Why South Sudan matters

Stabilising the world’s youngest nation is in our enlightened national interest. A dummies guide to ‘why’

rohit

Rohit Bansal | January 1, 2014



The other day, on Twitter, former chief of army staff VK Singh saluted our fallen soldiers in ‘Sudan’. Since I track the region, I questioned the general, requested him to respect the difference between two sovereign nations: ‘Sudan’, which he had absent-mindedly referred to, and ‘South Sudan’, where two Indian peacekeepers serving the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) had been slained defending civilians who had taken shelter in their camp.

A range of trolls got after me for my ‘indiscretion and temerity’. ‘Why split hair’ was the refrain even as Gen Singh chose studied silence. ‘Plenty,’ my humble submission was, and remains. Here are four reasons why any Indian, and a former chief of the Indian army at that, shouldn’t foster indifference and illiteracy on the two Sudans:

1.   Sudan was officially split on July 9, 2011. Hereafter, Juba has become the capital of the world’s newest nation: South Sudan. India has upgraded its consulate to a full-status embassy and we have, in Parmod Bajaj, a senior IFS officer, serving as ambassador. In my book, to refer to this sovereign country as ‘Sudan’ and justify this with nonchalance insults the 2 million lives it lost before achieving independence from the cruel regime in Khartoum.

2.   Our stakes in South Sudan go beyond tokenism. Out of 7,500 UNMISS personnel stationed there – as the country was split, the UN Mission in Sudan too was split. One third of these brave men and women are drawn from the Indian army and police forces. True to form, Indian forces are deployed in the most dangerous territory of South Sudan, i.e., Jonglei state. Not surprisingly, it is our boys who have suffered the maximum casualties – seven out of the 10 UNMISS armed personnel killed have been ours. So, for a former army chief not to know the difference between Sudan and South Sudan slurs the memory of these gallant sons of India.

3.   The root of civil war in South Sudan lies in the oil beneath. Oil has been the driver of Khartoum’s ‘colonisation’ of the southern territories. The entire liberation movement was, in fact, driven by angst that the north was sucking oil out of the south, refining it in a complex built with Chinese help, and then evacuating it via pipelines to Port Sudan on the Red Sea, leaving South Sudan with precious little of the bounties.

As Indians, it is therefore important that we guard our early investments in Sudan/South Sudan oil. Since 2003, we’ve invested some $2.5 billion in this game via ONGC Videsh, the overseas arm of ONGC. We have some 25 percent stake in four oil blocks in South Sudan, with China’s CNPC, Malaysia’s Petronas and the national oil company as our JV partners. To state the obvious, it is important, therefore, not to insult our host nation by our ignorance on their name and the struggle that went into securing their freedom.

4.   The tricky bit is about placing our bets on one of the two gladiators in the ring. The incumbent, president Salva Kiir Mayardit, is from the Dinka tribe, and someone who has never quite built bridges with India. In fact, just a few months back, he backed out of visiting New Delhi at the eleventh hour, unmindful of many red faces in South Block. Challenging Salva Kiir is his former deputy, the British-educated Riek Machar. Now, Machar has visited us and is evenly predisposed to any power that supports him in his quest for the presidential palace in Juba. He doesn’t just harbour the long-standing rivalry with the Dinka; the wily Nuer genuinely believes he is intellectually better equipped than his former boss to guide the fortunes of the world’s newest nation. The UN, on its part, sees both Salva Kiir and Machar as perpetrators of mass violence.

Our stated policy of remaining ‘hands off’ in internecine warfare doesn’t quite help: the Chinese, for example, are quietly taking sides as it serves their deep interests in the oil sweepstakes. India had a pronounced role in assisting the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement which fought against Khartoum, first securing partial autonomy in 2005 and full independence in 2011. True to form, we were the first to open a consulate in Juba in 2005.

So, Juba matters, Gen Singh. And it’s in ‘South Sudan,’ by the way!
 

 

Comments

 

Other News

BEL stake sale gets overwhelming response

 State-run aerospace and defence company Bharat Electronics (BEL), a Navratna enterprise, on the first day of its stake sale by the government aimed to raise Rs 1,650 crore received an overwhelming response. Besides, quota of non-retail investors was subscribed by over 2.34 times. The govern

Suppress ego to write biography: Ramachandra Guha

Noted historian Ramachandra Guha has listed reasons on why historical biographies never took off in a big way in India. Delivering the annual lecture at Sahitya Akademi’s Festival of Letters in New Delhi on Thursday, Guha said that historical biography is that part of history which is more

AAI unveils e-billing solution for navigation service providers, air operators

 State-run Airports Authority of India, a miniratna PSU, in association with international air transport association (IATA) has unveiled a comprehensive e-billing solution—SKYREV360 to help air navigation service provider (ANSP) and airport operators. The system would help the users to

A golden touch

I dreaded a bit as I stepped inside the Thrissur district general hospital in Kerala. I have walked in and out of government hospitals almost half of my life as a health and science writer for various newspapers. But I was never the patient. Going to a government hospital carried with it&nbs

Should students` unions be banned?

Should students` unions be banned?

Take action, NSUI tells police over varsity clash

The National Students Union of India (NSUI) on Thursday sought action against those who had assaulted students and teachers of Delhi university at a protest march on Wednesday.` “Our sole motive is to compel the police to take some strict actions against the lawbreakers who brutally manhand

Video

ओला, उबर चालकों की हड़ताल खत्म
Digital Transformation Summit

Current Issue

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter