War, invasion and the creation of new maps: The Tribune India
War (including civil war), invasion and conflict are the main factors that have shaped or reshaped, created or unmade the maps of the world since time immemorial. One instance will suffice. There have been 40 major invasions of India in the past 1,000 years, which naturally changed the political maps of it. The English did not come to India as invaders per se. Nevertheless, in their quest for the “ease of doing business”, they have resorted to every possible role: invader, plunderer, dacoit, conspirator, murderer, racist leader and destroyer of native industry.
Not strangely, and true to the forces of world history, the English were ably aided by much of the Indians themselves, preferring foreigners to their own country cousins due to wide perception that the lords of London seemed somehow better administrators than the local raiders, despite the variety of curvature adopted by the former.
In context, today’s Russian-Ukrainian conflict shows the stark reality of the changing or changing geopolitical map of the world. Whether the conflict is labeled a war or not, I see it as an extension and continuation of fratricide leading to avoidable conflict for Ukraine and an equally inevitable “civil” war for Russia, the US-led West. United States being the real target. Supposedly however, it is also for reclaiming or retaining territory on some of yesterday’s blood relations and today’s differences of opinion regarding whether or not a stranger is allowed to rank (similar to a number in the third person singular) across the Atlantic trying to enter the Sea of Azov.
If the (bitter) truth is to be faced and digested, the first drastic change in the modern world map took place in Africa in the second half of the 19th century, cloaked in a somewhat civilized term – Western historians call it the partition”. of Africa” — as if the forced partition of foreign countries from another continent were a heroic act worthy of emulation.
Thus, seven European countries carried out their “Mission Dark Continent” (how pejorative!). England, France, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, Italy and Germany tore Africa to pieces like a pack of hungry hyenas, the essence of which was written with deep sensitivity in Rabindranath Tagore’s stanza of rhymes, rhythms and images in his memorable and lyrical composition, Africa.
Virtually every corner of the African continent, which today consists of 54 countries, has been penetrated, mainly by “botanists and buccaneers; Bible and the bureaucrat” followed or accompanied by “banker and businessman”. To express the superiority of the white Europeans, the conquest of Africa was referred to as a mission of the “white man’s burden” to civilize and discipline the natives.
Thus, while less than a tenth of Africa became European colonies in 1875, by 1895 only a tenth remained unconquered or unsubdued. The following decades, however, saw rapid conquests by white Europeans, creating new maps across the world.
Between 1871 and 1900, the British Empire added 4.25 million square miles of territory and almost 70 million people. France added 3.5 million square miles and 26 million people. Simultaneously, Germany, Belgium and Italy each acquired new colonial empires; and at the turn of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, the “historical novelty” emerges. Most of the world now belonged to a handful of European “great” powers. It was “Life Divine Rule of Nine” on the “One World Supine”. England, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark were in charge. Neither Russia (the largest land power) nor India (the second most populous geography) have ever been on the scene.
Fast forward to the mid-twentieth century and beyond. India and Russia are breaking into pieces overnight. In 1947, the geographical area of India from 42,24,000 km2 was reduced to 32,80,000 km2. Its population of 42 crores fell to 34 crores as eight crores became Pakistanis. The eternally bickering, quarrelsome and myopic rulers of India fell into the trap of the British who were “happy” to grant “independence” to the fratricidal and restless demography of Indian geography, still filled with 565 “states within the ‘British India’. State”.
Forty-four years after India’s independence, it was the turn of the mighty USSR, which collapsed like a house of cards in 1991, shrinking from 2,24,02,200 km2 to 1.70, 98,200 km2. Its demographics have also shrunk by 50%. Overnight, the Soviet Union’s population of 29 crores (much larger than the 24 crores of its great American rival) was reduced to Russia’s 14.5 crores. Once again, it was the complacent but incompetent, inefficient and ignorant Communist leaders of the Marxists in Moscow who ruined their own nation, hypnotized by Glasnost and Perestroika, and drawn in by the magnetic and irresistible “purchasing power” of the dollar . “Gone with the Wind” was “the dictatorship of the proletariat” and head of the “Comintern” (Communist International), thus leaving the field open to a unitary “international order”.
Naturally, the United States came in and used the empty stage, expanding, conquering, invading, consolidating, corrupting the system of its former enemy. It is only natural. Following in the footsteps of the previous imperial powers of the West. Why not? Who will miss a chance? Morality or no morality! The power game is reality. It was an unusual and unique opportunity that was fully (over-)exploited by the United States to reach the coastline of the former USSR, which is (in fact) the “belly” of Moscow.
A quick glance, even by a layman, will clearly show that every country, especially a relatively “big” power, has (and always has had) a belly, colloquially called “spheres of influence”, despite the “rejection of it by the Europeans. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during her speech in New Delhi recently.
How many ‘underbelly/spheres of influence’ does the UK still have? What if Spain claims Gibraltar (Spanish waters), the Falklands (over 10,000 km from the UK) by Argentina, and the Ascension Islands are aided in a big way by a power hostile to London? How will China react to an adversary courting Mongolia and encouraging Manchuria to secede?
How come the West and China willfully misunderstand Delhi’s “security threat perception” of the sub-Himalayan region and the nations surrounding it? Where were these preachers when China and Pakistan together violated India’s sovereignty through BRI and CPEC? Aren’t J&K and Ladakh India’s own territory? Can we say that it does not come under the “spheres of influence” of Delhi? There are still several Western countries whose “spheres of influence” and “interests” extend well beyond their geographic borders and sovereign territories.
Seen in this way, it is undeniable that the geography of the Sea of Azov falls within the “sphere of influence” of Moscow. But the Russian action today is totally wrong and it must cease fire. Nevertheless, the West’s provocation is also obvious and therefore unacceptable. It takes two to tango. In times of war and peace.