Thursday, Sep 19, 2002
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IRAQ'S DECISION TO allow weapons inspectors to resume operations within its territories without any conditions would appear to have turned the global debate around in Baghdad's favour. Russia, China and the Arab League have indicated that they did not believe that further action need be taken against Iraq at this juncture either by way of yet another United Nations Security Council resolution or otherwise. Most members of the international community have reason to be satisfied that Iraq has shown a willingness to meet their main concern that it rid itself of a Weapons of Mass Destruction capability and the ability to deliver non-conventional warheads by cooperating with a U. N. mandated and properly constituted disarmament mechanism. Hans Blix, head of the U. N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), which together with the International Atomic Energy Agency is to carry out the weapons dismantling programme, enjoys wide credibility. If Baghdad and the U. N. mandated weapons inspectors are able to establish an effective cooperation that will eventually allow the latter to issue a certification that Iraq has been rid of its WMD capability it could lead to the defusing of a problem that has disturbed the world off and on for over a decade.
Yet, Iraq's decision to allow inspections teams back into the country will not bring the confrontation with the U. S. to an end. The decision was taken in a context where the U.S. administration was gearing itself up for bellicose and coercive action even in an unilateralist mode if necessary. Washington's sceptical initial reaction clearly indicates that it is not shedding its determination to persist with its unilateral pressure on Iraq, despite expressed global misgivings. U.S. officials have observed that Iraq has not specifically promised that weapons inspectors will have unfettered access to all suspected weapons sites. The history of the inspection process provides ample testimony of the manner in which the details can bedevil the inspections since each side is so deeply suspicious of the other. The potential for further confrontation was immense even before the U.S. gave clear indications, as it currently does, that the inspection process is a medium by which it hopes to achieve a regime change in Iraq. With the U.S. sounding increasingly confrontational there is a pressing need for the rest of the global community to indicate its strong preference for a multilateral approach, the only manner in which such issues can be dealt with fairness and with respect for the rights of sovereign nations.
Washington's stated intention to oust the regime of Iraq's President, Saddam Hussein, using whatever means are at hand, raises important questions pertaining to the evolution of international law in an increasingly inter-connected world. The efforts directed at a regime change bring into sharp focus the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of individual countries. Iraq's possession of a WMD capability, its record of having used them and the threat that it will do so again do add the external dimension. But when the debate moves over from questions of containment, non-proliferation and disarmament to that of changing a regime (even one that is committed to the obtainment and possession of these weapons), questions pertaining to the sovereignty of the country and the right of self-determination of its people come into salience. These are matters that require serious multilateral involvement. India has not been as intensely engaged in the debate as it ought to be, both on the basis of principle and on a consideration of the vital stakes that it has in West Asia. It is however heartening that New Delhi has not thus far resiled from its longstanding position that any action against Iraq must be carried out under the aegis of the U. N. and that sanctions on Iraq must be lifted as soon as Baghdad has fulfilled its disarmament obligations.
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