India made history when she liberated and recognized the Republic of Bangladesh despite fierce international opposition from some of the cold-war superpowers. India took that strategic step because that was the right thing to do and suited India’s long-term geopolitical interests as well as international humanitarian concerns. Though the doctrine of international intervention for safeguarding the responsibility to protect had not been codified by the UNGA or the UNSC at that time; India did act according to the spirit of the responsibility to protect (R2P). Time has come for India to assert herself yet again and recognize diplomatically the break-away Republic of Somaliland on the horn of Africa as it suits India’s geopolitical interests as well as the international humanitarian concerns.
Lack of a functioning central government in Somalia since the ouster of the Muhammed Siad Barre government on January 26 1991 has led to anarchy, clan/tribal warfare and war-lordism.
There was an international intervention by George HW Bush in 1992 but the Americans over-extended themselves, got a humiliating defeat and left in hurry. Since then various regional powers have intervened for upholding their narrow interests. Ethiopian invasion in 2006, backed by the US created Al Shabab (literal meaning “the youth”). Somali civil war has killed approximately half a million people.
Somalia has become a fertile ground for recruitment by Al Qaeda and the local variant of it Al Shabab. There is no peace in Somalia. There is no functioning government in the central and southern Somalia. Somali pirates have created havoc in the Indian Ocean and normal commerce has been affected owing to ongoing hijacking of merchant ships and their crews that are predominantly Asian and India in nationality. Ransom has been paid on behalf of shipping companies, national governments and NGO’s to free up the kidnapped crew members of merchant ships.
Al Shabab and Al Qaeda have noted with vengeance the Indian vigilance and naval patrolling in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden and have vowed to target India interests. The Somali pirates are now routinely making forays into Indian territorial waters and Indian Exclusive Economic zone. Some of these pirates have euphemistically called themselves as the self-styled “Volunteer Coast Guards of Somalia”. They have brought misery to numerous middle class Indian families who have become victims of their greed for money running into millions of dollars and extreme ruthlessness.
Somali pirates have openly targeted India and refused to release any Indian sailors till their fellow pirates under Indian custody are released. Make no mistake, these pirates are the naval wing of the nascent Islamic Emirate of Somalia under the tutelage of Al Qaeda and shepherded by Al Shabab. Beheading adversaries, chopping off hands, stoning women and girls to death, banning music, and implementing a strict Wahabi Islamic law is the ultimate aim of Al Shabab. UN sponsored “state building” and “peace keeping” have failed in Somalia which is now a lawless, failed nation with ongoing genocide.
In 2001 the wise and brave Somali-landers held a constitutional referendum and broke away from the failed state of Somalia. The Republic of Somaliland is poor but an oasis of peace in the horn of Africa. The nation has few natural resources and its limited exports primarily include fish and livestock. They have adopted all the democratic ways and have held multiple elections at local, parliamentary and presidential elections since then. Last presidential elections were held in June 2010 leading to peaceful and orderly transfer of power when incumbent president was rejected by the electorate.
India must not shed her tears for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the failed state of Somalia which was the creation of the imperialists. Somalia as a unified nation did not exist before 1947. Somaliland was a British protectorate and a paper colony and the rest of Somalia an Italian colony.
Time has come for India to not only diplomatically recognize the democratically elected government of the break-away Republic of Somaliland but also enter into a formal strategic partnership agreement with that country on the lines of Afghanistan. A bilateral friendship treaty between the two nations for a minimum duration of ninety nine years needs to be signed.
India needs to obtain a naval base in the Gulf of Aden in one of the sea ports of the Republic of Somaliland to provide naval surveillance to our merchant ships as well as Indian nationals working as crew members in international marine merchant ships. India needs to assert her leadership in the region and not wait for international community to act. India must lead the international community in the birth of this new nation and prevent the lawlessness and havoc created by the pirates of Somalia. India must learn from her mistakes of missed geopolitical opportunities and inaction in the past.
It is better to act now instead of letting the situation drift and allow hostile Asian nations upstage India yet again. India must take a pro-active approach strategically vis-à-vis diplomatic recognition of the Democratic Republic of Somaliland and defeat the hostile intentions of Al Qaeda and Al Shabab. India will safeguard her maritime security and long-term strategic interests in the Indian Ocean region by offering diplomatic recognition to the new nation of the Republic of Somaliland.
Dr. Adityanjee (vivekanenda)