USI, New Delhi, April 6, 1999 


Lt Gen Satish Nambiar (Retd.) 

(First Force Commander and Head of Mission of the United Nations 
Forces deployed in the former Yugoslavia 03 Mar92 to 02 Mar 93. Former 
Deputy Chief of Staff, Indian Army. Currently, Director of the United 
Services Insitution of India.) 

My year long experience as the Force Commander and Head of Mission of 
the United Nations Forces deployed in the former Yugoslavia has given 
me an understanding of the fatal flaws of US/NATO policies in the 
troubled region. It was obvious to most people following events in the Balkans 
since the beginning of the decade, and particularly after the 
fighting that resulted in the emergence of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-
Herzegovina and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, that Kosovo was 
a 'powder keg' waiting to explode. The West appears to have learnt all the 
wrong lessons from the previous wars and applied it to Kosovo. 

(1) Portraying the Serbs as evil and everybody else as good was not 
only counterproductive but also dishonest. According to my experience all 
sides were guilty but only the Serbs would admit that they were no 
angels while the others would insist that they were. With 28, 000 
forces under me and with constant contacts with UNHCR and the International 
Red Cross officials, we did not witness any genocide beyond killings and 
massacres on all sides that are typical of such conflict conditions. 
I believe none of my successors and their forces saw anything on the 
scale claimed by the media. 

(2) It was obvious to me that if Slovenians, Croatians and Bosniaks 
had the right to secede from Yugoslavia, then the Serbs of Croatia and 
Bosnia had an equal right to secede. The experience of partitions in 
Ireland and India has not be pleasant but in the Yugoslavia case, the 
state had already been taken apart anyway. It made little sense to me 
that if multiethnic Yugoslavia was not tenable that multiethnic 
Bosnia could be made tenable. The former internal boundaries of Yugoslavia 
which had no validity under international law should have been 
redrawn when it was taken apart by the West, just as it was in the case of 
Ireland in 1921 and Punjab and Bengal in India in 1947. Failure to 
acknowledge this has led to the problem of Kosovo as an integral part 
of Serbia. 

(3) It is ironic that the Dayton Agreement on Bosnia was not 
fundamentally different from the Lisbon Plan drawn up by Portuguese 
Foreign Minister Cuteliero and British representative Lord Carrington 
to which all three sides had agreed before any killings had taken place, 
or even the Vance-Owen Plan which Karadzic was willing to sign. One of 
the main problems was that there was an unwillingness on the part of the 
American administration to concede that Serbs had legitimate 
grievances and rights. I recall State Department official George Kenny turning 
up like all other American officials, spewing condemnations of the Serbs 
for aggression and genocide. I offered to give him an escort and to 
go see for himself that none of what he proclaimed was true. He accepted 
my offer and thereafter he made a radical turnaround.. Other Americans 
continued to see and hear what they wanted to see and hear from one 
side, while ignoring the other side. Such behaviour does not produce 
peace but more conflict. 

(4) I felt that Yugoslavia was a media-generated tragedy. The Western 
media sees international crises in black and white, sensationalizing 
incidents for public consumption. From what I can see now, all Serbs 
have been driven out of Croatia and the Muslim-Croat Federation, I 
believe almost 850,000 of them. And yet the focus is on 500,000 
Albanians (at last count) who have been driven out of Kosovo. Western 
policies have led to an ethnically pure Greater Croatia, and an 
ethnically pure Muslim statelet in Bosnia. Therefore, why not an 
ethnically pure Serbia? Failure to address these double standards has 
led to the current one. 

As I watched the ugly tragedy unfold in the case of Kosovo while 
visiting the US in early to mid March 1999, I could see the same 
pattern emerging. In my experience with similar situations in India in such 
places as Kashmir, Punjab, Assam, Nagaland, and elsewhere, it is the 
essential strategy of those ethnic groups who wish to secede to 
provoke the state authorities. Killings of policemen is usually a standard 
operating procedure by terrorists since that usually invites 
overwhelming state retaliation, just as I am sure it does in the 
United States. 

I do not believe the Belgrade government had prior intention of 
driving out all Albanians from Kosovo. It may have decided to implement 
Washington's own "Krajina Plan" only if NATO bombed, or these 
expulsions could be spontaneous acts of revenge and retaliation by Serb forces 
in the field because of the bombing. The OSCE Monitors were not doing 
too badly, and the Yugoslav Government had, after all, indicated its 
willings to abide by nearly all the provisions of the Rambouillet 
"Agreement" on aspects like cease-fire, greater autonomy to the 
Albanians, and so on. But they insisted that the status of Kosovo as 
part of Serbia was not negotiable, and they would not agree to 
stationing NATO forces on the soil of Yugoslavia. This is precisely 
what India would have done under the same circumstances. It was the West 
that proceeded to escalate the situation into the current senseless 
bombing campaign that smacks more of hurt egos, and revenge and retaliation. 
NATO's massive bombing intended to terrorize Serbia into submission 
appears no differrent from the morality of actions of Serb forces in 
Kosovo. Ultimatums were issued to Yugoslavia that unless the terms of 
an agreement drawn up at Rambouillet were signed, NATO would undertake 
bombing. Ultimatums do not constitute diplomacy. They are acts of 
war. The Albanians of Kosovo who want independence, were coaxed and 
cajoled into putting their signatures to a document motivated with the hope 
of NATO bombing of Serbs and independence later. With this signature, 
NATO assumed all the legal and moral authority to undertake military 
operations against a country that had, at worst, been harsh on its 
own people. On 24th March 1999, NATO launched attacks with cruise 
missiles and bombs, on Yugoslavia, a sovereign state, a founding member of the 
United Nations and the Non Aligned Movement; and against a people who 
were at the forefront of the fight against Nazi Germany and other 
fascist forces during World War Two. I consider these current actions 
unbecoming of great powers. 

It is appropriate to touch on the humanitarian dimension for it is 
the innocent who are being subjected to displacement, pain and misery. 
Unfortunately, this is the tragic and inevitable outcome of all such 
situations of civil war, insurgencies, rebel movements, and terrorist 
activity. History is replete with examples of such suffering; whether 
it be the American Civil War, Northern Ireland, the Basque movement in 
Spain, Chechnya, Angola, Cambodia, and so many other cases; the 
indiscriminate bombing of civilian centres during World War Two; 
Hiroshima and Nagasaki; Vietnam. The list is endless. I feel that 
this tragedy could have been prevented if NATO's ego and credibility had 
not been given the highest priority instead of the genuine grievances of 
Serbs in addition to Albanians. 

Notwithstanding all that one hears and sees on CNN and BBC, and other 
Western agencies, and in the daily briefings of the NATO authorities, 
the blame for the humanitarian crisis that has arisen cannot be 
placed at the door of the Yugoslav authorities alone. The responsibility 
rests mainly at NATO's doors. In fact, if I am to go by my own experience 
as the First Force Commander and Head of Mission of the United Nations 
forces in the former Yugoslavia, from March 1992 to March 1993, 
handling operations in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Macedonia, I would say 
that reports put out in the electronic media are largely responsible 
for provoking this tragedy. Where does all this leave the international 
community which for the record does not comprise of the US, the West 
and its newfound Muslim allies ? The portents for the future, at least in 
the short term, are bleak indeed. The United Nations has been made 
totally redundant, ineffective, and impotent. The Western world, led 
by the USA, will lay down the moral values that the rest of the world 
must adhere to; it does not matter that they themselves do not adhere to 
the same values when it does not suit them. National sovereignty and 
territorial integrity have no sanctity. And finally, secessionist 
movements, which often start with terrorist activity, will get 
greater encouragement. One can only hope that good sense will prevail, 
hopefully sooner rather than later. 

Lt General Satish Nambiar 
Director, USI, New Delhi 
6 April 1999 

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