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Libya: Options For India And Russia – Analysis


I can understand the decision of India, Russia and China to abstain in the voting in the UN Security Council (UNSC) on March 18, 2011, on the resolution authorising the enforcement of a No Fly Zone over Libya to prevent Libyan air strikes against anti-Muammar Gaddafi rebels and civilians and a humanitarian intervention not involving the use of ground troops.

Explaining the likely implications of the resolution for Libya to the White House media, President Barack Obama said: “Now, once more, Muammar Gaddafi has a choice. The resolution that passed lays out very clear conditions that must be met. The United States, the United Kingdom, France and Arab states agree that a cease-fire must be implemented immediately. That means all attacks against civilians must stop. Gaddafi must stop his troops from advancing on Benghazi; pull them back from Adjadbiya, Misrata and Zawiya; and establish water, electricity and gas supplies to all areas. Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach the people of Libya. Let me be clear, these terms are not negotiable. These terms are not subject to negotiation. If Gaddafi does not comply with the resolution, the international community will impose consequences, and the resolution will be enforced through military action.”

The Gaddafi Government has announced an immediate cease-fire in response to the resolution, but rebel sources have doubted its sincerity. They see it more as a tactical move to buy time and to create divisions among those who supported the resolution. They would, therefore, like the enforcement of the No Fly Zone and the humanitarian intervention to be accompanied by a joint action by the West and the Arab States to bring about a regime change.


Obama has ruled out—at least for the present— any military action to bring about a regime change. He seems to believe that the regime change must be brought about through international psychological pressure and not through military action. Obama said during his interaction with the media: “I also want to be clear about what we will not be doing. The United States is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya, and we are not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal, specifically the protection of civilians in Libya. In the coming weeks, we will continue to help the Libyan people with humanitarian and economic assistance so that they can fulfill their aspirations peacefully.”

This is meant to reassure abstaining countries like India, Russia and China who fear that the world might be witnessing a re-enactment of Iraq in Libya. In Iraq, the West exploited a vague UNSC resolution on a No Fly Zone to mount a military operation for a regime change. The resolution on the No Fly Zone on Libya is as vague as the resolution on Iraq was. It is silent on the command and control of the operation. Commenting on this, the BBC said: “Those countries taking part in the coalition still need to decide who leads this mission, and what action they will take if the ceasefire breaks down. It is not yet clear who the commander of the operation will be, where it will be headquartered and what Nato assets might be used.”

While India and China refrained from spelling out in detail their concerns and reservations about the way the resolution was drafted, Russia did. It made it clear during its interventions in the UNSC debate that while it had no objection in principle to a No Fly Zone, it cannot support it unless the command and control was decided beforehand.

The US and other NATO countries have seen to it that all decisions regarding command and control will not be taken in the UNSC, but outside. The Foreign Ministers of France and Britain and the US Secretary of State are scheduled to meet in Paris later today to discuss, inter alia, about the command and control. In Iraq, the US and the UK manipulated the denouement in such a manner as to keep all major decisions in their hands. Even France was unhappy over this.

In Libya, a triumvirate consisting of the US, France and the UK is trying to retain in its hands the responsibility for all major decisions. Hence, my understanding and support for the decision of India to abstain along with Russia and China.

But, India’s abstention should not mean that it abandons the interests of the anti-Gaddafi forces and the civilians supporting them. We are entering an uneasy period similar to what happened in Iraq—-with the Kurds in the North retaining de facto autonomy with the help of US forces based in Turkey and Saddam Hussein’s control restricted to non-Kurdish areas. In Libya, the anti-Gaddafi tribals will be helped by US-led forces based in Egypt and Tunisia to retain their de facto autonomy in their areas, with Gaddafi’s control restricted to areas, including Tripoli, the capital, where tribals still loyal to him are strong.

In this uncomfortable situation, India and Russia should mount a humanitarian mission of their own which would not come into conflict with the UNSC-authorised mission. It should have as its objective assisting all civilians in equal measure—whether they are in Govt-controlled areas or in areas under rebel control. India and Russia should enter into immediate consultations to discuss whether this is feasible and, if so, how to do it. They should keep the US, the UK, France and the Arab League informed of their moves.

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B. Raman

B. Raman (August 14, 1936 – June 16, 2013) was Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai and Associate, Chennai Centre For China Studies.

2 thoughts on “Libya: Options For India And Russia – Analysis

  • March 20, 2011 at 11:07 am

    If we people like you Mr. Raman, in Africa, then AU will be talking about something like these.

    Russia and China including India, can not sit there and allow those so-called USA, FRance and the Arab League, to distablized the Libyan Goverment.

    Remember the Libyan Government had been saying those people are Rebel, Al-Qaeda network, and those saying are being ignored because of some motive. Maybe a revange by the USA and FRANCE.

    So Now, the so-called USA and France are in support of Rebels, Al-Qaeda, who are figting against the Government.

    Here is the Senario which happen in 1989 in Liberia where Rebel enter Liberia and were killing people from some tribal group, where were the USA ? who the Liberian considered as there colonial fathers. OK- I now undestand at this point that LIberia do not have oil and there was no interest.

    For France, Just look at what is going on in Ivory Coast, their colonied. The citizen voted in favor of the oposition and yet the president refused to leave power. Which role does the French Government play ? Why they never take the lead to put the conflict to rest by now ? 0h! oh! because there is no Oil.

    Now it is Libya and she is killing her own people according to BBC, FRAnce, UK, and America. Those people being Killed are REBELS, Al-Qaeda network. And they look for it.

    Let me Make this call on behave of the Libyan People and the Government. RUSSIA, INDIA, AND CHINA. please do not sit there and watch what is going on right now.

    Can you see the Targeted areas now have gone to the Libyan Facilities like their air defences systems and other areas ? If all those things are distory in the name of NO_FLY_ZONE, The next generation of Liyan people will never forgive you becuase you were watching and never acted.

    Russia, India, China,again YOu really need to design action now. Be of help to both parties and not favor one party like what is going on by France and UK and America now.

    My final question is, will the rebell disarmed now ? since the Libyan government is being targeted ? If the Libyan government pull back from Misrata, Ziwuya, who will be the controlling those area ? is it going to be the Al-Qaeda, the Rebel ? OBAMA needs to answer this questions.

    Thomas Seton- From Liberia.

  • March 20, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    There is no doubt that Gaddafi appears nothing less than on drugs and no Libyan in right mind will ever vote for Gaddafi. Gaddafi is not even capable of any intelligent dialogue with any of major countries. Same applies for his kids who are all set to get throne of Libya merely for being progeny of Gaddafi.

    Yet, Raman’s analysis is bang on the bucks. US went into Iraq and made a mess out of it. Americans like to label theis misadventure in Iraq as one big mistake, which to my mind is one big unforgivable sin since they Americans ended up messing Iraq even worse than Saddam.

    Any use of force against Libya is welcome to bring down the cruel regime of Gaddafi but it doesn’t make sense for countries like Russia, India, China and Brazil to participate unless it is done with consensus of the participating countries. If US, Britain and France have to make all the decisions themselves, then it doesn’t make sense for any country to join their position against Gaddafi’s regime.


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