Drawn by war victors and colonial powers in South Asia, Middle East and Africa, in a protracted period beginning in the wake of the First World War up until the end of the decolonisation of 1960s, these artificial boundaries have remained to be one of the major sources of intra-state violence – not to mention various inter-state border wars. Indeed, these boundaries are not social but political constructs; they do not reflect cultural, national and historical realities.
And yet, ironically, they are deemed essential for maintenance of order and stability.
What was the prime motive that drove the European powers to fiddle with centuries-old cultural frontiers is an inquisitive subject that, of course, requires thorough investigation. What became clear, however, in the wake of decolonisation was that both former colonial powers of Europe and the successor states in Africa and Asia were seen determined to defend these unjust arrangements.
In spite of their mutual differences on a host of international issues, such as trade and aid imbalances as well as equal representation in international institutions, both groups of states were, nonetheless, united in preservation of newly established status quo ante: The present international boundaries must remain intact.
Conscious of their legally protected status within international law as “sovereign entities,” the elite of each newly independent state embarked on an aggressive path to create a unitary state, often crushing not only the customs and traditions of small nationalities but also, in some cases, pushing for new settlements in their territories in order to change the demographic facts in the pretext of developments and economic progress. Xingjian in China and Balochistan in Iran and Pakistan are obvious cases in this regard.
Faced with criticism on the foreign front, a series of resolutions were passed by these quasi states (to borrow a term from Robert Jackson) during the 1970s in UN General Assembly, soon, followed by another set of resolutions from African Union: defending the legal norm of non-interference in the domestic affairs of sovereign states. When questions raised by the former colonial powers over their repressive treatment of minority groups, the leadership of quasi states were quick to invoke international legal norms. Hence, any criticism on their abusive conducts was tantamount to intervention in state sovereignty.
But, as the Cold War came to a dramatic end, so did the myth of inviolability of international borders. From the breakup of Yugoslavia in early 1990s to the recent independence of South Sudan, and the ongoing crisis in Libya, it has increasingly become clear that the legal norms, such as non-interference and respect of state sovereignty, are not applicable when it comes to abusive behaviour of dominant groups, rogue armies or regimes within the quasi states. Sovereignty, indeed, comes with responsibilities.
The following articles reflect major changes underway in international arena. In the past, state sovereignty of a quasi state was seen as a sacred norm by the international society, often overlooking their artificial makeup. But, over recent years that perception has changed; the logic behind this shift is simple: if the status quo ante is not sustainable, it won’t be sustained.
– Belaar –
Breaking Up Is Good to Do
Southern Sudan is just the beginning. The world may soon have 300 independent, sovereign nations ... and that's just fine.
This year will almost certainly see the birth of a new country named Southern Sudan. It might also witness the creation of an independent Palestine, as Palestinian leaders push for unilateral recognition of their national sovereignty within their country's 1967 borders. And within a couple of years, a sovereign Kurdistan might emerge from a still-brittle Iraq. We could be entering a new period of mass state birth: Imagine an independent South Ossetia, Somaliland, and Darfur too. The trend is nothing new, but it's picking up steam again. The most recent sovereign entrant was in 2008, when Kosovo emerged from the breakup of Yugoslavia; nine years earlier, in 1999, it was East Timor gaining independence from Indonesia.
Because of this wave of self-determination culminating in sovereignty, there are today more autonomous political units in the world than at any time since the Middle Ages of a millennium ago. Within a few decades, we could easily have 300 states in the world. Moreover, we are gradually returning to the medieval world of thousands of multilayered communities ranging from the supranational European Union to the magnetic city-states of the Persian Gulf to the indigenous communities of the Inuit of Canada and Greenland.
This instability is the cartographic expression of an underlying geopolitical phenomenon afflicting much of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia: post-colonial entropy. Except for a few, rare cases, many of the colonies that gained their independence a half-century ago have since experienced unmanageable population growth, predatory and corrupt dictatorship, crumbling infrastructure and institutions, and ethnic or sectarian polarization.
Whether or not Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, or the Democratic Republic of the Congo technically qualify as "failed states," their fates are sealed by their colonial inheritance. Indeed, it's often their borders that are the deepest cause of their conflicts. Many of these national borders are in desperate need of adjustment, and the rest of the world should show more flexibility in allowing them to do so. Europe messed it up the first time, but now the West can support the right regional bodies to adjudicate these new borders -- helping others help themselves in the process.
By this logic, today's hot spots such as Iraq and Afghanistan are not simply "America's Wars." Rather, they are to some extent the unexploded ordinance left over from old European wars, with their fuses lit on slow release. Indeed, the United States had nothing to do with the Sykes-Picot and other agreements that parceled the Levant into French- and British-allied monarchies, or the Congress of Berlin, which drew suspiciously straight lines on Africa's map. Some of these haphazard agreements created oversized or artificial agglomerations like Sudan, which threw together heretofore independent groups of Arabs, Africans, Christians, and Muslims into a country one-fourth the size of the United States but lacking any common national ethos or adequate distribution of resources to sustain commitment to unity. Others did the opposite, like the British officer Henry Mortimer Durand, whose infamous line divided the Pashtun nation between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
This growing cartographic stress is not just America's challenge. All the world's influential powers and diplomats should seize a new moral high ground by agreeing to prudently apply in such cases Woodrow Wilson's support for self-determination of peoples. This would be a marked improvement over today's ad hoc system of backing disreputable allies, assembling unworkable coalitions, or simply hoping for tidy dissolutions. Reasserting the principle of self-determination would allow for the sort of true statesmanship lacking on today's global stage.
In Sudan, the United States has certainly placed itself on the right side of this trend. It has been a key architect of the internationally sanctioned referendum that will likely result in Southern Sudan's independence, making clear that the eventual split is not a U.S.-led conspiracy to hack apart the Arab-Muslim world. Such a legitimate process has given cover to China to reorient its policy as well, balancing its staunch support for the regime of Omar Hassan al-Bashir in Khartoum with upgraded relations with the Southern government in Juba, which has in return promised to honor the China National Petroleum Corp.'s contracts. (Sixty percent of Sudan's oil exports currently go to China.)
But there is more to ushering new nations into existence than preventing neighboring antagonists from invading one another (as fundamentally important as that is). All three of the world's current quasi-states -- Southern Sudan, Palestine, and Kurdistan -- will be effectively landlocked and vulnerable unless they are provided with viable infrastructure to connect to external markets. In addition to the existing Sudanese north-south pipelines, Southern Sudan needs a new pipeline across Kenya to the Indian Ocean to export oil through additional routes. Likewise, Kurdistan needs pipelines via Turkey and Syria to Europe and the Mediterranean Sea, and Palestine needs the Rand Corp.'s proposed "Arc" of road and rail corridors to link the West Bank and Gaza into an integrated unit. These linkages to the outside world are insurance policies against dependence on and domination by neighbors, whether Sudan, Iraq and Turkey, or Israel, respectively. While the White House remains obsessed with "security guarantees" for Israel that rest on empty or short-lived gestures of goodwill, it is infrastructure, rather, that is the prerequisite to peaceful coexistence. Nation-building is as much physical as institutional; independence without infrastructure is impossible.
The entropy afflicting the post-colonial world will not stop anytime soon. States like Congo, Nigeria, and Pakistan, which are internally diffuse and often intentionally unevenly developed, will soon be too large to manage themselves. It is less likely that they will gather the competence, capacity, and will to become equitable modern states than that they will continue to inspire resistance to the legacies of centralized misrule.
The coming partitions must be performed with a combination of scalpel and ax, soft and hard power. Above all, the world must recognize that these partitions are inevitable. Our reflex is to fear changes on the map out of concern for violence or having to learn the names of new countries. But in an age when any group can acquire the tools of violent resistance, the only alternative to self-determination is perpetual conflict. After genocidal campaigns such as Saddam Hussein's gassing of the Kurds and Serbia's brutal repression of the Kosovars, it is impossible to imagine those groups again living under one government. Rather than delay, the emphasis should be on diplomatic efficiency: Speedy partitions can lead to more amicable outcomes, such as the "velvet divorce" between the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993. Both are now members of the European Union, within which they respect one another's borders even as such borders have largely become irrelevant.
Finally, we must be weary of status quo conservatism motivated by selfish concerns. Russia and China staunchly opposed Kosovo's independence for the sake of their own quasi-imperial possessions, but did a sovereign government in Pristina really undermine Russia's ironclad rule over Chechnya or China's grip on Tibet?
Each territorial conflict has a particular mix of historical, geographic, and diplomatic conditions that will breed unique solutions. But one thing is certain: The way to create a peaceful and borderless world is, ironically, by allowing ever more nations to define themselves and their borders. Then, and only then, will they seek openness and integration with the rest of the world. Breakups are sometimes the path to better friendships.
To Partition or Not to Partition?
The recent referendum  in southern Sudan endorsing the secession of that region will produce a newly independent country. And it appears that the central government in Khartoum will peacefully accept  the loss of more than a third of its territory—something that it violently opposed over the past several decades.
The outcome in southern Sudan suggests that, contrary to the long-standing bias of current governments in the international system, partition can sometimes be a solution—perhaps the only solution—to irreconcilable differences between ethnic or religious groups within a country. Admittedly, one can point to cases in which the strategy has not worked well, for example Britain’s decision to divide its South Asian colony between the newly independent states of predominantly Hindu India and predominantly Muslim Pakistan. A few cases have even produced disastrous results (the division of Palestine being the premier example). But it is equally possible to cite examples in which the results have been positive, and were certainly better than the alternative. The dissolution of the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia’s “velvet divorce” are clear instances of that outcome.
As I suggest here , chronically dysfunctional Bosnia-Herzegovina ought to be considered a prime candidate for partition. Despite the utter failure of that artificial entity to forge anything even faintly resembling national cohesion—much less a competent government and functioning economy—in the more than 15 years since the Dayton Accords ended a violent civil war, U.S. and European leaders still  insist  on keeping Bosnia intact, even if it must remain indefinitely on life support from international agencies. That is an appallingly short-sighted strategy.
Western policy makers grasp at ever more fragile straws to make their case that Bosnia will eventually turn out to be a success story. The favorite recent panacea  is that once Bosnia joins the European Union, the petty ethnic quarrels among the country’s Serb, Croat, and Muslim communities will become irrelevant.Not only does that assumption underestimate the depth of the continuing ethnic hatreds, it is wildly optimistic about the probability of the EU admitting Bosnia anytime soon.
There is more and more grumbling within the major EU states about some of the existing smaller and weaker members. That is especially true in Germany, which has had to shoulder primary responsibility for the financial bailouts of some of those members. The EU already has to deal with such members states as Greece, Portugal, and Ireland that have severe economic problems. It already has one member (Cyprus) that has a huge, unresolved territorial issue (with Turkish troops occupying the northern 37 percent of the country) and another member (Spain) with two simmering secessionist issues. EU governments are likely to be very reluctant about acquiring Bosnia as a member when the country has both political and economic defects that are intractable.
Both the United States and the EU should accept the manifest  desire  of the Serb minority (some one-third of Bosnia’s population, and one that inhabits a reasonably compact territory) to secede and either form an independent country or merge with Serbia. The United States and its NATO allies have tried to dictate policy in Bosnia for far too long. Their meddling has produced a festering, unsustainable situation. They need to change course and approve a political transition based on partition. Their sole goal should be to orchestrate that process to maximize the probability that it will be peaceful.