Dialogues elude current conflicts The Excelsior 13 Dec 2023 Maj Gen Harsha Kakar


Dialogues elude current conflicts

Dialogues elude current conflicts The Excelsior 13 Dec 2023

          The truce between Israel and Hamas has ended for which both blame the other. Attempts to restart the same are ongoing. The US President, Joe Biden, had publicly commented that he hoped the ceasefire would continue. Hamas launched the initial assault, capturing Israelis as a bargaining chip for Palestinians in Israeli jails as also hoping that Arab unity would counter Israel thereby forcing it into submission. It did not happen.

Israel’s counter offensive was intended to, ‘destroy Hamas, secure its hostages and ensure that no entity in Gaza can threaten Israel.’ This too is unlikely to happen. Israel may regain its hostages, some dead, mostly alive, but will never be able to destroy Hamas. It may eliminate the current leadership, opening doors for the next generation to rise. At the end of the day, Tel Aviv would secure a few years of respite before Hamas knocks on its door again, employing different tactics.

The current ongoing war is resulting in destruction and loss of innocent lives. Reconstruction will take funds and time. The solution leading to peace will ultimately have to be bulldozed by those who possess influence on both sides.

Peace also eludes Ukraine as negotiations between Moscow and Kiev have been stalled for over a year. Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky has even signed a decree prohibiting negotiations with Russia. The Ukrainian foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, defended his country’s decision not to negotiate claiming, ‘Russia routinely disregards its international commitments.’

Zelensky regularly announces that unless Ukraine regains all its territory it will not negotiate. To continue garnering support from Europe and the US, Zelensky warns that Russia could expand operations towards Europe. Ukraine is fighting its war on western weapons and funding. Zelensky avoids conducting elections claiming his country is in the middle of a war, assuming the role of a dictator, which the US would normally have shunned.   

Putin insists that it is Ukraine which walked away from the negotiating table. He stated at the online G20 summit, ‘It is not Russia, but Ukraine, that has publicly announced that it is withdrawing from the negotiation process.’ He added, ‘military actions are always a tragedy for people, families, and the country as a whole. And, of course, we must think about how to stop this tragedy.’ Unless there is a dialogue leading to an agreement, war will continue, adding to destruction and loss of innocent lives.

In Afghanistan, US negotiations with the Taliban in Qatar dragged with no tangible result. The Taliban was a globally denounced terrorist organization, yet it negotiated hoping for a resolution. Ultimately, the US withdrew in haste and defeat, leaving the country at the mercy of the Taliban, which regened on most of its promises, especially those pertaining to human rights and education of women.

Wars currently in progress have continued because the weaker side refuses to negotiate. Those with the power to discuss largely live outside the warzone. In Afghanistan, the Taliban leadership was ensconced in Quetta, Pakistan, while the Afghan population was exposed to the might of the US military and the brutality of the Taliban. In Ukraine it is Zelensky, who remains protected in Kiev, while the population goes through harsh winters without even basic amenities.

The Hamas leadership, all billionaires, reside in Qatar in comfort, while Gazans are at the mercy of the Israeli military and tight control of Hamas. It is Hamas which diverted funds meant for development of Gaza to construct tunnels and build rockets, displaying little concern for their citizens. The population in Gaza has no voice, is fighting for survival, while being rejected even by their neighbours, Egypt and Jordan. They remain trapped in a region which is currently in rubbles.    

Further, as with Afghanistan and Gaza, the ruling authority are not nation states but terrorist organizations whose words can never be accepted nor can an agreement with them be legally binding. Hence, there can be no negotiated settlement. Israel therefore refuses to negotiate officially for a permanent solution. There are go-between states such as Qatar, which can intercede, but there are always doubts on promises made by terrorist organizations controlling warring regions. 

Another factor is interest of nations which back the weaker warring side. The US and its allies discouraged Ukraine from negotiating. It is known that Boris Johnson, as the UK PM, visited Kiev and stopped its negotiations with Moscow. In the case of the Israel-Hamas war, it is Iran which holds the key. The drawing in of Hezbollah, Houthis and Shia terrorist groups in Iraq, aligned and funded by Iran, into expanding the war, including targeting of US bases, is an indicator. Nations with power and control have their own strategic reasons to continue the conflict.

A near similar scenario exists in Yemen, Syria and Libya, where warring factions are backed by different nations with their own strategic goals. It is difficult to bring about peace as all parties are militia’s and not recognized states. Ultimately, it is the population which suffers. In Lebanon, the Hezbollah, a terrorist organization, possesses more power than the state itself.

While Russia and Israel have possibly set end goals for themselves, these will never be reached, resulting in the conflict dragging on. In Ukraine there is a stalemate with limited progress by either side. Russia will not withdraw from regions it has occupied, while Ukraine will keep attempting to dislodge them. The scenario in Gaza is also likely to reach the same state shortly, with Israeli troops remaining in situ, to prevent the resurgence of Hamas.

The US was forced to abandon its goals in Afghanistan and withdraw in a rush. It could do so because Afghanistan cannot impact the US mainland due to distance. This option neither exists for Russia nor Israel as they are battling in their neighbourhood. They would be compelled to continue operations adding to loss of lives and impacting their economies.

If war zones have to witness peace, then there is a need for nations backing warring sides to trim their strategic goals and work towards a common approach of terminating the conflict. Unless this is the intent, instability in regions will remain, migrations will increase and innocents will continue to suffer.