Print Edition - 2013-11-03  |  Free the Words

State of sovereignty

- Zulfiqar Shah
State of sovereignty

Nov 2, 2013-

The technological inclusion of drones in the global security paradigm as a defensive-offence mechanism has kicked off a new set of discussions and discourse based on a broad range of concerns and questions. Especially in the countries that consider drones a threat to their sovereignty and national security. Besides, drone operations, particularly in Pakistan and Yemen, have also raised the question of their international legality and legitimacy in the context of nation-state sovereignty.

There is a rule of thumb in technological developments within the military-strategic sphere around the globe that technological advancements are balanced out either through counter technological developments or by attaining similar capabilities. The discussion that falls beyond the orbit of this principle is very important in today’s globalised politics.

There are essentially three basic aspects to focus on regarding drones and their operations: i) the notion of a nation-state versus regional and international sovereignty; ii) aspects of international laws and globally agreed to norms concerning war, escalation, spying and use of territorial space; and iii) the reality of the positive outcomes of droning versus the two former aspects.

Given the changing perspective of nation-state sovereignty in contemporary global politics and international security, broader reforms are needed in the various treaties, covenants, conventions, procedures and the mandate of the United Nations to redraw limits. Besides, it has become a niche of our time to de-limit international legal and diplomatic taboos from the legal framework perspective, particularly regarding the notion of sovereignty amid sharply strengthening inter-dependent sovereignties among nation-states. It is also essential to reimagine cooperation among national, international and global stakeholders that require the inclusion of security perspectives as an integral part of the international legal framework.

It is highly important to summit around the collectively agreed upon ‘exceptionalism’ in the foreign policies of world powers like the US, UK, France, Russia, India, China, Germany, Canada and Australia regarding rogue and failed states so that a new wave of global statehood can appropriately come into being. In many cases, new nations need to emerge on the debris of failure. A reshuffle is required to redesign the global world in such a manner that a great number of exiting conflicts are resolved.         

The war-peace contours of the world are also changing their meanings. No war can be justified from the sustainable peace perspective; however, war or offence that fulfills globally agreed upon legal frameworks; upholds basic collective rights regimes as well as political morality; ensures international security and is consented to by international forums like the UN are the exceptions. Therefore, if the world community discusses any new legality around drones in the context of international security, it should also consider emerging global interdependency as well as the debate around foreign policy ‘exceptionalism’ from the global security point of view.

The conflicting aspects of international legal principles versus practical realities are important. The most important case in this perspective is of Pakistan, where droning is termed a violation of the nation-state sovereignty by the government. However, a majority of people think otherwise. Pakistan’s stance on droning and the productive outcomes of droning are polar opposites. No doubt droning has proved to be more productive in targeting criminals that fight a dirty war in the name of Islam. The question arises, although violating the territorial and spatial sovereignty of Pakistan, the droning of tribal areas by the US is ensuring the security and sovereignty of the liberal and secular majority in the provinces of Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhuwa (KP) and the southern parts of Punjab. In that realm, the sovereignty notions of Pakistan’s military dominated security establishment and of the majority people are antagonistic to each other. Therefore, although, violating the international legality of Pakistan’s nation-state sovereignty, droning is in favour of people’s sovereignty there. This was further validated in August 2013, when a ruling Pakistani Muslim League minister told the parliament that Pakistan would legalise US droning by reaching an agreement, albeit Pakistan itself would use the drones against uprisings within the country (pointing to freedom movements in Sindh and Balochistan). Given the case review of droning in Pakistan, the international community should also consider peoples’ sovereignty and the security aspect while agreeing upon any international stance as well as legal frameworks around the use of drones.

Ironically, Pakistan, which is attempting to raise issues of civilian causalities from droning, is itself involved in the murder of thousands of Sindhi and Baloch and to some extent, Pashtun civilians, in the name of the country’s so-called internal security. A state that has time and again been implicated in the massive killing of its own citizens is toeing the line of civilian causalities. If the concerned world has to agree to Pakistan’s stance on droning regarding civilian causalities, it must also ask Pakistan to stop killing its own people in Sindh and Balochistan.        

Finally, droning, which genuinely falls under international security concerns and does not violate the peoples’ sovereignty perspective, should be legalised through international legal frameworks for the general good of humanity. However, ensuring zero-sum innocent civilian causalities should become mandatory. The time has come for the international community to create a new international and global legal order and reconsider obsolete diplomatic mechanisms.  

Shah, a Pakistan born human rights activist, is an asylum seeker in India. He is the author of Beyond Federalism a political treatise on social movements in Sindh.

Published: 03-11-2013 09:19

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