Tuesday April 23, 2024

Violating sovereignty

By Awais Anwer Khawaja
June 23, 2016

Pakistan is a sovereign state in the middle of a hostile neighborhood. With many powers pursuing their interests in this region, the country appears to be a soft target of their gambit.

The volatility in Afghanistan didn’t stem from Pakistan. Similarly, the unrest in Middle East, recently accentuated by Isis activities, does not evolve from Pakistan either.

The UN was formed after the humanitarian catastrophe of the two World Wars. One of the foremost raison d’être of the UN was to prevent armed conflicts among nations. The doctrine of mutual respect in regard to other states’ sovereignty finds its root in the cannons of public international law and also in the UN Charter.

Article 1 of the ‘Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Act, 2001’ enumerates that “every internationally wrongful act of state entails the international responsibility of that state” (Text reproduced as it appears in the annex to General Assembly resolution 56/83 of 12 December 2001 and corrected by document A/56/49(Vol. I) Corr.4.)

Every act of aggression against one state is an act of aggression against the international community. President Obama stressed the importance of diplomacy over force in his UN General Assembly address in September last year. And on June 2 this year, he also exhorted US Air Force cadets to find the right balance between force and diplomacy. He urged the cadets to embrace use of diplomacy and other non-lethal tools to resolve disputes around the world.

There have been successive direct drone strikes and surgical operations by the US in Pakistan for the past few years. Pakistan has never admitted granting permission to the US in undertaking such strikes. Soon after the American military operation, ‘Operation Neptune Spear’, by US Navy Seals in Abbottabad which took out Osama bin Laden in 2011, there was a lot of hue and cry in the country bemoaning the violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. The US brushed aside any arguments of violation and chose to celebrate Bin Laden’s death.

The recent drone strike by the US, purporting to have killed Taliban chief Mullah Mansour on May 21 this year has again stirred the sovereignty debate. In response to the drone strike in Balochistan, a US official has affirmed the US’s respect of Pakistan’s territorial boundary and reiterated the resolve to hunt the terrorists.

There is no gainsaying that Mullah Mansour’s killing in Pakistan by a US drone strike violated Pakistan’s sovereignty. Any action on Pakistani soil which is not authorised by the state of Pakistan is an act of aggression against the state. The US, though, is carving out psychological deterrence in the international community by propounding the right to do whatever it can and wherever it can to exterminate terrorists. Essentially the entire debate concerns the ‘ends and means’ of drone strikes in Pakistan.

Terrorism must be decimated but such an adventure should not come at the cost of our sovereignty. Both the ‘means’ and the ‘ends’ have to stand the test of ‘legitimacy’. It is incorrect on the part of the US to adopt wrongful means to achieve a legitimate end. The US has been advocating the rights of its allies in the South China Sea conflict. It has gone to the length of regularly sending ships through the South China Sea.

On the one hand the US is championing the rights of its allies in the South China Sea, while on the other it is carrying out direct strikes in Pakistan. The violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty will erode the moral authority of the US to urge other states to resolve disputes with diplomacy. The actions of the US are setting an example for other bellicose states violating the territorial boundaries of third states.

Pakistan has a porous border, which has been repeatedly impinged by militants. The recent crackdown against militants followed by the establishment of military courts reflects Pakistan’s resolve against terrorism.

A responsible state cannot stand to set a bad precedent for others. One of the foremost inspirations propagated by militant leaders is the reference to the retributive theory of punishment which finds its roots in primitive jurisprudence. A breach of right by one state becomes a cause of psychological preclusion for other offending states.

The US has been a long-time ally of Pakistan; ties between the two countries date back to the formation of Pakistan. Soon after the 9/11 attacks, full logistical support was extended by Pakistan side to leverage the US operations against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. A strike on Pakistani soil followed by a psychological deterrence within the international community to substantiate such a strike is a misdirected move. It also affects the already frail democracy in Pakistan.

The US is one of the oldest democracies in the world. One of the fallouts of its psyops is the promotion of a specific agenda that evokes an engineered reaction which may blindside the masses – compelling them to make wrong choices. An engineered choice is the antithesis of democratic norms. Violation of Pakistan’s territory should not be a matter of concern for Pakistan alone; it should be equally perturbing for the US’s democratic code.

The writer is a freelance contributor.