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LIBYA: Options for India & Russia\papers44\paper4387.


Paper no. 19-Mar-2011


LIBYA: Options for India & Russia

By B. Raman

I can understand the decision of India, Russia and

China to abstain in the voting in the UN Security
Council (UNSC) on March 18, 2011, on the
resolution authorising the enforcement of a No Fly
Zone over Libya to prevent Libyan air strikes against
anti-Muammar Gaddafi rebels and civilians and a
humanitarian intervention not involving the use of
ground troops.

2. Explaining the likely implications of the resolution

for Libya to the White House media, President
Barack Obama said: "Now, once more, Muammar
Gaddafi has a choice. The resolution that passed lays
out very clear conditions that must be met. The
United States, the United Kingdom, France and
Arab states agree that a cease-fire must be
implemented immediately. That means all attacks
against civilians must stop. Gaddafi must stop his
troops from advancing on Benghazi; pull them back
from Adjadbiya, Misrata and Zawiya; and establish
water, electricity and gas supplies to all areas.
Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach
the people of Libya. Let me be clear, these terms are
not negotiable. These terms are not subject to
negotiation. If Gaddafi does not comply with the
resolution, the international community will impose
consequences, and the resolution will be enforced
through military action."

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3. The Gaddafi Government has announced an

immediate cease-fire in response to the resolution,
but rebel sources have doubted its sincerity. They
see it more as a tactical move to buy time and to
create divisions among those who supported the
resolution. They would, therefore, like the
enforcement of the No Fly Zone and the
humanitarian intervention to be accompanied by a
joint action by the West and the Arab States to bring
about a regime change.

4. Obama has ruled out---at least for the present---

any military action to bring about a regime change.
He seems to believe that the regime change must be
brought about through international psychological
pressure and not through military action. Obama
said during his interaction with the media: "I also
want to be clear about what we will not be doing.
The United States is not going to deploy ground
troops into Libya, and we are not going to use force
to go beyond a well-defined goal, specifically the
protection of civilians in Libya. In the coming
weeks, we will continue to help the Libyan people
with humanitarian and economic assistance so that
they can fulfill their aspirations peacefully."

5. This is meant to reassure abstaining countries like

India, Russia and China who fear that the world
might be witnessing a re-enactment of Iraq in Libya.
In Iraq, the West exploited a vague UNSC
resolution on a No Fly Zone to mount a military
operation for a regime change. The resolution on the
No Fly Zone on Libya is as vague as the resolution
on Iraq was. It is silent on the command and control
of the operation. Commenting on this, the BBC said:
"Those countries taking part in the coalition still
need to decide who leads this mission, and what
action they will take if the ceasefire breaks down. It
is not yet clear who the commander of the operation
will be, where it will be headquartered and what
Nato assets might be used."

6. While India and China refrained from spelling out

in detail their concerns and reservations about the
way the resolution was drafted, Russia did. It made

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it clear during its interventions in the UNSC debate

that while it had no objection in principle to a No Fly
Zone, it cannot support it unless the command and
control was decided beforehand.

7. The US and other NATO countries have seen to it

that all decisions regarding command and control
will not be taken in the UNSC, but outside. The
Foreign Ministers of France and Britain and the
US Secretary of State are scheduled to meet in Paris
later today to discuss, inter alia, about the command
and control. In Iraq, the US and the UK manipulated
the denouement in such a manner as to keep all
major decisions in their hands. Even France was
unhappy over this.

8. In Libya, a triumvirate consisting of the US,

France and the UK is trying to retain in its hands the
responsibility for all major decisions. Hence, my
understanding and support for the decision of India
to abstain along with Russia and China.

9. But, India's abstention should not mean that it

abandons the interests of the anti-Gaddafi forces and
the civilians supporting them. We are entering an
uneasy period similar to what happened in
Iraq----with the Kurds in the North retaining de
facto autonomy with the help of US forces based in
Turkey and Saddam Hussein's control restricted to
non-Kurdish areas. In Libya, the anti-Gaddafi tribals
will be helped by US-led forces based in Egypt and
Tunisia to retain their de facto autonomy in their
areas, with Gaddafi's control restricted to areas,
including Tripoli, the capital, where tribals still loyal
to him are strong.

10. In this uncomfortable situation, India and Russia

should mount a humanitarian mission of their own
which would not come into conflict with the
UNSC-authorised mission. It should have as its
objective assisting all civilians in equal measure---
whether they are in Govt-controlled areas or in areas
under rebel control. India and Russia should enter
into immediate consultations to discuss whether this
is feasible and, if so, how to do it. They should keep
the US, the UK, France and the Arab League

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informed of their moves.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet

Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently,
Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and
Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail:

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