G.V.Ramakrishna: A solution to the problems in the Middle East
August 22, 2007
A solution to the Middle East Problem
After the Lebanon mini war there has been a flood of writings on the Middle East.
The fact that a large number of civilians were killed and substantial infrastructure was destroyed in Lebanon was a major factor in getting a quick (by U N standards) a quick Resolution on the cease fire. The UN is now trying to enforce this resolution - No 1701.
Meanwhile, global terrorism is growing and has taken a heavy toll of civilian lives in many countries. Counter terrorism measures can only be partially effective and in the process they affect the civil liberties of citizens.Meanwhile, the Iraqi situation is going from bad to worse with U S led allies running out of ideas. From Iraq to Afghanistan the strength and sophistication of jihadis is causing concern in the U S and Europe. It is about time that all parties, including the U S do some honest soul searching to understand the issues that are bothering thecountries of the Middle East.
It is clear that unless the root cause of the problem of Israel, PalestineJordan and Syria is resolvedthere will be no peace there. The US needs to think out-of-the-box to find a solution that will bring peace to the Middle East and save thousands of lives including the lies of US soldiers. This could bring some credit to the current U S administration in run up to their elections.
The solution can be addressed by going back to U N Security Council Resolution No 242 after the Six Day war in 1967. This should be read along with Resolution 338 of October 1973.Resolution 242 stated that Israel should return ‘territories occupied’ during the six day war. A semantic argument whether territories meant all the territories or only some of them, prevented the implementation of this resolution for several years.This was revisited in 1993 when the Resolution 338 was passed and this reiterated resolution 242 and gave the mandate for it to be implemented. These two resolutions taken together, stated that the State of Israel should be recognized by the Muslim countries and in return Israel should return the Gaza strip, the West Bank and the Golan Heights to the respective countries.
While Israel’s recognition is a fact of life, none of the other conditionsof UN Resolutions 242 and 338 have been met. If these conditions are met, a new Middle East will be born and a major cause for terrorism will be removed. A solution was also in sight in the Oslo accord of 1993 by which the Arabs agreed to recognise the State of Israel and the Israelis agreed to recognize the PLO. Both Arafat and Rabin had subscribed to these understandings when they went to the Camp David Meeting with US President Bill Clinton. This too was based on the understanding that UN resolutions 242 and 338 would be implemented in full. The matter fizzled out thereafter.
It is now time for the U N and the USwhich was a sponsor of the Oslo Accords to revisit these understandings and persuade Israel and the Palestinian Authority to carry the understandings further. A No War pact can also be put in place with Israel, Palestine, EgyptSyria Jordan and Iran participating. The UN should take the initiative in this matter of implementingthese important Resolutions of the U N.
The next big issue is Iraq. It is difficult to unscramble an egg but one can still make a palatable plate of scrambled eggs. The solution will be to have near independent states of West and South Iraq(shias), Middle Iraq(sunnis) and the Northern State of Kurdistan, with their own militias and armed forces. They can agree to have a loose federal structure under which the three states will function. The real issues will be the sharing of the oil revenues and other fiscal arrangements. A population based sharing of oil revenues supervised by the World Bank would appear to be a solution. This will free the U S troops from Iraq to go home.
With the resolution of these problems the major grievances of the so called Islamic militants would be addressed. The world can live with in peace without the constant threat and fear of terrorism. Indian diplomacy will earn a feather in its cap if these ideas are pursued quietly in various capitals.
There remains the problem of Afghanistan. If the other two issues are resolved the Afghan problem will become less difficult . Eventually the idea of a Taliban, Baluchi and Waziri territory will be within the scope of negotiations. This will leave the Afghans free to sort out their problems of development in relative peace with economic support from the West.
(Mr.G.V.Ramakrishna is former Chairman of the Disinvestment Commission, former Chairman, Securities and Exchange Board of India and former Member, Planning Commission of India. This article was originally written in November 2006, but is still relevant. )