Illegal regimes face global backlash The Excelsior 07 Dec 2021
The UN Credentials Committee (UNCC) met last week and deferred its decision on who would represent Afghanistan and Myanmar in the UN. There were rival claims for this seat by representatives of previous democratic governments and the current incumbents. The decision by the UNCC implies that both countries will not be represented in global forums for the present. The military junta in Myanmar, also termed the Tatmadaw, and the Taliban in Afghanistan face roadblocks in recognition. They have grabbed power, overthrown a democratically elected government and now must contend with isolation, internal turmoil, suffering of its populace and domestic anger. In both nations, common masses are suppressed by brutal military power.
Without recognition, these nations have no global voice nor a seat from where they can project their views as also seek assistance. While US-Taliban talks continue in Doha, the ASEAN has been engaging with the military regime in Myanmar. Currently, both talks appear to be heading nowhere. For the Taliban, their main support flows from Pakistan, which imposed the current regime, while for Myanmar it is China.
Within Myanmar, the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), which rose to oust the Tatmadaw took a violent turn after a brutal crackdown. China has provided the junta with arms and other resources to enable it to counter the current ongoing internal uprising. Fighting rages in different parts of the country. With extreme medicine shortages and a raging third COVID wave Myanmar’s health system has collapsed. Economically, the country is in a mess. The CDM has led to closure of factories and the economy being further hit by strong sanctions from the US and EU. Private investors have been compelled to shun the country. It is back to its earlier period of self-isolation.
A UN report released in October stated that Myanmar’s economy is in a freefall. Inflation is on the rise with the UN World Food Program warning that a large part of the population would soon face starvation. Upto September this year, over 200,000 people were internally displaced. Simultaneously, there appears to be no end to internal strife. There are already reports that thousands of soldiers have shifted ranks to the CDM.
In Afghanistan, the internal scenario is almost similar. There are demands for medical and food stocks to prevent a human catastrophe. It is further compounded by it being a landlocked nation, needing transit facilities through its neighbours for movement of aid. Internally, the ISIK is staging a comeback with blasts targeting the Taliban being reported from multiple cities. In case, the situation continues as currently, other resistance groups may soon emerge adding to internal instability. The world continues to refuse to release Afghan funds locked in global banks, notably the US, leading a collapse of the economy.
The failure of the Taliban to adhere to the Doha demands has resulted in it not being recognized by any nation. Meetings on Afghanistan have only mentioned provision of food and medicine supplies. Its neighbours remain wary of the re-emergence of terrorism and an increase in the production and export of drugs. The Taliban ruled previous rounds of Doha talks and attended or withdrew from them on whims and fancies of its leadership compelling the US to bend to their demands. Currently, they are on the same table requesting for help and support to prevent a catastrophe. The situation has reversed. Afghanistan is currently under internal isolation.
Nations which supported the Taliban and Tatmadaw hesitate in recognizing them and providing them with a platform fearing a global backlash. The UNCC comprised amongst others of Russia and China, both of whom are closely engaged with both regimes. Yet they failed to push through their recognition or lifting of sanctions.
With the world community standing in unison, the message being conveyed is clear. Taking over a nation by brute force is one part, ruling it while caring for those who are ruled over, is another. Without global recognition, there is no one to hear their views and provide support. There is no doubt that it is humanity within the nations which suffer, however opening doors to regimes which suppress masses and overthrow elected governments would also convey a wrong message.
Even the UN leadership has the same view. The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, stated that the Taliban’s desire for recognition is the sole leverage the global community has to press for an inclusive government, respect for rights, particularly for women and stopping flow of drugs from Afghanistan. Similarly, the former UN special envoy on Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener of Switzerland, stated that no one must recognize or legitimize the military junta in case the world seeks restoration of democracy and halting suppression of masses in the country.
While the global community acts, regional countries have their own views and interests. India has engaged with Myanmar formally, despite a change in government. It has avoided interacting with the Taliban government which remains supported by Pakistan. For Pakistan, Kabul is more important than Myanmar. For China, both carry equal weightage.
For India, insecurity in both these nations is a matter of concern. India is facing increased flow of drugs from both, apart from movement of weapons and counterfeit currency from Myanmar. The involvement of the Tatmadaw in curbing growing violence by the CDM, provides an opportunity to anti-India terrorist groups to regroup. A troubled border opens opportunities for China to arm and fund these groups.
India was amongst eight nations represented in a military parade in Myanmar’s capital, Naypyitaw, two months after the democratic government was overthrown, celebrating Tatmadaw day. For India’s ‘Act East’ policy, Myanmar plays a major role. India’s development of the Sittwe port in Rakhine region of Myanmar as part of the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport project implies India must remain engaged with whoever is in power in Myanmar. Hence, India continues to back the ASEAN effort.
While the global message of not recognizing illegal governments is accepted, nations in the region determine their own path, within these parameters, based on national interests. India is no different.