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The U.N. and the Thaw

United Nations, New York

Senseless and dangerous as it was, the undeclared war between India and Pakistan has nevertheless brought about a development that could prove to be hopeful both in its immediate and its future effects: a degree of diplomatic cooperation between Russia and the United States that would have seemed unthinkable a few months ago. A cautious man, Secretary of State Rusk has not hesitated to define the Russian attitude in the present crisis as “helpful.” The Soviet spokesmen, whose public relations problems within the Communist bloc are a little more complex, have not made similar statements. Their “helpful” utterances are coupled with attacks on the American policy in Vietnam. But these are just for the record, and they do not weaken the meaning of the Russian position—one of outright collaboration with the U.S. in the effort to end the conflict and prevent its eruption into an Asian Serajevo.

With the acceptance on September 22 of a ceasefire by both sides, it now seems that this joint endeavor has been successful. It was an effort that took many forms, some tacit and some open. The United States and Russia both exerted direct pressure on the belligerents to obtain an end to the hostilities. They both warned Peking to stay out of the conflict. And both countries have given full support to the United Nations in the various steps it has taken to handle the crisis: the first Security Council resolution of September 4; the peace mission of Secretary General U Thant to Rawalpindi and New Delhi; the second Security Council resolution of September 20.

How can we evaluate this sudden experiment in what can be called “parallel diplomacy”? Is it only a temporary expedient, dictated by a chaotic emergency that has broken the rules of the traditional alignments? Or is it a new stage in relations between the two superpowers? The answer generally given, that the Russian-American cooperation in the India-Pakistani crisis merely reflects a specific “coincidence of interests,” has the truth of the obvious but does not really explain what has happened. Until now the United States and the Soviet Union have competed, as they still compete, for influence in the Indian subcontinent. Until now and even now, their policies on a settlement of the Kashmir problem have differed. In other circumstances the Russians might well have exploited the chaos of this crisis. As the last few weeks have shown clearly, what has shifted the focus of Soviet policy has been an overriding concern for the Asian balance of power. And here lies the area of common interest with Washington. Growing conflict among the unstable nations on the Indian subcontinent could create a “power vacuum” that China would inevitably fill. It is the kind of situation that has always been a nightmare for the State Department. American foreign policy since the end of the war has been dictated by the desire to prevent similar disasters from occuring. The novelty is that the Russians now share this preoccupation.

There was a time when the difference between extremists and moderates among the Washington policy-makers consisted in the fact that they first tended to see the “hidden hand” of the Kremlin at work in virtually any major crisis; while the second, more charitably, maintained that the very existence of international conflict or local revolution forced the Russians, sometimes reluctantly but no less inevitably, to move in. The present crisis has now openly shown the Soviet Union in the role of a determined defender of stability, a power vitally interested in the preservation of the status quo. To this overriding consideration the Russians even appear ready to subordinate some of the positions they have previously taken in the Kashmir controversy. But in fact this is not a completely new development: Moscow’s foreign policy has been gradually moving along this road since the Cuban confrontation in the autumn of 1962.

There is a widespread tendency to contrast the positive “dialogue” established between Washington and Moscow during the Kennedy administration with the rigidity that has characterized East-West relations from 1964 on—as if both the superpowers had shifted their diplomacy and retreated from a bold and promising course. But this is an oversimplification. In reality the Russian aim since the Cuban missile crisis has been above all to preserve and consolidate the status quo. And the best proof of this is the nuclear test ban treaty, the most important, and rightly celebrated, agreement of the Kennedy-Khrushchev period: its meaning was to give legal sanction to the status quo where nuclear weapons were concerned.

What has in fact happened since the Kennedy-Khrushchev period has been a breakdown of the Soviet-American dialogue, with nothing to take its place: first there were Kennedy’s death and Khruschev’s removal from power; and then the sharpening of the Russian-Chinese controversy; and finally, the American policy in Vietnam. The India-Pakistan crisis has now opened the way for a new method of collaboration that can be defined as “parallelism.” And the basic rules of this collaboration are beginning to emerge. Rule number one is that the cooperation of the United States and the Soviet Union in preserving stability should be tacit rather than formal. The Russians do not want at this moment to be “bracketed” with the U.S. This, they fear, would weaken them in the eyes of the Communist world and of the non-aligned countries because of the situation in Vietnam. Therefore Moscow has refused to go along with any suggestion of “joint appeal” to India and Pakistan, and has preferred the technique of unilateral but coordinated moves. But, as is so often the case, the need to avoid the appearance of open collaboration has required very close contact between the diplomats of both sides. Rule number two: whenever a common action becomes necessary it should be channeled through the machinery of the U. N. This protects Russia from the accusation that it is following the same policy as the United States. Thus the United Nations, considered moribund a year ago, may now begin to play a new and important role. The agreement between the two great powers could now make it possible for the Security council to work as effectively as it did during the Palestine crisis of 1948.

The crisis in the Indian subcontinent offers the first testing ground of the new method of cooperation through parallel diplomacy. We must wait to see how it works in the period following the ceasefire before we know whether it can be successfully extended to other areas and other problems. But it has already succeeded in unfreezing the relations of Russia and the United States.

AXED BABOON WAS HER HUSBAND

Johannesburg

A woman charged with murdering her husband with an axe claimed in Pretoria Supreme Court last week that she attacked him in error, thinking he was a baboon. The woman, Mrs. Lena Baloyi, aged 28 and mother of three, was granted bail.

Mrs. Baloyi said that for some time she and her husband had been sleeping in different rooms. She had been frightened by strange noises at night and on July 26, when her youngest child’s crying woke her, she found a “baboon” in the room and struck it repeatedly with an axe. She had no thought of attacking her husband.

Sunday Times, London

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