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Western Press Review: From Kashmir To Kosovo To The EU

  • Joel Blocker
  • Anthony Georgieff

Prague, 29 June 1999 (RFE/RL) -- No single subject dominates Western press commentary today. Editorialists and analysts discuss the current India-Pakistan conflict, economic policies in the European Union, new difficulties in attaining permanent peace in Northern Ireland and, of course, the continuing problems in postwar Kosovo.

WASHINGTON POST: Fighting in Kashmir is becoming steadily more dangerous

First, India and Pakistan. The Washington Post says that "the fighting in Kashmir is becoming' steadily more dangerous." In an editorial, the papers adds: "The action in the high relentlessly sharpening the question of whether the two South Asian rivals, both now nuclear-capable, can retain control."

The editorial goes on: "This time around...the Pakistanis are clearly to blame for having started the fighting....The evident military purpose...was to put at risk the strategic Kargil highway by which India asserts its military presence in that mountain vastness.... The Indians responded vigorously," the paper says, "but have so far been careful...not themselves to cross the Line of Control [that separates India's and Pakistan's sectors of the province]."

The paper concludes that Pakistan needs to stop "blowing on the fires of armed revolt in Indian-held Kashmir...But, "says the WP, "India has its own responsibilities, [including] credibly widening the openings for democratic self-government in the part of Kashmir that, with two-thirds of a million troops, it holds."

NEWSWEEK: Tension in the Himalayas is not as worrying as many in the West seem to think

The U.S. weekly Newsweek [dated July 5] carries a commentary on Kashmir by British analyst Gerald Segal, who says that "the tension in the Himalayas is worrying -- but not as much as many in the West seem to think." The commentator argues that "[if one stands] back a bit, [looking] more closely at history and the recent triggers of conflict... it begins to look as though both sides have matters well under control."

He continues: "Only a suicidal Pakistani leader (which Nawaz Sharif, the current prime minister, is not) would see virtue in being trounced by India. Pakistan is fragile enough that any war with India might well complete the destruction of the nation. For its part," Segal adds, "India knows that no matter how bad things get with Pakistan, the condition is not life-threatening.... India can do what it usually does every year when Pakistani insurgents slink across the line of control... [It can] take time to build up forces, creep up the sheer mountains and engage in the bloody process of retaking remote redoubts." But what about the nuclear weapons the two countries can now produce, asks Segal? He answers: "Worried Westerners misunderstand the impact in Kashmir of the nuclear tests in May 1998. These two developing countries, it is said, are thought to be too poor to afford first-class nuclear deterrence and too politically underdeveloped to manage crises. In fact, the South Asian nuclear balance shows that at least in some circumstances, nuclear weapons can enhance overall deterrence. The risk of nuclear war," he concludes, "helps keep tensions in Kashmir cool."

INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE: Unemployment is alienating millions...

In the International Herald Tribune today, columnist Reginald Dale comments on what he calls the "dirty little secret of unemployment" in the European Union. He calls high unemployment "the scourge of much of Western Europe [and says] it is alienating millions...from mainstream society and holding back economic growth." Dale believes that "there is no good reason why this should be so....What is lacking," he goes on, "is the ability, or will, of governments to apply the [necessary] medicines" to what is called "structural unemployment". The causes of this kind of joblessness, he adds, "are high labor costs and social charges [as well as] rigid rules of hiring and firing, and generous social benefits that discourage the unemployed from seeking work."

Dale sums up: "Despite 'New Middle' or 'Third Way' rhetoric [by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and British Prime Minister Tony Blair], it is not possible to have it both ways -- to create jobs and keep the old [EU] way of rigging labor markets in favor of traditional union supporters. Governments that try to fool the public on this score are guilty of great hypocrisy."

LOS ANGELES TIMES: The Third Way is not a vote winner

Los Angles Times Syndicate columnist William Pfaff is critical of Blair and Schroeder's "Third-Way" idea, saying it "hasn't delivered on it promises." In a commentary, he writes: "The European Parliament elections [earlier this month] proved very little about ideology, but what it did seem to prove was that the Third Way is not a vote winner."

The commentary also says: "Third Way politicians say they are committed to the social and egalitarian goals of an older Left, but are [nevertheless] making necessary accommodations to a market capitalism that has proved a more efficient generator of wealth than did the planned economy dear to the old Left." It concludes: "The Third-Way politicians have...made the claim that you can have it all [that is, prosperity without basic reforms]. No Sacrifices needed [they say] -- except from those who are the new economy's victims. That," Pfaff concludes, "has to change."

BERLINGSKE TIDENDE: The disagreements in Ireland are both formal and real

Former Danish foreign minister Uffe Ellemann Jensen comments today in the Copenhagen daily Berlingske Tidende on "the great difficulties that are now jeopardizing the [so-called] Good Friday cease-fire agreement and the peace process in Northern Ireland." He warns: "The opposing parties now have [one day left] to implement the agreement and to establish a government [for the province]. If this does not happen, Northern Ireland's political control will remain with London. The Northern Irish parliament in [the castle of Stormont] near Belfast will lose the reason for its existence. The peace process will be killed."

Jensen goes on: "The disagreements that have led to the current dead-end are both formal and real. The euphemism used is 'to decommission arms.' In reality, the discord is about how to crack down on the illegal-weapon deposits. The [Ulster] Unionists want the IRA [Irish Republican Army] to lay down its arms. [The IRA's political wing] Sinn Fein...says there is nothing of the sort in the [Good Friday] accord....[It] asks that, if the agreement is already being broken, what will happen later?"

"The governments in both London and Dublin have made great efforts to convince the Northern Irish political groups to compromise....But at the end of the day it is the people of Northern Ireland -- and their political leaders -- that have to say yes or no to the peace process. And they have to do it quickly."

BERLINGSKE TIDENDE: Equality before the law should be insured for all

The same Danish newspaper today carries a signed editorial on Kosovo by its Editor-in-Chief, Peter Wivel. He begins: "During the 1980s, when Vaclav Havel was routinely imprisoned by the Communist authorities, he was asked whether he was not thankful to the West for supporting him. Havel turned the question around, 'Isn't the West thankful to me for standing up for the kind of freedoms you have and should not forget?'"

For Wivel, "the situation in Kosovo is similar to Havel's personal situation in the 1980s. In addition to having to help a people that has been singled out for extinction, we [in the West] are being given the chance to learn a little about ourselves. The whole idea of European integration that dates back to the final days of World War Two is based on the concept of equality before the law.... Such equality," he says, "was non-existent in the former Yugoslavia. Although the Kosovo Albanians were Yugoslav citizens, President [Slobodan] Milosevic took away from them not only their basic rights as citizens, but also their identity, their property, their nationality, their life."

The editorial concludes: "The legal action now being taken in Kosovo should not only substantiate the accusations against the alleged murderers. It should also be a demonstration of the significance of human rights for our own European identity.... NATO has already sent a team of investigators to Kosovo that should be documenting the nature and the extent of the crimes. We await a grand trial [of the Nuremberg type] where equality before the law should be insured for all. We owe this to both Kosovo, and to ourselves."

NEUE OSNABRUEKER ZEITUNG: All citizens of Kosovo have the same right to live in their homes and receive protection

A German newspaper comments briefly on Kosovo as well. The Neue Osnabruecker Zeitung says that "international peacekeeping force must act forcefully and decisively against [ethnic] Albanian criminals." It writes in an editorial: "There is no excuse for violence carried out against Serb civilians. All citizens of Kosovo have the same right to live in their homes and receive protection." "And this," the paper adds, "is where the UCK (Kosovo Liberation Army) leadership has to come in. The leaders of the ethnic Albanians can prove how important democracy and justice really is to them. Only if the UCK wholeheartedly supports the protection of the Serb minority can its leader Hashim Thaci and his supporters count on international recognition in the future."