Accounting for the West – Abdul Sattar

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The recent G7 conference has attempted to raise the spectre of tensions between the West and other global stakeholders by unleashing a torrent of criticism towards China, triggering a debate among some that the West should also account for its wrongs that it committed in the past.

The gathering did not address the core issues of climate change, vaccine patents and the destruction caused by the pandemic, failing to satisfy environmentalists who wanted a definite plan for preventing the environmental degradation, and campaigners who wished to see an end to vaccine monopoly. American President Joe Biden seized the opportunity to repeat Trump’s mantra regarding the origin of the coronavirus, telling the media that China has to provide access to investigators trying to determine whether the outbreak of the virus occurred in nature or was the result of an experiment gone wrong.

While the world might need 10 billion vaccine doses, the summit committed a very tiny fraction of it. The financing for environment friendly projects is also very insignificant. The global elite gathered in London also ignored the plight of Covid victims, refusing to put an end to the patent monopoly that could help poor states vaccinate their people in less than $7 billion while with patents rights this could go up to $80 billion. People in several parts of Africa, Latin America and Asia are desperate to get themselves vaccinated to avoid death but for Western companies profit is greater than life.

It was imprudent on the part of the American president to trigger a debate about the origin of the coronavirus, landing credence to the scepticism of those who churned out conspiracy theories claiming that China may have been responsible for the spread of the pandemic. If the argument of conspiracy theorists is bought then one would like to know in what way it benefited China. The world suffered a loss of more than four trillion dollars. Beijing’s economic growth also slowed down, inflicting heavy economic losses on the country. Interestingly, it was Western companies that pocketed billions of dollars during the pandemic. Such allegations against China can only be believed by those who peddle frivolous conspiracy theories and want to hide their incompetence while dealing with the contagion.

Natural catastrophes have been hitting humanity for centuries. During the Roman Empire’s times, some of these natural calamities were blamed on Christians and barbarians. Superstitious Christians and the clergy scapegoated the Jews for the pandemic of the 14th century. Such blame games did not help wipe out a number of diseases that played havoc with the lives of millions of people across the globe in the past. It was people of science who invested their energies in trying to come up with treatment for these diseases. The recent vaccine is also a result of the collective efforts of scientists of various nations who just want to serve humanity instead of indulging in blame games. Now that the world has already come up with a deterrent against the deadly virus, we must make it accessible to all, especially those living in the Global South.

The G7 also repeated the mantra of the much-vaunted Western values of human rights, freedom of expression and rule of law. But there is much dichotomy between what they say and what they do. The tall claims of democracy are invisible in the working of the UN where a few powers decide the fate of the world. The very concept of veto flies in the face of this tall claim. If Western democracies want to prove that there is no dichotomy between their claims and actions then the UNGA must be empowered to make crucial decisions on global affairs, especially those related to wars and use of force against any state.

The International Criminal Court should also be empowered and Western countries should save it from coercion and intimidation by the US. The strengthening of the court could help reduce war crimes during conflicts. Washington does not want to commit to any agreement that might require American soldiers to be questioned over their conduct in conflict zones. If the West cannot hold accountable American soldiers for the war crimes that they may have committed in different parts of the world, it could at least bring Australian soldiers before the court to face the allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan. That could be a good beginning. Later, a collective effort should also be made to hold Nato accountable for its actions in defunct Yugoslavia and other parts of the world during various conflicts. Such prosecution should also be launched against the forces of other global powers.

The West should also notice the gross violations of human rights in Occupied Kashmir where more than six million are treated like prisoners. In India, thousands have been killed in fake police encounters on the pretext of battling the Maoist insurgency.

Powerful clubs like the G7 should also come up with a strong stance against Israel that has been oppressing the Palestinians for decades. Despite a number of resolutions of the UNGA, no concrete action has ever been taken against the Zionist state. It is countries like the G7 that pamper this apartheid state. The ruling elite of this club does not need rocket science to figure out whether the settlements in occupied territories are legal or illegal. The Zionist state has been flouting international laws but the Western ruling elite cannot summon enough courage to hold it responsible for the acts of terrorism that it has been perpetrating against the hapless people of Palestine.

If the countries of the G7 really believe in accountability and justice for those who have been wronged in the past, their ruling elites should come forward, offering themselves to be questioned over their actions in the colonies. France should be held accountable for brutal killings of Algerians and other people in French colonies. The UK should confess its crimes in India, Kenya and other parts of the world where it not only killed millions of people through its coercive political and economic policies but also plundered their wealth. The US and Canada should be ashamed of their brutal past that wiped out indigenous populations while Japan should account for its massacres in parts of China that it occupied during the 1930s.

If the G7 countries do not want criminal prosecutions against atrocities that they have committed in the past, they should at least offer monetary compensation to the victim states – which could then be invested for the welfare of their people. There are campaigns in the world demanding such compensations for colonized people of the past. If clubs like the G7 really want to be the judge of the world then they should come clean first.