When the Durand Line meets Globalization – Creating Successful States and Building Social Capital in the 21st Century
Ethnic conflict within artificially constructed geographical boundaries is now one of the most important topics of international politics. We cannot and should not redraw every boundary, but we had better start thinking about these issues. They already impede economic development and block strategies for eliminating poverty. We need the case law to show that law can compensate for the political cartography of colonialism and that legitimate grievances will be addressed because we want to create a framework of global rule of law. We want to create viable states and avoid the 21st Century specter of Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan, the collision of globalization and post-colonial political cartography.
In 1893, Sir Mortimer Durand arbitrarily decided the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. There was of course no referendum on its political acceptability to anyone who lived there. The borders that were decided in European capitals define the globalizing post-colonial world of today.
In the 21st Century, former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari successfully negotiated between the Aceh Independence movement and the Indonesian government a workable arrangement. This achievement which many thought would win the participants the Nobel Peace Prize was the beginning of a new process of political cartography and dealing with the residue of colonialism. From Durand to Ahtisaari, the international community is moving in the right direction.
But when the Durand Lines of the post-colonial world meet the contemporary realities of globalization, so-called “failed states” erupt into global security issues.
Many of the present crises in the world are in significant part problems of political cartography. This is even more the case of some of the crises we can anticipate which are often labeled the crisis of “failed states”. In the next decade, the global community will have to address (among other zones) the questions of Baluchistan, the Fergana Valley in Uzbekistan, and the northeast African borders. When the Durand Line meets globalization, brushfires can become volcanoes. Instead of marginalizing the areas trouble spots, globalization has brought all our histories home to us. One of the challenges of the 21st Century is to deal with the residue of colonialism which limits the development of effective states and capital markets.
The significance of failed states goes beyond the issues of terrorism, although that will drive the international security discussion. The epidemiology of disease from viruses in Africa to avian flu emphasizes the importance of functioning institutions on a global basis. In Angola, the need to curtail the spread of viruses has made the poor institution-building and dysfunctional cartography of Portuguese colonialism intensely relevant. The global community has a stake in a well-functioning Angolan state and health bureaucracy. The global community needs an effective Angolan state with the capacity to monitor virus transmission, deliver health care infrastructure and record the traditional medicines which ameliorated these problems in the past.
In the post-9/11 world we live in, there is an appropriate world-wide condemnation and enforcement of all activities that are rebellions against recognized authority. The behaviour of Chechens, Tamil Tigers, and private militias in Congo or Somalia is correctly labeled as unacceptable by the community of international law. However, for this stated rule of law to be credible internationally, the next generation of foreign policy makers must attempt to provide a framework for resolution and or management of all the Durand lines which clutter the world map. These residues of colonialism frequently stop the development of “social capital” or effective government required to generate the preconditions for sustainable prosperity in emerging economies. Realpolitik ensures that the global community will focus on “crises”, but international law can attempt to have an early detection system for emerging zones of conflict. We can only acknowledge that and push for a political cartography that, in the best traditions of utilitarianism creates the greatest good for the greatest number and removes as many failed states from the global map as is possible. This required diplomatic negotiation like Aceh and also political imagination in the construction of new state structures, like Catalonia or, increasingly, Kurdistan.
We are now in an era where the value system of what Tony Appiah calls “liberal cosmopolitanism” is in clash with simplifiers or fundamentalists, from Beirut to Kansas. All places are afflicted by fundamentalisms that are deliberately simplistic responses to the complexity of our time. The consequences of this response to globalization in a world where there are hundreds of Durand lines and political institutions that fail to create social capital are increasingly serious.
“Liberal cosmopolitans” have to accept the reality that in failed states and communities, it is extremely difficult to build “social capital” when politics is about the full-time mediation of geographical disputes between communities. The great successes of liberal cosmopolitan building of social capital, e.g. the Indian Congress Party, are not easily exportable models. In the post-Cold War era, the examples of Slovenian or Estonian democracy-building are more typical. These regimes, both successful, were significantly propelled by a liberated nationalism that was channeled towards democracy. The South Korean model of economic growth and social liberalism is a similarly fusion of a traditional nationalism required for survival channeled into a growth oriented and socially liberal agenda. These have proven to be the more frequent models for creating new areas in the global economy defined by their acceptance of the rule of law and their capacity to channel social capital into the preconditions for sustainable prosperity.
The global community knows several things that it didn’t know a decade ago about nation-building, peace-making and the role of social capital in creating the conditions for sustainable prosperity. The political agenda for the next few years is going to require sorting them out and developing a global politics based on that solution. The development of a Chinese, Indian, Iranian, Brazilian, Kazakh worldview on managing globalization is a component of this and will influence whether it is to be done successfully. The world of globalization must no longer be confused with the image of spreading American cultural values. Two decades ago, Gorbachev understandably valued McDonald’s for the way it educated young workers about work ethics and productivity. Similarly, other proponents of a “flat earth” valued Wal-Mart for the way it creates an efficient distribution chain. That era of globalization is past. The next issues on the agenda are what we do with the need to create social capital and political accountability. It is important to demand of BRIC countries (and Kazakhs, South Africans and Persians) that they assume proportionate responsibility for these issues as part of the new multilateral legal system.
Let’s start with some counterfactual questions which by definition no one can answer: If the arbitrary Durand line were crossed off the map and an independent Baluchistan existed, how would the politics of south central Asia change? Would there be more security in the “northwest frontiers”? Would it be possible to create more social capital building an economy in Baluchistan instead of spending political energies on resisting influences from Lahore or Tehran?
Obviously, no one knows the answer to these questions with certainty, but we had better start thinking about them. Durandism, the making of maps which have no sense to the people living in the region has collided with globalization making the world a much less safe place and distracting us from even more important issues, e.g. eliminating global poverty. Creating viable states with successful economies and the social capital required for sustained democracy is a challenge from Slovakia to Georgia and East Timor. It is not just an issue of economic development, but of global security.
One size does not fit all, and the solutions for Malaysia are not the solutions for Pakistan, the solutions for Catalonia are not the solutions for former Biafra. Nevertheless, much of the turmoil in the world today stems from not addressing these issues. This requires imagination and flexibility. It requires creating multiple state structures that can manage the oil revenues of regions like the Gulf of Guinea. It is about redesign and innovation within our international political system. The question is how we are to manage these new realities.
First, we need to start to ask how we develop functioning institutions in countries held back by 19th and early 20th century amateur cartographers. The bias against microstates is refuted by relatively peaceful countries with internal coherence like Bahrain and Slovenia. The rule of law must work to resolve these issues. What is the rule of law on Northern Cyprus and East Timor and how does the international legal community differentiate the two cases? A little clarity here would go a long way in figuring out how to mitigate the effect of Durandism on the world of the 21st Century by creating a confidence in the coherence and potential of international law.
Second, multinational states can be made to work if they are not built on exploitative models. It is a constant balancing act in the architectural design of Canadian federalism to ensure that wealth-production is not constrained by regional politics. For multilingual and multicultural states to work effectively there must be other instruments of what Peter Katzenstein called social coherence in his analysis of Switzerland. In Switzerland, national financial institutions provide the framework in with social capital and common purpose can be shaped.
Practical problem-solving starts with finding a few success stories. Peter Galbraith and Shlomo Avineri’s belief in “three Iraqs” and building a progressive, democratic Islamic state in Kurdistan are good starting points for practical analysis. In the long term, we have to look at the legacy of the Durand line, the illegitimacy or telling people to live within borders they had no role in setting, the importance of social capital as a prerequisite for sustainable prosperity, and the insistence that whatever formula is decided from Congress Party to Slovenia, that decision is made democratically. The first step to doing this is to ensure that the rule of international law has a clarity and logic to it as we try to compensate for the effects of the Durand negative legacy without unleashing new tyrannies of parochial chauvinism and fundamentalism.
Political realism requires that every case study be understood distinctly. There are attempts to look at situations where minority rights are threatened systematically as in the MAR project, which is a good start. We need comparative politics and case law to be able to talk about this phenomenon. We need creative political theory to define new institutional structures, post-federal and networked to international partners. Catalonia, Kosovo and Kurdistan are differentiated legal and political entities. We need different categories to deal with the aspirations and challenges of Baluchistan, Kashmir, and Northern Cyprus for example. International law and the mobilization of social capital to eliminate poverty are not the only agenda in an era of multiple threats to our security. The role of international law is to ensure that choices are as free as is possible in a world of competing new states and absent a compelling international legal authority. A world in which young Turkish Cypriots, Shan, and Kosovars compare their role in the international economy is something offered by our networked age. When the next generation of foreign policy makers confront security issues, it would be helpful if they are not blindsided by other “Durand lines”.
The next generation requires that the skills of Ahtisaari be applied where there are many other Durand lines. We will never eliminate ethnic conflicts, but we can start to try to minimize them.