Borders Have No Sanctity but Human Societies Do Have

Dr Rao VBJ Chelikani

           Land has been the common heritage of humankind to be enjoyed by all along with other live organisms which have been enjoying this common property much before the human species. Before becoming sedentary, the tribes of human beings lived pastoral life. It means they wandered in search of green pastures as far as they could go and continued till they faced stronger resistance. It is also a historical fact that whichever group and whoever individual is adventurous and stronger has been occupying whatever they wanted, and has been enjoying the human and material resources that land is endowed with. Similarly, the kingdoms and states also have been extending their frontiers as an expression of their power by waging wars and shedding blood in order to collect taxes and recruit warriors from the existing population and to exploit water and mineral resources therein. Some states, according to the same logic have established empires by defeating and annexing the independent states or made them vassal states by marriages. Some states crossed continents with soldiers and priests to establish overseas colonies and tributary states with new religions. 

There has been no population on these six continents, on this planet that has not been forced to change or shift its loyalty and citizenship or nationality to other kings, empires and states. Before the advent of the states, the tribes also behaved in the same fashion. Thus, apart from these rapacious occupations and ownership, there has been no natural or original or ideal relationship between a state and its territories. Any sanctity or sacredness attached to the land and its borders is a matter of sentiments depending upon the longevity of the relationship and the benefits derived from that particular piece of land. Once, the Pope gave his holy benediction to the ownership of the whole earth exclusively to the Portuguese and Spanish empires by drawing a separating line on the world map. Till the end of the Second World War, the British empire was so extensive that the Sun never set on its territories. As the populations and human aspirations grow, even now human beings are migrating to newfound lands and changing their nationalities. Indians have migrated to many other states and changed their nationalities, even before there ever was an independent political entity called India. Should we consider this a betrayal or a sacrilege to the land of origin? Of course, there were extra-territorial loyalties towards some religious places in reference to some religious events in the past that are in the possession of and safeguarded by certain states like Saudi Arabia and Israel. 

I.         Thus, the borders have never been permanent, fixed and sacrosanct, as the states have been formed and reformed. It is for this reason that there are very few states in the world that do not have border disputes with their neighbours. Till now, there is no better argument to claim ownership than military power. While historically the river waters were the most coveted, now, we have many oils and mineral resources as well as rare earth resources to exploit. It is nevertheless strange that human communities and their aspirations have not been as much coveted as natural resources during the border disputes, and when plebiscite or self-determination was proposed.  

           Thus, there is no objective and universal reference or standards to apply to solve border disputes except claims and counterclaims. The people living within these borders under dispute are not talking. During the dispute, the peoples resources of both states are being wasted. The people on both sides cannot talk and find a solution in the mutual interest, if not in terms of state interests. Unfortunately, the diplomats and the political authorities generate suspicion and hatred against each other. This is another instance to demonstrate that the interests of the states and of the societies are not the same. The underlining cause of any stalemate is in the state of negotiations between the two states' interests, and between their diplomats. 

II.       At the end of the 2nd World War, all the peace-loving and wise people realized that the states are the big elephants that are fighting for domination over each other and that it is the human beings that are being crushed like the grass under the heavy feet of the fighting elephants.  So, first, the League of Nations and later, the United Nations Organisation have emerged as a platform for dialogue and have even created a Military Command to intervene against the aggressive and violent states, if necessary. But, since it is the states that finance, man and run the United Nations Organisation, no such superior power is being allowed to be exercised for peacekeeping and peacemaking functions. So the world has been facing the risk of a 3rd World War, in which case the destruction of all the powerful states and even the entire life on this planet is likely to be wiped out. That could be the result of the search for glory and power of any rascal state! 

           There are also specialized international bodies that can mediate, arbitrate and adjudicate any dispute. There is the International Court of Justice. The World Bank had mediated a settlement of river waters distribution between India and Pakistan. Most of the international treaties envisage constituting an arbitration council or tribunal in case of conflict in the interpretation of the accords. Most of the states, while signing the treaty stipulate that they will not abide by the treaty in case it considers that it will hurt their ‘national interest’. Some states are signing the treaties but are not ratifying them later. Apart from these avenues or possibilities, any two states which have a dispute between them and which do not have the intention to yield to the demands of the other state may accept to abide by the settlement by a third-party team of arbitrators chosen by both parties. But the diplomats on both sides who handle the external affairs insist on ‘bilateral’ negotiations only and refuse to resort to adopting any of the above methods to solve the disputes for their own reasons. Meanwhile, the people on either side are suffering and human progress is delayed. 

III.      Right now, China wants to be a One-China state or Russia wants to be a Grand Russian state based on geographical divisions that took place in the past and are willing to cause any amount of destruction and human suffering to people, provided that they are not their people. 

           For example, India and China have also inherited a dispute over borders, over which there were intermittent wars and negotiations for the past 75 years. They have not progressed an inch towards resolution in their negotiations, since they have been all these years talking about how to talk. The objective of the talks has so far been to prevent further tensions and aggravation of the conflicts; and even here, they are failing as there has been constant testing of vigilance on both sides. We have inherited border disputes with all our neighbours, which have not been solved for the last seventy-five years. Meanwhile, we are exhausting our human and material resources just to maintain the disputes, with the constant risk of aggravating the conflict. How long should we continue with these tensions at the borders?

Solutions: It is the people, who should make the people’s representatives think of human interests, instead of letting things be decided by state interests. There should be a dialogue between Parliaments, instead of negotiations between diplomats.                     

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