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26 March 2016 Editorial


26 MARCH 2016

 Confrontation within an alliance 

Often, all it takes for the resolution of a political crisis is time. Mehbooba Mufti and her Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) may have ultimately failed to wrest any political concessions from Prime Minister Narendra Modi before agreeing once again to form a coalition government with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Jammu and Kashmir. But by delaying the swearing-in as Chief Minister for more than two months after the death of her father, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, she signalled that she is a leader fully conscious of the contradictions in the PDP-BJP alliance and one who wants to engage the BJP on her own terms. Ms. Mufti would have liked the Centre to commit itself to a time frame for the implementation of the Agenda of Alliance the PDP and the BJP had entered into when they first came together after a fractured electoral mandate in the 2014 Assembly election. But Mr. Modi knew very well that any political concession to the PDP could not come without some political cost to the BJP, not only in Jammu, but also at the national level. Both parties were under compulsion to demonstrate to their political constituencies that they would stand firm and not budge from their stated positions. The stalemate could have ended only with time running out, not with either side backing down. Ms. Mufti may have come away empty handed but she can portray herself as a leader who was unwilling to make political compromises for the sake of power. It was important for her to be seen as being ready to fight the BJP if the situation so warranted; winning the fight was not an immediate goal. 

One of the difficulties for the PDP is that without the active support of the Centre, and the initiation of a political process for peace and security, no regime in Jammu and Kashmir can overcome the alienation of large sections of the people in the State. In this sense, for the PDP, the alliance with the BJP was a means to exert pressure on the Centre to not only grant the State packages for economic development, but to also facilitate a peace process that brings together all stakeholders within and beyond the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir to end decades of militancy. However, over the last year, there has been little forward movement on the peace process. Instead, there have been a series of controversies, such as the ban on consumption of beef and the use of the State flag. The PDP, conscious of ceding ground to the National Conference (NC), found itself in a dilemma: continuing the alliance with the BJP without obtaining political concessions could erode its support base in the Valley, but ending the alliance could merely hand over the reins of the government to the NC. Ms. Mufti thus chose the only option available to her: to continue the alliance with the BJP, but by maintaining a confrontationist edge in the relations with the Centre, which she believes is necessary to maintain her political credibility within the Valley.  

A modest beginning at The Hague 

Along with former Serb President Slobodan Miloševic, the Bosnian Serb leader, Radovan Karadžic’s name is a byword for some of the most brutal ethnic cleansing attempted in recent memory and the helplessness and inaction of the international community to check it. Karadzic’s conviction by a United Nations tribunal in The Hague this week, after a lengthy trial, for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, is thus an important milestone in holding the guilty to account for the atrocities in the Balkans in the 1990s and sending a larger message about the efficacy of international mechanisms to punish excesses. The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) restores hope, albeit a faint one, that political leaders who perpetrate the most brutal atrocities will not go unpunished. Karadžic’s conviction offers little consolation for the millions of individual survivors of the conflict. But there are definite implications from the ruling for a society’s collective sense of fairness and justice and the sanctity of the rule of law. For instance, for the Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in July 1995, the tribunal has upheld the charge of genocide against Karadzic. The town was a refugee enclave, ostensibly under international protection. The prosecution may have painstakingly established the culpability of key individuals such as Karadžic and his general Ratko Mladic. But the utter impotence of the UN and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces to prevent the catastrophe, despite repeated warnings, could not have been overlooked under any serious investigation. 

Viewed against this larger backdrop, Thursday’s verdict fuels optimism about the role international tribunals can play in holding powerful political players to account. In fact, their critical contribution was brought home in 2015 by the ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that adjudicates disputes between states. The verdict underscored the importance of reconciliation rather than apportioning blame on either Croatia or Serbia for the atrocities. It thus rejected the contention of both Zagreb and Belgrade that the 1948 UN Genocide Convention had been breached during the civil war, when an estimated 1,00,000 people were killed. The merit behind such a cautious stance, involving disputes between sovereign states, could hardly be overstated considering the potential for a nationalist backlash. That was precisely the domestic reaction over the release of a Serb ultra-nationalist leader by the ICTY on health grounds. As regards the permanent global mechanism to try war crimes and crimes against humanity, the influence of the nascent International Criminal Court (ICC) has been severely limited from the start. Washington, Beijing, Moscow and New Delhi, among others, have refused to be brought under its jurisdiction. Moreover, the few investigations The Hague court has so far initiated have predictably drawn flak, as reflecting a bias against African countries. Clearly, the lesson from the conviction of Karadžic is that the search for justice may be painful and endless, but it is a price worth paying to bring perpetrators to book and prevent the violation of human rights.


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