Wednesday, July 30, 2008

SADC--Mbeki's other Headache: Getting SADC to Get More Proactive on Peacekeeping Force

As if Mbeki doesn't have enough on his plate with issues on Zimbabwe, BusinessDay reports that in the upcoming weekend, SADC ministers will meet to plan for the activation of a SADC regional peacekeeping force, which has already been mooted since August 2007. The objective of the meeting, really, is to brainstorm on how it can begin to deploy on peacekeeping missions.

The meeting in Durban--to be chaired by Angola--will take recommendations for a SADC summit next month when President Mbeki is "expected to take over the chairmanship" of tyhe 14-member SADC from Jose Eduardo Dos Santos.

Discussions are in the offing also on a regional early warning centre that is scheduled for the end of the year.

More importantly however is the significance of this regional standby force.

By 2010, the African Union plans to have completed an African Stanby Force, with regional standby forces for the regional economic communities (RECS). This falls into line with the AU's protocol on peace and security, "

...which required all regional economic communities to have units that fed into the standby army. So far, the Economic Community of West African States is the other regional bloc that has made the most progress.

It's easy to check that. Only in June this year, a training in Bamako for ECOWAS Standby Force -- codenamed "Jigui 2008" took place, with a Malian logistic sub-command; a Nigerian East Sub Command and a Senegalese West sub command, as well as ECOWAS Staff from the Commission in Abuja.

East Africa established its regional peacekeeping force also in August 2007, with IGAD hoping that it might ease the pressure, what with demands for Darfur.

Monday, July 28, 2008

SAARC--What's SAARC Got to do with India's Latest Serial Bombings?

At a time when Cote d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso as ECOWAS neighbours, are meeting as a way of reconciling after tremendous tensions brought about by the September 2002 coup that saw finger-pointing from Ougadougou that its neighbour supported an abortive coup of Burkina Faso in 2003, it remains a great shame that a number of serial bombings would take place in India only over the weekend, prompting fears that it was a "foreign hand", identified as Pakistan.
A very interesting BBC article above chronicles the number of bombings that have taken place since 2005, listingbthe total number of dead as 400!

So, when I ask--despite a one-month hiatus!![mucho apologies!!!]--what SAARC has got to do with it, it is not without reason.

The example of the two ECOWAS neighbours above shows that reconciliation can take place even without the carrot-and-stick of the EU, or any foreign donor, when there is political will. I do not know ebough about the India-Pakistan conflict to offer anything, except to say that I do know their atavistic conflict has scaled down dramatically. Also, given the rise of India, it is a shame for it to be entertaining terrorists or freedom-fighters of any kind that could harm its prospects for growth.

My concern about it all, really, is just because India is big and has clout, is insufficient reason for it to ignore SAARC. SAARC may be going through some existential angst, but as long as the institution is there, India has every reason to pump resources to support its growth--even for its own interest.

The 2-3 August SAARC Summit in Colombo on Food Security, Terrorism and Energy offer an opportunity to do that--as well as put paid to the tensions that exist between itself and Pakistan.

The BBC has been offering the so-called Insider Debate, with the last one (over the weekend) featuring: Jonathan Powell, Martin Griffiths, Alvaro de Soto and Francesc Vendrell, who have all "[b]etween them...negotiated in most of the world's intractable conflicts".

I daresay most of the four who were interviewed would say that "no conflict is insoluble" and that India must continue to talk to Pakistan.

The article maintains that one of the outcomes of the meeting is:

The SAARC Summit is set to adopt four agreements, including SAARC Development Fund (SDF) with a corpus of $307 million, South Asian Mutual Legal Assistance on Criminal Matters, an agreement on the establishment of the South Asia Regional Standards Organization and a pact for formal entry of Afghanistan into the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA).

Among the other issues that would be discussed are a fund to manage food crisis, an approach towards SAARC common currency and mechanisms to augment resources in the region to tackle the situation arising out of the fuel price hike.

At the end of the day, for anything concrete to happen, it's about political will. That's the only way of ensuring a progressive perspective on any type of regional integration...