On June 6 was celebrated the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the allied landings on Normandy that marked the beginning of the end of World War-II, a war that was supposed to end all wars. July 28 will be the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War-I, at that time called the Great War. And yet, today, the world is in greater conflict than at any previous period in its history.
Witness the conflict in the Ukraine. Indeed, there are suggestions that the world could be seeing the beginning of a new Cold War, with a senior US official warning that an attack on a NATO country - read Latvia - would make a response incumbent on the other 27 members.
Is it just a coincidence that World War-I and the Ukrainian crisis erupted exactly a century apart?
History tells us that while the world was relatively calm between 1918, the end of World War-I and 1939, the start of World War-II, a major to medium conflict has constantly prevailed since 1945 in some part of the world.
Sample this: Korea (1950-53), Cuba (1961), Vietnam (1961-73), Dominican Republic (1965), Lebanon (1982), Grenada (1983), Panama (1989), First Gulf War (1991), Somalia (1993), Haiti (1994), Bosnia (1994-95), Kosovo (1999), Afghanistan (2001-current), Iraq (2003-10).
Notice a pattern in these conflicts? US forces were involved in every one of them, but more about this later.
Take the Indian sub-continent. There have been four wars with Pakistan (1948, 1965, 1971, 1999), one with China (1962) and the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971. We'll leave out the three-decade-long civil strife in Sri Lanka since it was an internal conflict in which India fished in troubled waters.
What fueled these wars? Principally, the military-industrial combines of the United States and the Soviet Union - and now Russia - that US President Dwight D. Eishenhower had warned against thus while laying down office in January 1961: In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.
Famous last words or an inevitability? The latter would seem more probable.
Earlier this year, SIPRI reported that between them, the US (29 percent) and Russia (27 percent) accounted for a staggering 56 percent of all arms exports in 2009-13.
And SIPRI reported that India's arms imports are now almost three times as high as those of the second and third largest arms importers - China and Pakistan.
India's imports of major weapons rose by 111 percent between 2004-08 and 2009-13, and its share in international arms imports increased from seven percent to 14 per cent, while Pakistan's imports increased by 119 per cent.
The major suppliers to India in 2009-13, SIPRI said, were Russia (75 percent) and the US (seven percent), which for the first time became India's second largest arms supplier. Against this, the US share of Pakistani imports was 27 per cent. China was also a major supplier in the region, accounting for 54 percent of Pakistani imports and 82 percent of Bangladeshi imports.
Chinese, Russian and US arms supplies to South Asia are driven by both economic and political considerations, said Siemon Wezeman, senior researcher with the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme, adding: In particular, China and the USA appear to be using arms deliveries to Asia to strengthen their influence in the region.
Forget the world, in such a scenario, can there ever be peace on the Indian sub-continent?
(11.06.2014-Vishnu Makhijani is an Associate Editor at IANS. The views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at [email protected]).
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