South Asia has always intrigued me, especially India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. By a twist of fate, I was fortunate enough to serve as the first Ambassador of my country in Dhaka for four years. During my tenure, I tried to follow the countries of the region and their general trends. When assessing countries from a diplomatic perspective, our countries’ relations and interests cannot be taken out of the context.
Among many countries, the developments, especially in India draw my attention. The cultural diversity and richness of this huge country with a population of 1.4 billion are worth exploring more. Belief systems and values born in India have become of significant values in different countries today. The lands of India, which have drawn the route of societies in the spiritual sense, have also brought very successful leaders to different parts of the world. Today, there are very successful leaders of Indian origin on every continent. From the presidents to the prime ministers, from the MPs to the mayors, there are leading figures of Indian origin who contribute to the development of countries of which they are citizens of. I think the secret to these people’s success is their hardworking and profound reverence for serving others.
While I admired Indians’ achievements around the world, during my four years in South Asia, I ex-officio wanted to emulate New Delhi’s position on us, notably Kosovo. In Indian position I saw the traces of the versions fabricated by our neighbor Serbia. Unfortunately, predominantly the Serbian versions influenced India’s perceptions and prejudices towards Kosovo. It’s also very difficult to make your opponents’ made-up stories forgettable.
On the other side each country has its own foreign policy priorities and interests. It’s understandable that India has its own challenges such as accommodation of interests of diverse sub-identities and communities in the country, but also regarding its relations with neighboring countries, especially border disputes with China and Pakistan. Likewise, we, as the new country are looking for a permanent solution on the basis of equity with our neighbor Serbia, through mutual recognition. Therefore, India, Kosovo and also their neighbors can address prevailing problems and effectively achieve resolutions.
In order to get over India’s prejudices against us, it is useful to state some facts. First of all, Kosovo is a `sui generis` case and, as such, it cannot be compared to any other situation and cannot represent a precedent for any other entity or territory in the world. If India sees the Kosovo issue as a precedent for its internal issues, it would be doing itself an injustice, above all. Serbia may want to create such a perception in India, but this perception will harm the processes related to Kosovo and also can create confusion regarding the future of India. “Kosovo case is `sui generis` and taking it as a precedent for other cases leads to confusion and does not serve to solve problems.”
To understand how Kosovo achieved independence, it is essential to comprehend its history. In 1989, Belgrade abolished Kosovo’s autonomy and two years later, as the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY) disintegrated, Kosovo lost its status as a federal entity in the ex-country with rights similar to those of the six republics. During the 1990s Kosovo and its institutions were under the Serbian occupation. Serbian authorities consistently discriminated Kosovars, excluding them from governance and public life, along with exclusion from the health and educational system. In reaction, the Kosovo leadership under Ibrahim Rugova pursued a policy of peaceful resistance for several years, before the lack of progress led to the formation of the Kosovo Liberation Army and armed struggle. This, in turn, encouraged the Serbians to exercise more pressure against the Kosovars. Following a failed attempt to negotiate a settlement at Rambouillet, France, in March 1999, NATO decided to stop humanitarian crises in Kosovo and intervened in Serbian targets. During the Serbian atrocities more than half of the Kosovars became refugees or internally displaced. After the war, the problems were tried to be solved through negotiations. But after all the attempts, the UN special envoy, former Finnish president Martti Ahtisaari, gave the green light for the status of Kosovo, as a ‘sui generis’ case. Although Serbia, Russia and some other countries insist on denying the truth, Kosovo’s independence has become an irreversible fact.
It should be noted that, more than half of member countries of the UN have recognized the independence of the Republic of Kosovo. The majority of these countries are geographically close to Kosovo and they realized that the case is unique and cannot be used as a precedent for other cases. In addition they considered the peace and stability of the region as well as their own peace and stability. On the other side, the International Court of Justice ruled that the declaration of independence of Kosovo was not in violation of international law.
If India continues to have a Russia-like approach on Kosovo and in the Balkan region, will make a huge mistake. Russia is focused more on its own potential opportunities in the equation of relations in the region of the Balkan Peninsula. This is not a correct and healthy approach. Russia preferably misinterprets the Kosovo example, thinking that, this as a case will be beneficial for Russian interests. Russia also through its proxies, is trying to destabilize Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro as well. Russian denial has its own motives and this caused that all the doors in Balkan Peninsula except Serbia are closed to them. On the other side, it would be inappropriate for India to adopt a similar point of view and to continue its objections regarding Kosovo. It is obvious that the doors of the Balkan nations will not be closed to India if New Delhi preserves its democratic values and have democratic approach to the problems.
I have read a few documents where India’s objection to Kosovo is related to its relations with Serbia, and these relations ‘according to Indian official statements’ are particularly defined in the context of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). It is worth mentioning that Serbia is not a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, but only trying to benefit from the platform by falsely introducing itself as a legal inheritor of the former SFRY, which is not true. Even if NAM is considered as a reference point, it should be remembered that Serbia, during the 90s, violated all the main principles of it. During the dissolution of the SFRY, Serbia`s acts destroyed equality between federal units, but also Belgrade had and still has hegemonic aspirations. Serbia during that time attacked the territorial integrity and sovereignty of other federal units, applied aggression towards them, interfered in their domestic affairs, violated the principle of equality and violated co-existence of all of the nations in former country. Furthermore, Serbia`s aggression caused humanitarian crises in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo, and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in former SFRY. India could make major mistake if it views Kosovo and the issues in the Balkan Peninsula in isolation from all of these tragedies. This can be counterproductive, especially for India, a country that aims to prioritize peace and harmony. Otherwise, condoning someone’s hegemony in the Balkans will be a bad precedent and can cause negative effects in the long term.
The independence of the Republic of Kosovo has had an impact on the overall development of the country as well as on the emancipation of Kosovar society. Citizens of Kosovo after the declaration of independence have demonstrated their talents in every field like sports and art such as music, cinematography, but also in economics and in many other spheres of life. Freedom, democracy, and peace have made Kosovars achieve successes globally.
Our hope is that India officially recognizes Kosovo as soon as possible. Indian recognition of Kosovo will also help Serbia to get rid of its hegemonic ambitions and to focus on the regional peace and stability. Mutual recognition between the Republic of Kosovo and India will convey a good message for democracy and peace in the world. There are numerous opportunities and potential for cooperation between the two countries. As Kosovo, we are trying to tell our story to India. We are trying to explain that Kosovars are peace-loving, that we have a vibrant population with the youngest median age in Europe and that we can develop both bilateral relations and cooperate on multilateral platforms.
We have a lot to learn from India, which is on a steady growth trend and aims to become the world’s third-largest economy. As a first step, it is necessary for India not to cause difficulties in issuing visas to Kosovar athletes, artists, and other categories. Worth to mention that, even in Russia, known as a leading adversary of Kosovo’s independence, the national anthem of Kosovo was played and the flag of the country was fluttered at international sports events. It is also important for both Kosovo and India to contribute to P2P relations. Since we as Kosovars have many P2P contacts with Serbians with the aim of contributing to reconciliation between the nations, why not have with India as well? There are many things to share with each other. Through constructing bridges of friendship, we can achieve immense results.