When Bernard Lewis put forward his thesis titled “Balkanisations of the Middle East” in 1992, he predicted that a trend that had shaped the world in the 20th Century would also be highly influential in the new century.
The last century went down in history as a period when radical nationalism divided countries, nations and regions. It is natural that everyone loves and wants to protect his own nation, but radical nationalism, which violates other people’s right to life and empowers itself through the oppression of others, brought a lot of pain to the world. Central Europe was divided into many small states. New borders were drawn for the Balkans. The map of the Arabian Peninsula changed significantly. The former Soviet Union was divided into dozens of new states. Africa, South America and Far East Asia all took their share of this new world order. The number of countries in the world, which was around 77 at the dawn of the 20th Century, reached approximately 200 by the end of it.
A large majority of these divisions were the result of a bloody process. Balkan peoples, who had been living together for 500 years, started fighting with each other. Millions of innocent lives were lost, and many more had to abandon their homes. When Central Europe was divided into small states, it laid the foundation for the Second World War. Civil wars and regional conflicts were constantly present in Asia and Africa due to the divisions. Warlords took control of the majority of these conflict zones. Mass murders and genocides followed one after another. The trend of division took millions of lives.
A change at this magnitude in the world political map has brought many problems with it. First of all, the seeds of hatred, the effects of which would last for decades, were sown among the sister communities that lived together for many years. Secondly, the divisions were followed by large waves of migration as millions of women, children and the elderly had to leave their homes. Another important problem was the unsolvable border disputes. Artificial borders, that have no historical, geographical or social foundation have become reasons for conflicts that often dragged the countries into a hot war.
The Indian subcontinent witnessed events that are similar to those happening in many other parts of the world. Today, the Bengal region, often referred to as a conflict zone, was one of the richest regions in the world not long but only 300 years ago. It had an economy of 90 billion USD and a population of 150 million. These figures corresponded to the 20% of the world gross national product and 25% of the world’s population. A sense of civilization with many architectural structures that symbolizes wealth, such as Taj Mahal, was prevalent in the region. The Babylonian Empire brought order, peace and wealth to the region.
In the 18th Century, the Empire was divided into small states and disintegrated. The British who came to the region a century ago for commercial purposes took control of the Indian subcontinent by establishing colonial governments and the region remained as a British colony for 200 years. The local people were considered as second-class citizens, and even as uncivilized, primitive beings, and were subjected to inconceivable cruelty. During this time, hundreds of thousands of Indians lost their lives in the occupation wars of the British. Millions of innocent people died of starvation in the four planned major famines. All the resources of a giant civilization built on an area of millions of square kilometers were seized by the colonists. (1)
After World War II, this vast area experienced yet another division. The country was divided as Pakistan, which had a Muslim majority, and India, which had a Hindu majority. Like every division of the 20th Century, India’s division was also bloody. More than one million lives were lost, 15 million people migrated. After independence, there have been three great wars between these two countries. The departure of the British was as bloody as their arrival in every region it occupied. In the same period, three million civilian lives were lost in the civil war in Pakistan. East Pakistan seceded from the country under the name of Bangladesh. (2)
The imperialist forces have invariably left behind never-ending conflict zones. These conflict zones were a means of keeping the regions where they physically withdrew under their control. Disagreements in the Northern Kashmir region continue to this day. The Muslim-populated region was left to Hindus during the division; it should have been obvious that such a decision would result in violence. India and Pakistan fought over Kashmir in 1947, 1965 and 1999. A referendum that could easily end the conflicts has never materialized nor is it likely to do so in the immediate future. The region is now divided into three de facto regions after their giant northern neighbor China entered into the equation.(3) At the end of the 1980’s, a new conflict emerged in the region in which 70,000 civilians died; about 8,000 civilians are missing. It is generally acknowledged that the missing persons are most likely to be found buried in mass graves, which are being discovered every day.(4)
It is impossible for violence of this magnitude to occur on its own. The atmosphere of conflict is the most important strategy of those who plan to divide other countries. In this way, they are able to call the shots behind closed doors, sell weapons, and control the economy. Most importantly, they can continue to utilize the region to accomplish their own aims. In the meantime, as always, it is the innocent people who suffer during this process as a nation’s energy is exhausted in endless conflicts. Violence occupies the region.
What needs to be done to bring peace to the region, especially to Kashmir, is to build a rational and temperate culture where all the peoples are treated as first-class citizens, instead of creating a political understanding based on conventional interests. In the case of Kashmir, it is unrealistic to think of a system that Pakistan is not involved with. Pakistan, unlike India, is a part of a great family, the Muslim world. Muslims are also the spiritual guardians of Kashmir. India is one of the countries that the Islamic world considers as a friend and a brother. India’s economic and political interests lie in its friendship with the Muslim world. No matter where, the contest of military prowess is always unwinnable and it will only cause more bloodshed. It is the friendship-based alliances that will render the countries stronger and allow people to live in prosperity. Such an alliance would create a deterrent force no weapon can provide. Pakistan and India do not need new weapons, but new alliances. It is the reign of peace in the region which will bring comfort to the people, not conflict.
—The author is a prominent Turkish writer and activist. He blogs at:www.harunyahya.com