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June 12, 2019

Simmering and rising tensions

Opinion

June 12, 2019

The recent near collision between a Russian destroyer and the American guided missile cruiser, USS Chancellorsville, this past Friday in the Philippine Sea should be a cause of concern for all those who wish to see peace and prosperity in the world. After the incident, Moscow and Washington traded allegations and it seems that none of them is ready to budge their position. The US Navy accused the Russian of “unsafe and unprofessional” conduct after the incident. The Russian Pacific Fleet countered that it was the US vessel that had engaged in dangerous maneuvering, forcing the Russian destroyer Admiral Vinogradov to take emergency action.

The media quoted Cmdr Clay Doss of the US 7th Fleet as saying that the Chancellorsville was recovering its helicopter while maintaining a steady course when the Russian ship came from behind and “accelerated and closed to an unsafe distance” of about 50 to 100 feet. He claimed that this 'unsafe action' forced Chancellorsville to execute all engines back full and to maneuver to avoid collision. Moscow, however, accused the US cruiser of suddenly changing direction and coming within 50 meters [164 feet] of the Russian destroyer. Russia, which stated that the incident took place in the East China Sea, said its ship was forced to perform an emergency maneuver and warned the American ship of inadmissible actions.

Such precarious situation could be seen in other parts of the world between the US and its rivals or in some cases Washington and its allies on the one side while their rivals on the other. Tensions are also rising in the South China Sea between Washington and Beijing. Though both states are trying to avoid a military conflict, some fear that multiple factors could trigger a conflagration in the region because of the possible imprudent actions of the two giant countries.

China has been accused by Washington and its allies of stepping up construction of what observers are calling 'The Great Wall of Sand' which, according to experts, is meant to expand a group of islands in the Spratly chain so that they can support airstrips, weapons, and other permanent installations. According to Professor Robert Farley of US Army War College, "It appears that Beijing is committed to defending these new islands as an integral part of Chinese territory, a position that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea does not Support. Washington has maintained that it will carry out freedom-of-navigation patrols in areas that China claims as territorial waters."

The professor believes that the prospects for a conflict are clear. "If US ships or aircraft enters waters that China claims, then Chinese sailors, soldiers, and pilots need to take great care about how they respond. A militarized response could quickly lead to escalation, especially if American forces suffer any kind of serious damage." Citing an incident of 2001, Farley wrote in 'The National Interest' that "China and the United States have already come close to conflict over aircraft collisions when a P-3 Orion collided with a PLAN J-8 interceptor in that year. Many fear that such incidents could reoccur if Beijing declares 'an Air Defense Identification Zone' over the disputed sea. It has already declared ADIZ over the East China Sea, creating alarm and confusion. In addition to that, some defense analysts believe that a submarine clash could also take place between China and America once Beijing has acquired enough powerful boats."

Allies of Beijing and Moscow on the one hand and those of the West on the other also seem to be on a collision path. Saudi Arabia and the UAE recently accused Iran and the Houthis of targeting an oil tanker which has led to more tension in an already troubled region. In addition to that, various state and non-state actors are also busy trading allegations and seem to be making preparations for wars or possible conflicts.

Given this precarious situation, even a slight miscalculation or mistake could lead to a catastrophe. Therefore, it is important to address the underlying causes that led to such conflicts. The simmering issue of Palestine must be addressed to defeat the war-mongers sitting in the power corridors of the world. The much vaunted 'two-state solution" seems to have failed. The world should pay heed to the inveterate demand of the Palestinian people which advocates a single secular state with equal rights for all its citizens – Jews, Muslims and Christians. If that does not work then perhaps the Palestinians and the Jewish people should jointly work for a confederation of the two nations with a secular constitution and laws and equal representation in parliament. The idea might sound bizarre but there is no harm in thinking over it.

In the Middle East, hegemonic states should give up their policies of interference. Tehran and Riyadh need to come up with a formula to address the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in one of the poorest countries of the world – Yemen. Its hapless masses need a respite. Neutral states in the OIC and the UN must come forward with a recipe for peace.

Since the tension between Tehran and Riyadh is not confined to their borders only, the two countries will need to rein in their proxies in other states as well. If Russia, China, America and the EU do not come forward with a formula to prevent these simmering tensions from escalating into full-fledged conflicts in the Middle East, South China Sea and other parts of the world, the world could witness another terrible war, which would incinerate everything. Remember: just the US and Russia have more than 12,000 nuclear weapons that could wipe out every trace of civilization while six more states are also armed with these lethal machines of annihilation. Israel is also believed to have these destructive tools. So, the dangerous escalations unfolding in various parts of the world must be addressed on an urgent basis because one miscalculation could plunge the world into unimaginable destruction and chaos.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

Email: [email protected]

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