“I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones,” said Albert Einstein. This grim observation was made in the aftermath of the deadly World War II when the world stood devastated; humanity witnessed the gruesome nature of human beings unleashed in the form of mass atrocities like the Holocaust. The need for peace and international security led to the formation of the United Nations, which has managed to keep global peace and security barring a few exceptions relatively well.
However, the relative peace and security of the global comity of nations have been upended by the geopolitically most devastating war of the second decade of the 21st century, the Russo-Ukraine war. The war launched by the Russian invasion of Ukraine ordered by the new ‘Tsar’ of Russia Vladimir V Putin has resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent Ukrainian citizens, has displaced over eight million people and has upended global supply chains, resulting also in the skyrocketing prices of hydrocarbon resources like oil and natural gas. Apart from the geopolitical tumult the war has wrought, it has caused tremendous human suffering and has once again brought into question humanity’s insatiable urge for violence and war.
Historically and biologically Homo Sapiens have had a propensity for violence. However, thanks to the evolution of the human mind and with the gradual advancement of civilisation, human beings’ urge for violence has ebbed. Steven Pinker in his magnum opus book The Better Angels of Our Nature has with rigorous research proven that the human race is currently at its most peaceful with the need to resort to violence at a historic low. However, war has been traditionally glorified as being chivalrous and valorous in nature, necessary for the betterment of human society. Philosophers like George Wilhelm Frederick Hegel, Frederick Nietzsche and even the famous English poet Lord Byron glorified war and extolled it as a virtue, Hegel argued that war promoted the ethical health of people. But the grim and dehumanising side of the war was exposed by Wilfred Owen in his magnificent poem Dulce Et Decorum Est describing in graphic detail the horror and mindlessness of war.
This picture of the horrors and ghastly nature that war brings needs to be emphasised more and more now. Putin who via his ‘special military operation’ attacked Ukraine on the pretext of protecting Russian-speaking Ukrainians and to denazify Ukraine is nothing but a ruse to satisfy Putin’s ‘imperia Rus’ vision.
The need of the hour is to follow the message that humanity, which is standing on the cusp of further advancement and a civilisational threat in the form of climate change and global warming, can no longer afford deviations that threaten to tear asunder the united fabric of the human race. The world needs to heed the message that “this is not an era of war”4, a remark was made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the recently concluded G20 summit in Bali.
Strengthening International Law
Peacebuilding and reconciliation are not easy tasks. The first and foremost step, which can be taken to ensure peace, is to strengthen international laws, especially the International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court. The verdicts of both global courts are not binding on countries. This must change; the UN Security Council must initiate a reform of the UN statute making the constitutional provisions and rules of the ICJ binding with punitive sanctions in case of violation. While the issue of sanctions may appear to be a bit controversial with the possibility of a permanent member of the UN Security Council vetoing it, consistent attempts must be made to wean them off this possibility. The Rome Statute should be reformed and strengthened with the power of the ICC to initiate suo moto prosecution against possible war criminals.
Role of India
India is the natural country to spread the message of peacebuilding and seeking reconciliation globally. India’s civilisational heritage runs as old as five thousand years. India with its civilisational heritage especially the messages of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” and “Ganga Jamuna Tehzeeb” is a moralpolitik great power that is the fountainhead of peace and security. Indians believe that the world is our family and we may be divided by our race, caste, creed, sex, religious and linguistic orientation but our foundational value is the same – we prioritise humanism and the promotion of peace first. India has always stood for the well-being of every individual, our country considers the personality of every human being as sacred, and being the land of Buddha and Gandhi we strongly believe that war is not the solution to anything.
We have never attacked any country for satisfying our imperialistic ambitions, but we have assimilated hordes of invaders who came to India to conquer, but our spirit of unity in diversity and oneness ended up Indianising them be it Indo-Greeks, Parthians, or the Turkish invaders. This is evident from Jawaharlal Nehru’s excellent book The Discovery of India.
India can definitely play a crucial role in peacebuilding and reconciliation. India can play a mediatory role in global conflicts especially in the Russo-Ukraine to ensure an immediate end to hostilities. India has already indicated that it wants a diplomatic solution to the problem with an emphasis on dialogue. Further, India can export its soft power approach, particularly its emphasis on diversity and inclusiveness by strengthening its religious and cultural diplomacy in friendly countries, especially in South East Asia and West Asia.
Strengthening people-to-people ties is a great way to ensure reconciliation. Further, the Indian leadership must tap the potential of its massive and powerful diaspora around the world to spread the message that India wants an end to all conflicts and wants to ensure that the world community lives in peace.
Interfaith and intercultural seminars, symposiums and conferences can be held to spread the message that war is not the solution to any problem and that it only brings death, destruction and devastation. A global truth and reconciliation commission modeled on the likes of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission under the leadership of India can be formed to discuss issues of seeking reconciliation and forgiveness from nation-states that may have committed crimes in the past or present.
At a time when humanity is recovering from the devastation and death brought by the pandemic, the world can ill afford war and its associated issues. Peace and reconciliation must be the most sought-after words, the human race must strive to put behind their religious, cultural and economic differences to strive for peace. However, the building up of peace and achieving reconciliation won’t be easy, but then India who leads the G20 presidency this year can definitely play a monumental role in steering the world towards a more inclusive world order free from the ills of entropy and institutional instability.
–The writer is currently working as a Research Associate at Defence Research and Studies (dras.in) and is a columnist. The views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Raksha Anirveda