The Geopolitical Dynamics Of Ethno-National Conflicts – OpEd


One of the many dimensions of conflicts today especially ethno-national is that it is one of the biggest challenge to national security of all nation states that are grappling with it. According to statistics, (Horowitz), since 1945, millions of lives have been lost due to such conflicts. Daniel Patrick Moynihan had opined that a lot of nations will be born in bloodshed. Such was the outreach of ethno national conflicts. Historically the notorious Nazi leader’s ethnic cleansing madness changed the history and geography of geopolitics forever .To develop deeper insights it is important to understand the concept of nation first. Wolfe defined nation as a concept denoting a common ethnic and cultural identity shared by a ‘single people’. As per the Primordialist approach to understanding nationalism, common dissent plays a very important role in determining ethno-national conflict.

After the Gulf War, President of the US George Bush first introduced the new world order to other states. With the new world order came Ethno National Conflicts as collateral damage, to pre existing history of violence, territorial dispute etc. Sri Lanka, Rwanda, Bosnia, Chechnya, Burundi, Quebec changed the geopolitical dynamics of ethno-national conflicts as we witness today. Strategic realignments have undergone significant changes in the last one odd decade. With the disintegration of the USSR in 1991 the fulcrum of power shifted inexorably towards the United States (US). However the fear of spread of communist ideology even as the cold war was on led to a massive increase in ethno national conflicts all across the globe. This type of conflict arises essentially out of the identity crisis faced by ethnic groups asserting a separate identity for them, to protect the interests of their community. The Tamils in Sri Lanka for example wanted a separate Eelam state for themselves. After the death of their leader Prabhakaran, the strife still continued. Nations are built over centuries. The feeling of nationalism is a strong sense of belongingness to a specified territory. But the building of nation-states was not essentially based on ethnicity.

The aspiration levels of ethnic groups are sometimes so high that clash of interests with the state can lead to violent uprising. According to George de Vos, ethnicity consists of subjective, symbolic, emblematic use by a group of people. Ethno Nationalism is a sub division of nationalism based on ethnicity/race. Language, religion, social norms etc are crucial components of ethno-national conflicts.

The uprising in Syria over Shia Sunni divisions among the Muslims, the rise of ISIS are all linked to ethnic identity assertiveness. Latvians, Kurds etc are all fighting for their identity, for their space in geopolitics. Ethnicity historically was linked to specific territorial areas but with globalisation ethnicity transcends borders of nation states. Migration is an issue along with refugee crisis. Situational and subjective approach studies ethno-national conflicts as sporadic cases of clash of interest over rights and duties.

There are several dimensions of ethno national conflicts. Political deprivation, economic exploitation, hard stands of belligerent leader’s etc. economic development that goes haywire supporting the elites causes a great deal of frustration among ethnic minorities. The quintessential kurds have faced the consequences of economic underdevelopment pursued by the leaders in Iraq.

Demographic pressures have redefined ethno-national movements. The Mujahir Quami Movement in Pakistan focuses n separating Karachi from other states in Sindh. The baloch assertiveness is another example. Recently Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India is with the people of Balochistan and strongly condemns any violation of human rights in that area by the Pakistani establishment. This angered many and after the Uri terrorist attacks and surgical strikes, one thing is crystal. Ethnic conflicts are here to stay and for centuries there will be bloodshed unless diplomatically the leaders of the new political order decide to follow a uniform nation code to tackle ethnic problems and uprisings.

Rise of Islamic fundamentalism, the ISIS, Saffron terror are all examples of how ethnicity plays a pivotal role in determining nationalism today. Refugee crises, bloodshed, disruption of peace are all collateral damages of such a mad fight for ethnic identity assertiveness. Ethno National conflicts are challenging the nation state system and this is a very serious issue the leaders of the world need to address to first. Divisions on the political map of the world will lead to more anarchic interpretation of balance of power with each ethnic group claiming to be superior to the other.

Identifying Bosnia as a nation according to Henry Kissinger was an irresponsible mistake. But in today’s era, it is only wise to focus on larger goals of economic growth, progress, job creation, education, human rights and not on ethnic conflicts. Only then can we have a just stable geopolitical order. Ethno national conflicts consume time and since their legacy is built on the ethos of identity it is important to not ignore it completely as well. A middle path must be taken.

*Vishakha Amitabh Hoskote, M.A MPHIL (International Relations, Political Science, Development Communication)

Reference Reading
Weiner Myron, Sons of the Soil – Migration and Ethnic Conflict in India (Princeton Legacy Library)
Koinova Maria , Ethnonationalist Conflict in Postcommunist States: Varieties of Governance in Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Kosovo (National and Ethnic Conflict in the 21st Century Series)

Vishakha Amitabh Hoskote

Vishakha Amitabh Hoskote is a Communication Professional, Research Scholar and a Defence Enthusiast. With an MA, MPHIL in International Relations, Political Science and Development Communications, Ms Hoskote regularly writes for Eurasia Review on subjects of geopolitical importance.

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