Photo (from left to right): Manish Uprety F.R.A.S. and Jainendra Karn. - Photo: 2022

Irish Unification, Britain and the Gandhian Path

Viewpoint by Manish Uprety F.R.A.S. and Jainendra Karn

Manish Uprety F.R.A.S. is an ex-diplomat & ALCAP’s Special Adviser for Asia & Africa, and Jainendra Karn is a senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Any views or opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of IDN-InDepth News.

NEW DELHI (IDN) — Time changes the boundaries and spheres of influence of a nation. In the case of the United Kingdom, many countries now want out and have their own head of state while the bell tolls for the Commonwealth.

The British leadership, which underwent an institutional change recently, will also face its Tebbit Test soon to address its Yaksha Prashna—a very important question—Is eventual Irish unification now inevitable?

The Republic of Ireland, which was ruled by Great Britain since the 13th century, endured a hard-fought birth. Its citizens struggled to remove themselves from British domination for the next several hundred years.

Their aspiration found manifestation in Irish nationalism, which broadly asserts that the peoples of Ireland should govern Ireland as a sovereign state.

Since the last century, the issue of Irish re-unification has been discussed oft. In 2021, the Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI poll predicted that Northern Ireland could quit the U.K. within a decade.

This time the issue raises its head when the British economy is in a severe disarray. The IMF is not impressed by Britain’s fiscal and monetary measures that have to manage a USD 3 Trillion plus economy and around USD 9 Trillion of debt. The UK markets have lost around half a Trillion dollars and Britain’s Forex reserves are even lower than those of Bangladesh; all since Liz Truss took over as the PM.

The British currency is in free fall, and the UK will struggle very hard to save the Pound because even its Forex reserves won’t be able to prop it up. And there is a very high chance that the Tories will rebel against Liz Truss if the Pound falls below the Dollar.

Britain’s general Government Gross Debt is over GBP 2.36 Trillion, which is equivalent to 99.6% of its GDP. The IMF is closely monitoring economic developments in Britain and is engaged with UK authorities regarding the grim situation. Is Britain on the pathway to becoming another Sri Lanka?

All this is happening at a time when the whole world, especially Europe, is going through a very difficult time, whether it is the Ukraine-Russian conflict that started soon after COVID affected the region drastically, the looming energy crisis or the various risks of implosion that the European Union faces.

Through a realistic lens, many pessimists predict that the Ukraine-Russian conflict would lead to a recession followed by a rising US Dollar brought about by rising interest rates and a falling Euro and Pound.

Unlike many other countries to de-Dollarise in not an option for Europe because the two are conjoined at the hip. So highly likely the situation will lead towards sovereign debt crises and depression, and there is a great risk of de-industrialization.

According to the IMF, Europe’s energy crisis is hitting UK households the hardest because the nation is not only heavily reliant on gas for heat but is also the least energy efficient in Western Europe. Plus the difference between the cost burden on poor and rich households is far more unequal in the UK compared with other countries.

In addition, the recent rioting against British Hindus by Muslims of Pakistani descent, which started in Leicester and spread to other cities, is a very sad commentary on the failing law and order situation in Britain that might lead towards the ghettoisation and partition of the country.

That a single British YouTuber could easily instigate violence across cities does not augur well for Britain’s future. The Biased British Corporations that deal with information or allowing a licentious run for propagandists to spread falsehoods has undermined not only the veracity of the British media but also its very democracy.

The appeasement and vote-bank politics of the British establishment not only made the British Hindus extremely vulnerable but has also severely disempowered the native English population. Pakistani grooming gangs that freely raped at least half a million young girls in the last forty years is a shameful example of this appeasement.

Is it a systemic collapse or manifestation of a failed state? No wonder British towns are powerless to stop crime and youth violence, and the citizens have given up on the British police to fight crime and help them.

In such an abysmal scenario, one wonders how Britain will discuss and negotiate the issue of a marginalized Northern Ireland, whose economic growth is among the weakest in the UK, successfully with Ireland. No romance without finance—C’est la vie.

A common man’s perspective is that the future of Northern Ireland is in a state of flux because of the English Nationalist approach of the London government.

So how will the issue of Irish re-unification fare as it gains prominence again in 2022 will be quite interesting to see as Catholics now outnumber Protestants in Northern Ireland, and the age profile infers that the Catholic proportion will inevitably grow. Not to mention the fact that Ireland’s GDP per capita is more than twice of Britain’s.

It is bound to create serious challenges for the decision-makers as they make tradeoffs between alternative solutions but very few are win-win. The fallback is to rely on ideology, gut instincts or copycat solutions, none of which guarantee success.

There is a general impression that Irish nationalists now support Irish reunification with a unified secular state. The constitutional dimensions of Irish Unification are being explored and lessons are being sought from other cases such as the German Unification.

One of the most important academic interventions in policy debate in Ireland in recent decades is by the Working Group on Unification Referendums on the Island of Ireland, whose Constitution Unit teamed up with eminent scholars in Northern Ireland, Ireland, and the US to examine how any future referendums on the constitutional status of Northern Ireland would best be designed and conducted.

It addresses the shortcomings and gaps of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, especially to design and conduct the process well when the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is obliged to call for a vote if a majority for a united Ireland demands the same.

Though scholars like Brendan O’Leary and Malachi O’Doherty have also been discussing valuable and complementary approaches that explore the path to Irish re-unification, one posits that it must be the Gandhian Path of Conflict Resolution which must be explored.

There are two very practical reasons for it. First, violence has no place in political negotiations and settlements. Northern Ireland, which is currently part of the United Kingdom, suffered decades of violence known as the Troubles, a conflict largely between pro-UK Protestants and pro-secession Catholics.

Secondly, Britain has a bit of a difficult relationship with US President Joe Biden, who is of Irish Catholic heritage, and, therefore, the leading power of the world, with all its current set of challenges, would prefer to prioritise and focus on the management of its own local affairs.

So that paves the way for the Gandhian non-violent praxis that effectively inspired freedom movements of countries like India and South Africa while inspiring individuals like Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela and Lech Walesa for the greater good.

Both Britain and Ireland are responsible members of the United Nations, which observes October 2, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, as the International Day of Non-violence every year.

In addition, both Britain and Ireland share a very unique and special bond with India. There are numerous threads which connect India and Ireland as both struggled and fought for independence from the British.

Not only shared imperial histories, comparisons and connections, but also many household names from the Indian nationalist movement came to Ireland at the start of the last century. It resulted in the development of keen friendships between a variety of Irish and Indian freedom fighters, including leading political and literary figures of the day from both countries.

So, can India, under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, play a constructive role to help Britain and Ireland sort out the Irish reunification issue in a Gandhian manner? It is an interesting question worth exploring.

PM Modi was always inspired and guided by the peace mantra “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam,” and while dedicating his life for the motherland also aspired to secure a global vision for India based on international peace and harmony.

During his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Prime Minister Modi underlined the importance of the path of peace and dialogue to sort out issues and differences between countries instead of war.

Prime Minister Modi’s approach and suggestions found great resonance with global leadership including that of France and the US. Though not exactly a direct criticism of Russia as spin-doctored by the Economist, none would disagree with the notion that now is not the time for war.

During the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly this year, Mexico made a big statement at the UN that only Prime Minister Modi can end Russia-Ukraine War and broker peace between them.

Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs Marcelo Luis Ebrard Casaubon proposed setting up a panel including PM Narendra Modi, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Pope Francis for brokering peace between Russia and Ukraine.

The idea to have PM Modi’s leadership to secure a global truce that would halt the various conflicts currently raging in the world was first pitched by the current Mexican President, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

So it was not a surprise when Azerbaijan asked for an Indian proposal to ease its situation with Armenia and to bring stability in the region.

Irish nationalist leader John Hume who won the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize, Gandhi Peace Prize and the Martin Luther King Award, had expressed a desire to see Ireland as an example of what can be achieved by living for ideals rather than fighting for them and by viewing each and every person as worthy of respect and honour.

He saw Ireland as people divided into two powerful traditions whose solution will be found not on the basis of victory for either but on the basis of agreement and a partnership between both.

How will the real division of Ireland, which is not a line drawn on the map but in the minds and hearts of its people, will be healed needs to be seen.

Only time will tell how Britain and Ireland sort out the issue and build a future together. But following a Gandhian path will give both an opportunity to have a future as great as their dreams where they wage war on want and poverty and reach out to the marginalised and dispossessed just like any other country in the world.

They can always find a trusted friend in India and count on its leadership, which is always ready to lend a helping hand not only for the betterment of the peoples of Britain and Ireland but also of the humankind. [IDN-InDepthNews – 30 September 2022]

Photo (left to right): Manish Uprety F.R.A.S. and Jainendra Karn.

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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