(Article) Libyan Crisis: Civil Services Mentor Magazine july 2011

Libyan Crisis


Following a spate of protests in countries around the region, protests broke out in several areas of Libya challenging Col. Muammar Qaddafi’s 42-year rule. In late February, as the government’s response to these protests turned increasingly violent, the UN Security Council responded by passing Resolution 1970 to impose sanctions on Qaddafi and refer the situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court (ICC). In early March, the UN General Assembly suspended Libya’s membership to the Human Rights Council.On March 17th, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1973 calling for a no-fly zone to deter the bombardment of civilian targets by government forces. Resolution 1973 marks the first time the Security Council passed a resolution to authorize the use of force with an explicit reference to the responsibility to protect.An ad hoc coalition composed of the US, France, and the UK began implementing the no-fly zone immediately after the adoption of Resolution 1973. On March 27th, NATO assumed command of the military operation in Libya. NATO follows Resolution 1973 in banning all flights in Libyan airspace, except those for humanitarian and aid purposes, to make sure that civilians and civilian populated areas cannot be subjected to air attack by Qaddafi forces.NATO should develop a civilian casualty tracking, analysis and response mechanism with personnel in both Naples and in Benghazi. In addition to cataloguing all available known data, the cell would also recognize and investigate all allegations of civilian casualties, in anticipation of future development of an amends system.

France announced its official recognition for the Libyan National Council as the sole representative of the Libyan people and became the first western country to do so. France also handed over the building of the former Libyan Embassy to Paris to the Council. It also announced to send an ambassador to Benghazi (Libya’s second largest city) which is the seat of Libyan National Council.The President of France, Nicholas Sarkozy had presented the global plan on the Crisis in Libya at an emergency summit of European Union heads of government in Brussels on 11 March 2011. European nations took actions to isolate the regime of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi with France officially recognising the rebel group in Libya. Britain pressed for the imposition of a no-fly zone and Germany freezed assets worth billions. Foreign ministers from the G8 failed to reach any agreement on military intervention in Libya during the two-day summit in Paris. Despite France pushing for a no-fly zone, G8 nations couldn’t reach consensus on the establishment of a no-fly zone against Qadhafi’s forces in Libya. International conference called by UK and held at London urged Muammar Qadhafi to resign as the ruler of Libya. The London conference in its resolution called for an immediate ceasefire and to stop all attacks on civilians and providing full humanitarian access to needy people. The London conference made a declaration that the NATO-led military operations would continue in Libya until the above mentioned requirements were met.

Russian Angle

The air campaign against Colonel Gaddafi’s forces in Libya has had an unexpected consequence far from the front lines: it has resulted in the first distinct manifestation of disagreement within Russia’s ruling duo. And the evident difference in position between President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has revealed a fork in the road for Russia’s foreign policy. When questions of war and peace are being decided, powers that aspire to a global role should occupy a clear position – either for, or against. In the case of Libya, Russia abstained from voting on the UN Security Council resolution. Abstention under President Medvedev contradicts Russia’s prior strict adherence to a single foreign policy principle: opposition of foreign interventions in internal affairs.These days, the Kremlin remains neutral, although the case of Libya is far more urgent. As for the real goal of the military campaign, there should be no illusions: the aim is regime change. Any scenario that leaves Muammar Gaddafi in power would be a moral and political defeat for the West and West-friendly regimes in the region.

To Moscow, Col Gaddafi is just one of many partners, and for Russia to jeopardise the current positive dynamic in relations with the US and the EU for the sake of Tripoli makes no sense. Deliberations about lost contracts in Libya are a waste of breath: given the situation there now, there would be no more business as usual with the Libyan ruler anyway. The geopolitical purpose of Operation Odyssey Dawn for Washington is to stop the erosion of its influence in the Middle East, while for Europe it is to prevent the definitive loss of its international role. If they put a quick end to the Gaddafi regime they will have achieved their aim, at least for a while. But if the operation drags on and requires more than air strikes, which looks probable, the effect may be just the reverse: Western influence may plummet in the region. Arab regimes that supported the action will also be in a vulnerable position. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moscow was at pains for a long time to assume or at least imitate the status of a global power, partici- pating in all decisions on the international stage. But towards the end of the last decade, Russia began to see itself not as a likeness of the former Soviet Union, but as a major and influential, although regional, power whose vital interests have definite geographical contours. To defend its interests, Moscow is ready to use force, as it did in South Ossetia.Both approaches have the right to exist, but it would be advisable to pick one of them and stick to it. Simultaneously declaring both puts the country in a weak and ambivalent position, indicating that the Russian leadership has no mutual understanding and no co-ordinated policy. This is especially dispiriting at a time when chaos is only increasing around the world.

India’s Interests

Along with Russia and China, India has been critical of the ongoing western air strikes launched against Libya on the ground that ordinary Libyans would be affected and the air attacks would prove counterproductive to the US’ purported humanitarian objective. The External Affairs Minister, Mr S. M. Krishna, has urged the western nations, which have imposed a ‘no fly zone’ over Libya, to ceasefire and called upon the Gaddafi regime and the rebel forces to abjure violence and talk to each other. From an Indian national security and foreign policy perspective, the regime in Tripoli needs to be a friendly one since Libya is an oil rich country and an eternal shock — western air attacks or civil war — could affect Indian industrial investments and energy security interests there. New Delhi’s stand that air attacks on Libya must cease is, therefore, grounded in rational choice and Waltzian realism: Every big or aspiring power weighs the costs and benefits of the use of force and that their position on particular matters in world politics is guided by self-interest. In India’s case, it was protection of its vital interest — Libyan oil.

India’s national interests in Libya are essentially economic in nature. Considering an estimated 18,000 Indians who work in that country, it is a considerable contribution to the remittance economy and adds to our foreign exchange kitty. Otherwise, Indian companies, especially in the hydrocarbon, power, construction and IT sector, have several ongoing projects in Libya. Besides, Indian oil majors — Indian Oil, Oil India and ONGC Videsh — are increasingly involving themselves with the Libyan hydrocarbon sector — both in upstream and downstream. Also, BHEL has successfully completed execution of the prestigious Western Mountain Gas Turbine Power Project. Similarly, i-flex Solutions is implementing a project on core banking solutions with the Central Bank of Libya and five other banks. Also, over the past three decades, Indian companies have executed several projects there. These included building hospitals, houses, schools, roads, power plants, airports, dams, transmission lines etc. The presence of Indian companies in Libya has risen significantly in the last five years.

This includes major PSUs such as BHEL, OVL, IOC, Oil India, and private companies such as Punj Llyod, Unitech Ltd, KEC, Dastur Engineering, Shapoorji Pallonji International, SECON Pvt Ltd, Global Steel Ltd (Ispat Group Co.), NIIT, Sun Pharma, Simplex Projects and Simplex Infrastructure Ltd. The bilateral trade figures for 2009-10 were at $844.62 million, showing a significant upward trend since 2004-05, peaking to $ 1,366.65 million in 2007-08 compared to $29.12 million in 2003-04.

Today, the western limited liability intervention in Libya minus boots-on-the-ground aims to provide the rebels a level-playing field against the more organised military muscle of Gaddafi’s forces. Perhaps, some level of western covert para-military support like special forces/commandos may be operationally deployed to advice the rebels on tactics to adopt against the regime’s forces. Otherwise, the only advantage that the regime’s forces have would be in terms of some superior weaponry such as shoulder fired rocket propelled grenades/missile launchers.

Apart from this infantry-support weaponry, the qualitative difference would be in terms of command and control of the regime’s forces that in a sense would amount to a force multiplier vis-a-vis the motley groups of rebels who lack such a coordinated approach to combat. he ostensible logic of the US-led western powers to embark on this two-dimensional military adventure from the air and sea was only to prevent a carnage of the rebel forces through neutralisation of Gaddaffi’s airpower, tanks and artillery by aerial and naval bombardment. The opposition to western air strikes is solely on the grounds that collateral damage would ensue and innocent citizenry would be hurt due to flaws in military target acquisition procedures based on inaccurate intelligence inputs.

India abstained from voting in the UNSC and did not go along with the NATO-EU and Arab League countries. Clearly, the US anti-dictator policy over Libya is a contradiction — considering Washington adopted a pro-dictator stance on Bahrain — and supported the Saudi Arabian force deployment to quell the opposition to the entrenched monarchy there. Similarly, India also was equally inconsistent by voting with the western industrial democracies against Iran in 2009 at the UN, but not doing so now. But foreign policy and consistency are not always synonymous with each other; instead, foreign policy and national interests have to be in tune with each other.

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