Risks of weaponising nationalism

By Brig. Sanal Kumar {retd.} / sanalkumarn@gmail.com   

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The pitfalls of nationalism in heavy doses can be remedied if countries friendly to those at war can take the lead to tone down jingoist rhetoric and hard-line positions

A detail from Liberty Leading the People by
Eugène Delacroix commemorating
the July Revolution of 1830,
which toppled King Charles X of France.
Photo: Wikipedia

The ultimate defence of any state is the will of its people. The passion to stand up and be counted for the “ashes of his fathers and the temples of his Gods” is a powerful weapon - in the face of sure danger. It is perhaps the most formidable weapon that a besieged country like Ukraine has in its armoury.

Like weapons of last resort, the Brahmastras of our epics, this too has to be used with wisdom, a clear understanding of its deadly potential, and ample common sense. As the epics repeatedly remind us, such final weapons must be used only by a person wise enough to control it or abort it.

Unfortunately, the raw emotions that motivate the defence of one’s motherland are often genies that cannot be put back into their bottles, especially in democratic countries where the leadership is contingent upon, and bound by, public support. In a hyper-informed world, extreme nationalism also impedes practical, but less than perfect, solutions; today the Ukrainian President will probably face the wrath of the electorate if he agrees to terms that may be perceived as less than perfect for a true blue and gold Ukrainian nationalist.

This is probably why maximalist negotiating positions have been adopted by both sides at the second round of talks held on Thursday evening at Brest.

Countries who remain friends with both Ukraine and Russia, like India, ought to be putting their good offices to use now, and gently suggesting, and guiding the negotiators away, from hardline initial negotiating positions towards baby steps in give and take, like ceasefires for mutually acceptable periods to allow refugee movement and casualty evacuation.

{English original of the article published in Malayalam in Mathrubhumi daily dated March 5, 2022}

The alumnus of Sainik School, Kazhakoottam, was the deputy defence attaché in the Indian embassy in Beijing and a senior Intelligence official in the army HQ

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