24 November, 2020

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The Security Of Small States

By Izeth Hussain

Izeth Hussain

Izeth Hussain

Some years after the holding of the 1976 Non-Aligned Summit Conference in Colombo, the Marga Institute held an international seminar on the security of small states. I wrote the lead paper for it, which was fitting because at the Foreign Ministry I was in charge of the subject of the Non-Aligned Movement which had not given specific attention to the problem of the security of small states. The seminar was regarded as one of the most interesting ever held by the Marga Institute and as a path-breaking one. Substantial chunks of my paper were reproduced in the Lanka Guardian. Thereafter the idea that the security of small states was a problem that had to be addressed fell out of sight. Around 1990 I attended as a Marga representative a UN Conference on the Indian Ocean as a Zone of Peace at Sochi in the Soviet Union. My address focused on the problem of small state security, which particularly interested Howard Wriggins, scholar and former Ambassador to Sri Lanka, and an American observer who was there. It was thereafter published in the Lanka Guardian. That American observer told me that my address was exceptionally interesting and he was surprised that it made nothing like the impact that it should have made. Clearly I was dealing with an idea whose time had not come.

Maybe its time has come or is coming with the international concern manifested in recent weeks over the Kashmir problem. It is time therefore to spell out some ideas on the problem of small state security. But first I must make some observations on the Non-Aligned Movement, the significance of which tends to be misunderstood. In preparing the Draft Declaration for the Colombo Summit I conceptualized Non-Alignment as standing essentially for two principles, reducing to two the five principles enunciated at the first Non-Aligned Summit at Belgrade in 1961. The first was true independence as distinct from merely formal sovereignty. The other was peaceful co-existence cutting across ideological and all other divisions. That those principles had wide appeal was attested by the phenomenal growth in membership of the Non-aligned Movement, to an extent that would have been unimaginable at the time of the Belgrade Summit in 1961.

I hold that Non-Alignment has represented something very positive in international relations and that the Movement has been a resounding success. Decolonization was virtually complete by the time of the Colombo Summit, a process in which the Non-Aligned played a very significant role. That process was inevitable and therefore more important is the fact that today the third world countries are far more resistant to covert forms of domination than in the past. The defiance shown by the Philippines President towards the US would have been unthinkable some time ago. It seems to me significant that today’s American Empire takes the form of an empire of bases, according to Chalmers Johnson’s conceptualization. The probable reason for that is that it is more problematic now for a foreign power to dominate a people than in the past.

It might seem therefore – particularly as the ideological division of the Cold War is over – that the Non-Alignment Movement has served its purpose successfully and it should now be declared defunct. What is definitely over is the problem of ensuring peaceful co-existence within the framework of the Cold War. But the problem of ensuring true independence as distinct from merely formal sovereignty continues. As long as human beings remain human beings we can expect attempts at domination of the poor by the rich, of the small by the big, of the weak by the powerful. That has been made more difficult in the contemporary world partly because of the success of the Non-Aligned Movement. But the drive to dominate has not vanished from the earth. Can the NAM be used to deal with that problem, more specifically with the problem of the security of small states? It has been pre-eminently the Movement that has stood up for the poor, the small, and the weak. But in recent times it has given the impression of a loss of direction, and it seems doubtful that it can serve the purposes of the small states.

The appropriate forum would be the UN though when it comes to effective action it is dominated by the rich and the powerful. It is the appropriate forum because the problem of the small states is at the very core of the problem of shaping a new world order. I must explain why I have that idea. At the time of the Marga seminar I and probably most of the other participants conceived of the problem of small states more or less along the following lines. In the course of time some powerful states would be emerging in Afro-Asia and Latin America, such as India, Nigeria, and Brazil and they too could show a drive for domination over the small states. The securing of the interests of the small states had still to be worked out.

I now see the problem in rather different terms. The small states that are in contiguity to the really powerful states should be placed in a very special category. The powerful states that I have in mind are the US, Russia, China and India. I am including India because it is now in close association with the US and is very much involved in the great power rivalries that have been evolving. We must ask why the world seems at present in a much more troubled condition politically that at any time since the collapse of the Soviet Union. There is now talk of a renewed US-Russian Cold War; there are fears that the world may be getting closer to a nuclear war than at any time since the Cuban missile crisis of the early ‘sixties; and the relations between some of the great powers are clearly becoming more and more uneasy.

I believe that this troubled condition has its roots in the aggressive policy followed by the US towards Russia in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union. As Russia saw it, it had voluntarily relinquished a huge empire and was ready for relations of amity and co-operation with the US and the West. The US response was to treat Russia as a potential enemy, as a country that would regain its power and threaten the US, the West, and the rest of the world. Its strategy was to try to get close to Russia’s neighbors and make them pro-Western. It was essentially a policy of containment, similar to what prevailed during the Cold War. But Russia has been regaining its power, it has given the impression of behaving aggressively towards the Ukraine and other neighbors as a riposte to the US containment strategy, and it has become a major player in the Middle East. As for China, I would explain its behavior in the South China Seas also in terms of a riposte to a virtual containment policy on the part of the US.

In the preceding paragraph there is implicit a solution to the problem of small states that are neighbors of powerful states. Sri Lanka should be included in the category of such states. The traditional solution would be to include them in the spheres of influence of the powerful states. Today that would be totally unacceptable because it implies unequal relations that could range from a loose hegemony to outright domination. According to the solution I have in mind a small state should firstly have untrammeled freedom except that it should not get together with a foreign power against its neighbor. Secondly other powers should respect that principle. What I am advocating is a solution to the problem of small states based on the two fundamental principles of Non-Alignment: the small state should have true independence as distinct from merely formal sovereignty, and it should practice peaceful co-existence.

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Latest comments

  • 5
    1

    Husain has missed the most important factor: internal harmony and stability of the peoples and religions in the island; without which will be and it already is the playground of the world powers.

  • 5
    1

    In the last paragraph the author has mentioned about freedom, independence, peaceful co-existence, etc, for which Tamils in Tamil homelands who are larger than many sovereign states have been fighting and continuing to fight. Yet this author opposes meaningful regional autonomy for Tamils! Does he really not know the basis of nationhood of any People? He is one of those with double standards.

    • 6
      2

      Sure, the author shows double or even triple standards: One for Muslims one for Christians and one for Tamils. He thinks Muslims have divine laws, while for Tamils he has pathological hatred.

      He is a confirmed hypocrite.

      • 1
        0


        He is a confirmed hypocrite.”

        Of course – he is a Muslim.

        Shakespeare said:
        ‘Hypocrisy, thy name is Muslim’

  • 4
    0

    I zeta Hussain lives in his own idealistic world leaving aside his Islamic views. Stability is crucial not only in mechanics, science and engineering, it is also if not more so in political and military matters. Internal and geopolitical stability are essential for small states. As we know in science and engineering if something is not stable in a situation it only needs a small push to change the status. If a small state tries to defy superior military,technological, political or other relevant power source, it is doomed to fail. Internal conditions also matter for a small state to exist, let alone be peaceful and prosper.

  • 3
    1

    izeth

    why don’t you look closely at the oil rich state of brunei.It is only 5675 sq.km compared to our 65000sq.km.It has 437000 people compared to our 21 million.It has 1.1 billion bbl of oil reserves and 400 billion cu m of gas.

    how come it has not had any security problems that you mention of small states.i would have thought that the oil and gas itself would be tempting enough for some countries to try to gobble it up.

    It has been ruled by the same family for 6 centuries.Does the answer lie in that?If so are unwise rulers of small countries bringing upon themselves unnecessary security problems by not ruling wisely and antagonising others.

    As for kashmir that you mention,lets forget about it.It is not a country now and never was earlier too.harping on it and the nuclear threat is a waste of time,because india will just destroy pakistan completely in a nuclear war.

    • 2
      0

      Indonesia tried to annex Brunei soon after British granted Independence, but with British and Australian troops, Indonesia was driven back. Since then no country has attempted to invade Brunei. Brunei has a British contingent stationed at Kuala Belait, a Gurkha regiment stationed at capital city of Bandar Seri Begawan (Seri Begawan is the title conferred on the late King who is considered as the architect of modern Brunei) and also Singapore air force stationed in Temburong. Therefore to say that Brunei has no security concerns is not correct. Brunei though independent has its currency linked to Singapore dollar and is controlled by central bank of Singapore in which board are nominees of Brunei state. Due to this arrangement Brunei currency is strong and is tenable in Singapore.

      • 1
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        Dr.sankaralingam

        that was in 1962 when brunei was undecided whther to join malaysia or be independent.These are birth pangs of a nation ending colonisation and should not be confused with security concerns after a nation has been established.I agree with you that if they have foreign troops as you mention they must be having security concerns,but who doesn’t.

        main thing is a tiny country sandwiched between large neighbours has survived.how come it has happenned.Why has indonesia or malaysia not tried to gobble it up.It must be because the current environment is quite different to the one you refer to in 1962 with the formation of the UN and other organisations preventing countries from just invading others without valid reasons. saddam tried it on kuwait and failed.

        so i think Izeth is still living in those 1962 environment still.

  • 6
    2

    Tamil Racism, Kashmir and now small states….
    Hope next you write about international Muslim Terrorism

  • 5
    1

    What about the Baluchistan problem?
    Sengodan. M

  • 1
    1

    Mr. Hussein,
    ” As Russia saw it, it had voluntarily relinquished a huge empire and was ready for relations of amity and co-operation with the US and the West. The US response was to treat Russia as a potential enemy,”
    Quite true. Perhaps the world is more stable when there is more than one nuclear-armed centre of power. As long as they are wise enough not to use those arms. I have my doubts about the current Indian leaders.
    As to our own security vis-a-vis India, I think it is time we admit to ourselves that we are just as Indian as the citizens of Hong Kong and Taiwan are Chinese(At least the Indians seem to think so). On that basis we would have assured security.

    • 3
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      old codger

      “Perhaps the world is more stable when there is more than one nuclear-armed centre of power.”

      May be true and Russia still possess a huge pile of nuclear arsenal.

      However it takes only mad general to trigger a Mutually Assured Destruction.

      (The film, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb comes to my mind. If you haven’t watched try and watch it simply because it is brilliantly made by Stanley Kubrick).

      Recently during a debate on Pakistani state sponsored terrorism (NDTV) a Pakistani pundit warned India that his country wouldn’t hesitate to use Nuclear Bomb as a counter attack strategy.

      The Nuclear deterrent argument does not hold when you have countries such as Pakistan is willing to use it as not the last resort but as the first line of attack.

      As regard to this island and India, Hindians believe this island is the Sinhala state of Hindia.

      The problem is that I don’t want to get permission from Hindians whenever I get the urge to ease myself.

      • 0
        0

        NV,
        “However it takes only mad general to trigger a Mutually Assured Destruction.”
        Or a mad Taliban or Shiv Sena.
        Yes I have seen Strangelove, but those were low-tech days. It may be possible these days in other countries.

        • 2
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          old codger

          “Or a mad Taliban or Shiv Sena.”

          You are absolutely right when countries are willing to sell anything from “non lethal” to nuclear technology (including the know how to make dirty bombs) one doesn’t need a mad general to trigger a nuclear holocaust, but a mad man who is willing to kill and be killed will can do the job.

          On the other hand if we don’t treat our own people well there are numerous strangers who are ready and willing to grope this country.

    • 0
      1

      “Quite true.”

      Not exactly. When Gorbachev was there he had friendship with America. Though Gorbachev is a communist (not appropriate to call him a communist), he was much more moderate than any other Russian leaders. He liked piece. He is still insisting on that. He let the Baltic countries (Estonia Latvia and Lithuania) enslaved by USSR to go free. Germany was allowed to be merged. He pulled back from Afghanistan where American Taliban was in full operation. But the main part of USSR remained intact. USSR became completely bankrupt. Government employees begged for food. USSR could not maintain its massive war machine too. Atomic secrets were sold by scientist for money. It was the part of the mistake of surprise opening of the market, instead of gradual. Then the communist rebelled for that kind of action. Boris Yeltsin came to power. He was a worthless drunkard. He is the one dismantled the USSR. This was not a complete gesture to America, but a part of the fear of independent states rebelling against Russia and destroying it completely at its most vulnerable time – a trend set off by East Germany. But he maintained Russia’s friendship with America. CIA was sighted for this new relationship. Yeltsin named the Russian parliament as White House. Many Russians civilians extended their hands to America. But the Glasnost and perestroika started by Gorbachev reeled with the entire problems and Yeltsin’s mismanagement. Communist Party was cornered. Yeltsin’s crude capital system was taking its cause. Russians are very highly educated. This allowed the new economic system to quickly adjust itself. One of the first Industry pick up was Oil. They had their connection with the West. Germany and others wanted the Russian Oil and gas. Germany, Canada like countries invested in that. Putin put his hand first on Oil Industry. This raised the suspicion of America on Putin’s path of free economy and capital system. Bush and Condoleezza messed in Georgia. European NATOs not welcoming Bush’s action. Russia won Georgia by capturing a part of it. When the 2008 election was going on Obama openly invited Putin for peace. Some pacts were successfully negotiated after that. Obama started to scrap the Poland missile system. For my memory, Putin first action against America was disturbing the Iranian atomic bomb negotiation. Germany and France who were handling the negotiation gave up on that. By the second election, Obama had lost hope of making peace with Putin. Putin captured Crimea. Russia shot the Malaysian plane from East Ukraine. This apparently has no connection of America letting down Russia’s peace hand. This is showing the New Russia’s path. He provoked Britain by killing Russian asylum seekers in Britain. Anna Politkovskaya and other West leaning Journalists were killed. Russia shot up in the Rank of Journalist killer like Lankawe. But Secretary Kerry with much congestions and paying money to Iran finished the negotiation with Iran. Germany’s Eastern Chancellor staying attached her old masters, the Russians. European Union under leadership of Germany is blocking the NATO. This made America’s hand weak there. Secretary Kerry was dragging Syria problems to long. So Russia, gained courage interfered in Syria.
      Russian politics never voyaged into clear water, though lunatic Yeltsin had a friendship with America. Apparently Americans wouldn’t believe on him and work with Russia. Putin is apparently a warmonger like racist Izeth. It is important to Izeth justifying Putin. Izeth thinks just writing whatever he thinks he can make it true. Democracy is weak and inefficient form of government. UN and all other countries must put effort on it and protect it. Leaving it America and finding fault in it meaningless.

      • 0
        0

        mallairuyan

        ” Boris Yeltsin came to power. He was a worthless drunkard. He is the one dismantled the USSR.”

        it was his predecessor gorbachev who dismantled the USSR.Reagan was going to have a shield for the USA which will stop any missiles from hitting the US,however much it was going to cost and gorbachev could not match that.

    • 0
      0

      Old Codger:

      You should have doubts about Pakistan rather than India, in regard to using of the nuclear option for war. Pakistan is also a terrorist filled state & if they have access to the nuclear arsenal, then we’ll have hell to pay.

  • 4
    0

    Hussain does not understand that international interference is necessary in countries where Humam Right violations are rampant. If a country follows impartial and democratic governance every other country will respect it. Countries like Sweden,Switzerland who respect their citizens do not worry about what other countries are aligned with them . Tribalistic and racial Srilanka certainly has its worries. Hussain unfortunately promotes this tribalism by his regular columns in CT.

  • 0
    0

    50 square miles of Hambantota has to be sold to China on long lease to find relief from the pocketed loan’s interests by Old Royals.It is four or five villages of land. This is in addition and beyond the of Harbour, Airport and stadium built by China. Chinese Ambassador asked point blanketed if our loans are not good for you why are you coming back for loans. Finance Minister Ravi did not have a proper answer to that. China has been dragged in to Jaffna to Build hospital and occupy land. In 1950s the big Western world had to pay for the Small Ceylon for the imports they took from up country Estate Industry. The patriotic Old Royals did it to the country. Ranil came to power by bragging that he will close down Port City. Now the entire country is out for sale to China. Even the North-East where they hate China.

    Kanangra made a deal to rice for Rubber. Sirimavo brought the BMICH. The selling of the Lankawe started at that point. Now there is lot of rebelling in paying back the borrowed money from China. They are blaming China as trying to a-top Brother Prince as the EP. China, India and America are the super Power handed over the arms to fight the war. They did not come to Colombo, it was Kathirgamar went to their capitals beg. The culture of Begging from international countries was set up the LSSP communist, NM. When he was Finance & Economic minister, in every budget season, he pick up his blown and fly to all western countries in name of begging. Why EU coming here. Because these crook are going to Belgium and other countries for GSP+. Do the Singapore’s, Abu Dhabi’s, Dubai’s, Norway’s, Swiss’s Demark, New Zealand’s…. lazy writers are writing this type of articles? no! They want the large countries friendship to trade with them. They wants the large country’s friendship to sell their products. They don’t write lazy racist article like this.

    Lankawe Foreign service hippocrates are, with all third grade records, masters in writing and reading statements. Especially Izeth and Mangala are gurus in this technique.

    This is the man who has written here about American imperialism. They wouldn’t be even be able to own a begging bowl by now if they hadn’t had Secretary Kerry’s favour for American GSP+. This what one say the mouth barks and the tail wags about big nations.

  • 0
    2

    We have one bold and sane voice in Izeth. Thank you.

    If Srilanka goes federal people will have to move from province to province depending on their ethnicity. World powers are OK with that. You can’t have Jaffna and Colombo both. This is what some fools don’t get.

    • 1
      0

      Tamils don’t need Colombo.
      But Colombo need Tamils.

      The country cant function without Tamils

      This is what some fools don’t get.

      • 1
        1

        Rajash,

        “Tamils don’t need Colombo.”

        From where do the funds for public services in the NP come from? Education, health etc?

        • 2
          1

          Lone Wolf

          “From where do the funds for public services in the NP come from? Education, health etc?”

          From where do the funds for public services in the rest of the country come from? Education, health, increase in individual wealth of politicians, state functionaries, etc?

          Perhaps from gold mines, black gold, high tech industries, ……

    • 0
      0

      Now Columbo is owned by China. Tamils have no sharing in that with China though they shared it with the Britain one time. Before communist China leap into Jaffna and take it over Tamils have to go back there and save Jaffna. Otherwise Jaffna will not be able to use computers in the future. West has no interest in Jaffna(may have some in Trico) so they will not protect it. Corrupted India doesn’t know how to protect Jaffna.

      You want Colombo(i.e only sharing with China)? Yes you can have it! Wish you all the best. Colombo was built by Tamils’ works the same way Ceylon was built by Up Country Labour. Please have the Colombo with the $8 Billion Chinese loan. (Modayas borrowed that much but cannot repay even 1% of it.) Now, after for two centuries Tamils have spilled sweat and blood to bring up a dream country called Ceylon, the Modayas’ miracle have pawned Tamils’ future too to China. They enjoyed the loan and now paying back time has come. So it is hard time to let the Tamils to go. We don’t need the Colombo. We don’t need Chinese loan. We want to rebuild the Jaffna the same way we had Ceylon up to 1950s, with the favorable balance of payment.

      Champika has said women are holding the 75% of the jobs and university entrances. Here we go again. There is nothing anymore to loot from Tamils. He knows where to look for. This is just the same wording spread by Solomon West Ridgeway Dias to become prime minister. There is nothing can stop Champika becoming Prime Minister. Raping and looting Southern Women who are holding the jobs is easy to do to achieve political goal. (So far no clear answer of what happened in Weliweriya) But the question is how to conduct the Humanitarian Liberation Operation against women and who is going to pay the bill of that?

      I thought Izeth was not talking about Colombo or Jaffna. It is your interpretation. He just asking only for Mecca(transplanted in Lankawe – Izeth will not go to Mecca but Mecca is the one has to come to him in Lankawe). Can you go to Riyadh and get it from SA Royals for him without you being whipped there or your head being chopped. Good luck! Be safe.

    • 0
      1

      “If Srilanka goes federal people will have to move from province to province depending on their ethnicity. World powers are OK with that. You can’t have Jaffna and Colombo both. This is what some fools don’t get.”

      Dear Fathima Fukushima 

      You have put it in the briefest possible way what I have been struggling to put into the dumb heads of Tamil racist donkeys.

      Soma

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