answers:

    1. The point with Obama is simple – do not try to burden your world view by what is possible and not possible by the existing categories. If an individual intends seriously enough or a nation state intends seriously enough; a change for good can happen when we all are ‘united’. The problem with arguments of ‘geo-political’ considerations is it compromises true interests of people for the so-called projections of power by the elites or ruling class of the state. Your blog talked about ‘geo-political’ considerations in not supporting Kosovo independence and that is wrong.

    2. When you care for ‘geo-political’ power of Russia, that is what exactly happens – you compromise your long term vision and long term interests of people for petty short term considerations. When you worry about Russia’s Geo-political power, you are not much different than what George Bush did for last seven years – tolerate the dictatorship of Musharaf for short term gains at the cost of longer term interests of America and the whole world.

    All said and done, the ghost of Soviet Union does not seem like going away. Recently Brazil discovered huge reserves of hydrocarbons, to the extent credible Brazilian President Lula declared ‘God is Brazilian!’. On top of it, Brazil is one of the leading producers of ethanol and hot bed of alternative energy. Then, in Brazil we have truly democratic country, with rising population (unlike Russia) and fast growing economy. Except for a seat in UNSC and thousands of Nukes, everything else is better / effective with Brazil than Russia. So where are you with your ‘geo-political’ calculations? (When Kosovo’s independence was declared, Indian Foreign Minister was with the Brazilian Minister.) Point is, you are indeed carrying too much past burden of Russian Geo-political power. Hardly there is any such thing. Just because Russia can be more mischievous in the world, you want to revere it; then all my bets are off. In today’s world, Brazil may be far more important and ‘constructive’ than Russia. This means your usual ‘geo-political’ views are less relevant. By the way, the same Brazilian Lula government hardly carries ‘water’ for America. So do not assume that I am dumb enough to apply criteria of ‘likes and dislikes’ of the current Administration in evaluating other governments. The point of leadership is – to blaze a new path, new standards and to execute on those. Fair enough, India does not necessarily have to contribute to the wars which America fights. But is India at least contributing to war and peace efforts where it is making difference in world stability? On consistent basis? In perceptible manner? In ways so that, forget America, but rest of the countries of the world want to come ahead and want to install India at the world leadership? I guess, you know the answers.

    3. As you can clearly see, at one level that is a fight against George Bush going on in USA. He talked about ‘freedom’ but in reality never bothered about pursuing it seriously and continued popping up dictators all over the world; as you forthrightly pointed out. What Obama is promising, and we will have to wait for the deliver of the same, is ‘the very mindset which brought America into the Iraq war’ got to be changed. Meaning he wants to uproot this whole edifice of ‘real politick, geo-political power games’ of KGB of the past era and Henry Kissinger type of people. That is the change he is selling to Americans and Americans are apparently buying it.

    4. Until Obama or someone else delivers on this change, it is all right for rest of the world to be skeptical. However what is worse, until then ‘liberals in America’ have to keep on suffering at the hands of cynics in rest of the world. But no, we are not hypocrites. Just because we got bad Administration of George Bush (latest result – 19% approval rate, lowest ever recorded for any sitting President) does not mean Americans approve the policy of ‘popping up dictators’. Whether it is Russians or Chinese or Americans; it is all equally bad anytime someone tries to protect a dictator and tyranny.

    5. Final point, how much minorities are in your society should not be the sole criteria for judging a liberal society. Kosovo Albanians did not force out Serb minority by violent means. So I am doubtful how your criteria apply.

  20. Umesh:

    1. The point with Obama is simple – do not try to burden your world view by what is possible and not possible by the existing categories. If an individual intends seriously enough or a nation state intends seriously enough; a change for good can happen when we all are ‘united’. The problem with arguments of ‘geo-political’ considerations is it compromises true interests of people for the so-called projections of power by the elites or ruling class of the state. Your blog talked about ‘geo-political’ considerations in not supporting Kosovo independence and that is wrong.

    I fail to see why not supporting Kosovar independence is wrong when it comes to our geo-political interests, considering the precedent it might set in the eyes of the separatist movements in India. To me it seems that the idealism of nations with “united” goals and objectives is more important to you than the integrity of India.

    When you care for ‘geo-political’ power of Russia, that is what exactly happens – you compromise your long term vision and long term interests of people for petty short term considerations.

    I doubt if anyone else either will agree with Nitin if he implied that we should ally our interests with Russian geo-political interests, *at all times on all the issues*. In this case, for a variety of reasons, it will be in our interest to not support Kosovar independence. PERIOD. Its just plain lucky that it aligns with what Russia has to say about it.

  21. Dear Umesh,

    Thanks for the clarification. Now I understand where you are coming from. The triumph of hope over experience is certainly an inspiring, seductive and perhaps a winning campaign platform. But I have no wish to pass comment on the American presidential campaign.

    But I urge you to limit your insistence that the ‘laws’ of international relations be suspended to America’s foreign policy. By all means urge the US government to do all those nice, inspiring things.

    Asking India to adopt a foreign policy prescriptions based on campaign slogans is, to say the least, rather presumptuous. As you rightly say, “until Mr Obama or someone else delivers the change, it is all right for the rest of the world to be sceptical”.

    If Mr Obama does indeed get elected and fashions policies out of campaign slogans, I invite you to return to this blog and tell us how many countries he delivers from dictators and tyranny. Perhaps he should start with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the People’s Republic of China, the Republic of Egypt and the Islamic Republic of Iran etc. He could also deliver independence to the Kurds, Uyghurs, Chechens and Baloch. So if and when Mr Obama ticks off even one of the above, I will have reason to be a little less dismissive about this rhetoric. Until that time, I’ll stick with scepticism.

  22. It is clear that folks would rather have a rhetorical shot than see the real point. Obama is great or not is not the point. He and many others from time to time have attempted to throw the burdens of History exhorting people to undertake actions with unity which are in longer term interests and are egalitarian in essence. India herself has a long history of such leaders.

    The question is ‘recognition of Kosovo’ can be done on such world view or not. The original post hardly moved away from perpetuation of burdens of History. Why do we want to think only in terms of ‘instigation to our separatist movement’ or ‘deference to Russia’s geo-political power’? When Punjab separatist movement was quelled eventually, was it because India was guarded all along in foreign policy? Or something else helped to root out Khalistanis?

    My real beef is with such standard foreign policy prescriptions where at times there seems to be some kind of intellectual laziness. Why in the world ‘because USA does’ should pass? Neither failures of USA need to be excuses for other countries in not undertaking enlightened policies; nor should what USA does set the bar. Point is just like any other democratic country, USA also constantly debates about what foreign policy it pursues. Reference to Obama and Liberals is to denote political forces within American polity which are trying to influence outcome towards the ‘progressive policy’. The question is where do we see that movement in India? I am not saying it is absent. But I am trying to understand to what an extent this blog and the particular blog post enables such progressive discourse within India. My reading of the blog post as well as subsequent comments tell me that, unfortunately at least for this blog post that opportunity is missed.

  23. Obamesh Patil,

    I can’t believe *you* are the one looking down on rhetoric! Do you *really* not see that you are the only person on this thread who has been going on and on with irrelevant rhetorical tangents?

    The question is ‘recognition of Kosovo’ can be done on such world view or not.

    No, the question is whether recognizing Kosovo is a good idea for India. That’s all.


    The MEA’s response is here. Quoting it in full:

    “India has a long standing and consistent policy on the issue of recognition. Recognition is normally accorded on the basis of a country having a defined territory, a duly constituted Government in charge which is accepted by the people and which has effective control over an area of governance.

    It has been India’s consistent position that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries should be fully respected by all states. We have believed that the Kosovo issue should have been resolved through peaceful means and through consultation and dialogue between the concerned parties.

    We have taken note of the Unilateral Declaration of Independence by Kosovo. There are several legal issues involved in this Declaration. We are studying the evolving situation”.

  24. On Kosovo’s independence, I agree with scritic that we should be in a wait-and watch mode. The MEA statement appears to do so with a nuanced disapproval- “studying the evolving situation”.

    Looks like a serious discussion on Obama & Kosovo in the comment thread. Some thoughts:

    I guess the worst case scenario is that a President Obama punishes us for working against Kosovar independence (if we do), probably by blocking the nuclear deal…. and we are left only with Russia which may not give us an eqvt deal, or not be able to give us an eqvt deal, or has its own steep price set on an eqvt deal.

    I guess a realistic analysis should take this into account. How likely is this? Arent these separate issues. Wouldnt Obama be against this deal anyway, regardless of Kosovo. What are our other options?

    Reference points on these issues,

    1. from Dont wait for Obama

    “… As Barack Obama surges ahead in the race for the Democratic nomination, India can hardly forget his killer amendment to the Hyde Act on restricting future nuclear fuel supplies to India…”

    2. Obama is actually a lot more nuanced than Hillary on Kosovo, IMO:

    Hillary: I welcome this historic declaration… historic step…. I regret it has taken us this long to reach this historic juncture…

    Obama: …a unique situation resulting from the irreparable rupture Slobodan Milosevic’s actions caused; it is in no way a precedent for anyone else…

    Hillary refers to Serbs in Kosovo and her reference to Serbia is only to worry abt its democratic future while Obama explicitly states that Serbia and its people also suffered terribly.

    Elsewhere in their statements, they are mostly parallel.


  25. Umesh,

    Perhaps, for the writer of this blog and may others here, progressivism means advancing the Indian Interest at ANY cost. Why should we be constrained to accept your definition?

    And as far as Obama is concerned, I am seriously glad that Americans are still gullible enough to believe in election slogans. I am not being sarcastic here;such belief–however misplaced–is essential for well being of the political system. But why should India’s foreign policy be guided by this agenda of hope, when it has not even won the Democratic primary, let alone the Presidential elections is not exactly clear. The real test of this agenda of hope would be after President Obama assumes office. Till then, its just words–empty ones at that.

  26. Gentlemen,

    Discussion of the US presidential campaign is off topic on this post. There’s reams of it everywhere. Spare this blogger and his readers.

  27. Nitin,

    I was traveling, hence late coming into this. Four points:

    Kosovo independence completes the unfinished business of disentangling Yugoslavia. When Slovenia became independent and the West defended it, when Croatia was supported by Germans, leading to the fragmentation, the world agreed. The world rightly supported Bosnia-Herzegovina, too. Dismantling the last remnants of an artificially put together country, backed only because Tito could hold it together, is natural justice.

    India has in the past supported many separatists: Mugabe’s Zanu and Nkomo’s Zapu fighting Rhodesia, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic separating from Morocco, Namibia’s own independence struggle. India even sent troops to help East Pakistan become Bangladesh, and for many years supported the Heng Samrin regime in Cambodia which replaced Pol Pot’s regime. While not “independence” as such, it was intervention.

    India does not want to back Kosovo’s freedom, probably, because it does not want a Kashmir precedent. Fair point. But that’s a different reason than not-antagonizing the KGB.

    Bharat Karnad’s argument, therefore, that India should run a campaign AGAINST Kosovo’s independence, is not only spurious, but against Indian interests. Many regard Kosovo’s leaders, at least some, to be inspired by Gandhian concepts of reconciliation. Yes, there are lunatics who shoot first and ask questions later, but they’re everywhere. And Karnad is also wrong, because being on the right side of the Kosovo debate is a good thing: why would India NOT want to support a moderate, west-leaning, democratic Muslim country? We’ve been in the Soviet bear hug for too long.


    Karnad’s argument is spurious.

  28. Salil,

    Regarding the recognition of the republics that emerged from the former Yugoslavia, the case of Kosovo is very different. First, NATO’s bombing of Serbia was illegal under international law, as it was done without UNSC authorisation. Thereupon, Kosovo was administered by the UN, before declaring itself independent. Let’s set aside Indian realism for a minute: what does this mean as a precedent? (a) that NATO forces can attack anyone, let the UN do what it likes and (b) letting UN administer troubled spots is dangerous because it won’t be responsible to the current government. So why would any state agree to allow UN to administer a troubled place, even for humanitarian reasons? Position in international law of the whole affair is deeply suspect. No takers for “this won’t be a precedent” logic.

    As for India recognising some secessions: The test should be whether recognition serves the larger Indian interests. We don’t recognise Eelam do we?

    I’d argue that Bharat Karnad’s argument is spurious for the opposite reasons. Kashmir has nothing to do with it. Realists will argue that international law and precedent is selectively applied if power and interests allow/require it. You can squeeze Serbia, but you can’t squeeze India. Rather, India’s decision must be motivated by the need not to needless antagonise (for the sake of a high-sounding principle) Russia and perhaps even Israel. And of course, against emergence of more single-ethnic-national states.

    I’m yet to hear from anyone what tangible advantages there might be for India by recognising Kosovo. All I hear is that we should do it out of principle.

  29. Here’s something to illuminate the Kosovo question in international law. According to Anthony Arend, a Georgetown University professor:

    III Conclusions

    1. In the absence of UN authority in Kosovo, a strong case for secession could be made.

    If the UN had not become engaged in the Kosovo conflict, it would seem to me that a strong argument could be made that the people of Kosovo were being denied their right of internal self-determination and thus would have the right to secession. But note: even here the law is unclear as to whether a people in “category three” would ever have a right of secession.

    2. Because the UN Security Council has been seized of the matter, a strong case against secession can be made.

    Given that the UN Security Council has affirmed the territorial integrity of Serbia and continued to work for an autonomous, but not independent, Kosovo, a very strong argument can be made that in the absence of any further Security Council action, Kosovo secession would be illegal. Why? First, the Security Council has the authority to issue binding resolutions in this area. And even though Resolution 1244 does not explicitly prohibit secession or prohibit states from recognizing secession (like Security Council Resolutions 216 and 217 in the case of Rhodesia’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence in 1965), it nonetheless seems to set forth the framework for self-determination that does not include independence. Second, it seems that all the parties in the case were attempting to create an autonomous arrangement– not complete integration in to the Serbian political structure– so the logic of the Quebec case’s understanding of internal self-determination would not quite seem on point. In the Kosovo case, internal self-determination would be achieved through autonomy within Serbia, not full participation in the overall political, economic, and cultural life of the Serbian state, as was the case of Quebec.

  30. More than four IIIyrian Entities compose Albania.
    All of them speaks Illyrian language but with different dialects. Three first has a very distinct Illyrian dialect named GEGE and the rest has another Illyrian dialect named TOSKE.
    On 1912 they united in one single state and agreed to be named Eagle’s Land. SHQIPERIA.
    The foreign “SKOLARS” named Albania based on the name of only one of the Entities.
    This was not only Ignorance but also a big mistake of these “very educated Scholars“.
    The situation then was so critical for SHQIPETARET, so they accepted any injustice and compromise. This was the big price they pay to gain the independence. Of course many other Illyrian entities was ignored. This has been done in purpose to use Illyrian territories as a trade merchandise to please slavics, which in return were used in two wars. The Slavics paid their price. They lost 56 million people 1908 – 1946. Illyrian paid bigger price. They were spread over 5 different states.
    It’s about time to recognize the historical right of Kosova (Dardania) to have its destiny fulfilled-That is full independence. Kosova never was a Serbian province. It was there, since the times of birth of European civilization, a very distinct Dardanian/llyrian identity. Always populated by Dardanias who, although under constant pressure of forcefully migration by Serbian shovinism, Tito’s Yugoslavia & Milloshevic’s Serbia, still make up 92% of the population. They speak ilirian language with the dialect GEGE. Serbs always have been a minority there. We know that Serbs appeared in Balkans (then llyria) only by the 6th Century AD, and they speak a language more similar to Ukrainian then Russian. They have always been a minority and ‘the story’ of Kosova being the Heartland of Serbia is just a pure Serbian nationalist fantasy. Facts Speak Louder Than Words and Serbian’s Lies Will Collapse by Themselves. Serbs always have been considered as oppressors there, not just by Albanian majority, but also by other ethnic groups too. Serbs just occupied Kosova during the rise of the Serbian nationalism early 20th century from Ottomans, who by then were loosing the Balkans after 500 years of occupation. The borders of Kosova are well established and recognized. Now Kosova should be Free!
    To find the answer for the question “do you think Kosovo’s independence will strengthen separatist movements elsewhere”, please refer to:
    Erich Hartman – top ace of all the time. German Luftwaffe Bf 109 Pilot.
    Near the end of WWII, in early May 1945, Hartmann, then Gruppenkommandeur of famous Jagdgeschwader 52, and his Commodore, Hermann Graf, ground crew, family members, and other civilians, who had joined the squadron, seeking protection approaching Russian army, moved west in direction of territory already occupied by US troops. On May 8th, 1945, the soldiers and civilians surrendered to US troops in the region between Bavaria (German province) and Czech border. But on May 17th, the US Army delivered all of these German troops and civilians to the Red Army. How did the Russian troops treat the civilians? They tortured, raped German woman, children at least 12 years old. Some woman were shot after the rapes. Others were not so lucky. A twelve year old girl whose mother had been raped and shoot being raped by several solders. She died from these acts soon afterward. Then more Russian came, and it began all over again. During the night, entire German families committed suicide with men killing their wives and daughters, then themselves. This is the way the slavics treat the human been, the innocent civilians. This is the way the Serbs treated innocent Croatian, Bosnian and Dardanian civilians. If any entity of human been will be treated like that, then they are in title to ask and gain the independence.

Comments are closed.