The Good And The Bad Of Non-Interference
No state likes interference in its internal affairs by any foreign power or even by the United Nations. The sovereign equality of all member states of the UN is specifically stated in the Charter of the United Nations and the principle of non interference is specified in Chapter 1 of the Charter except in certain circumstances where the Security Council may move under specific provisions.
In recent times however the world has witnessed interference in the internal affairs of member states some with the blessings of the UN and in other instances on doubtful interpretations of UN decisions. There are however instances where interference under the aegis of the UN has taken place much to the relief of the people of nation concerned although not welcomed by the ruling regimes.
Burma is one instance where outside interference by the United Nations as well as the United States and its western allies is contributing to the Burmese people being released from the shackles of a military junta.
For over half century Burma with resources over and above most Asian nations have been ruled by a military junta that kept out most foreign powers particularly Western nations and went into isolation and to extreme poverty.
It is a good example for those advocates of military rule to realise the abject failure of their ideal. When democracy fails due to petty squabbling of political parties and the corruption of elected leaders there are some who advocate military rule as a panacea for the prevailing ills. The cure often proves to be worse than the remedy. Burma is one such country whose gentle people went under the jackboot of a vicious military junta and remained so for a half century.
Burma is not the only example of the failure of military rule. Pakistan and Bangladesh that went under khaki rule for certain periods are examples of failures closer to home.
Burma is still not out of the woods. But economic sanctions imposed by the United States and European powers with the backing of the UN against the military regime appear to be biting. The release of the legendary Burmese woman Aung San Suu Kyi from incarceration along with hundreds of political activists and a relatively free poll where Suu Kyi’s party opposed to the military regime swept the polls recently, are indications that the military strongmen are relaxing the suffocating grip it had on the people. However the military grip on the country still remains.
Under the new constitution enacted by the army and forced upon the people, the military holds the majority in the Burmese parliament and whatever decision a civilian government may take, could be overruled by the military rulers.
The United States and Western powers have announced that it would keep sanctions going until further moves are made towards democracy. These events indicate that foreign interference however repugnant it may be in principle may be beneficial to people who have no resources to oppose their oppressors.
Success and failures
Another example where nations have been set free by the imposition of economic and military sanctions is South Africa. The White Apartheid regime that ruled South Africa was finally made to relent by sanctions imposed by the United States and other Western nations; most of them lukewarm allies of racist white regimes of South Africa being compelled to change by domestic opinion.
Foreign interference has in certain instances been unjustified and has had no effect or even been disastrous to those imposing sanctions. The United States has been imposing sanctions on Iran and North Korea for years without much effect. How the latest sanctions imposed on Iran will be known in a few months.
Whether these sanctions are justified too is in doubt with Iran denying continuously that its nuclear programme is not directed towards the manufacture of nuclear weapons but power generation. Also the UN watchdog on Nuclear transgressions the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)—has so far failed to establish any moves made towards nuclear armament.
Why North Korea should be ostracised for attempting to launch a satellite even though the rocket used for the launch may have military potential seems unjustified. Today, there are many nations launching satellites with rockets that have military potential but only North Korea is faulted.
India is a good example where transgression of the accepted practices of nuclear non proliferation has been ignored— once it joined the Western nuclear club. In the nineties India and Pakistan were not signatories of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) but went ahead with the manufacture of nuclear weapons and when they were successfully tested sanctions were imposed on both countries. But improved Indo-US relations and the hunt for Al-Quaeda in Afghanistan neighbouring Pakistan changed the nuclear non-proliferation sanctimoniousness of America towards these two countries. Cuba is an outstanding example of existence for sixty years defying sanctions.
The moral justification for non- interference can also be debated on recent issues such as the NATO bombing of Libya and the pressure brought on the Syrian regime to halt massacre of its civilians. Libya it is said was bombed out of existence by NATO under the cover of a UN Security Council resolution for a No Fly Zone over Libya. But it could also be argued that the end of the Libyan dictator who had kept Libya under his heel for over 4 decades is being welcomed by the Libyan people. The UN is still debating the question of interference in Syria to prevent Bashar Assad massacring Syrians who are rising up to over throw him Assad and his father Hafez Assad ruled Syria with an iron fist for over four decades. Should the principle of non interference specified in the UN Charter let the bloody dictator continue with his massacre of innocents or should the world outside help the Syrian people?