ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Derecognition of Western Sahara

The government of India has decided, suddenly without any explanation, to withdraw the recognition granted in 1985 to the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic. Why has the government done this when all the considerations for the recognition of the Saharawi Republic in 1985 continue to hold good?

The sudden unexpected U-turn by the Vajpayee government in a sectors of India’s foreign policy has far-reaching implications which may even be ominous. This has gone largely unnoticed but for a few lines in some newspapers and a brief condemnation by the CPI(M). The other political parties look unconcerned. The Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic’s charge d’affaires in New Delhi was summoned to the ministry of external affairs on June 23 and told that the government of India had decided to withdraw recognition of his state with immediate effect. The stunned counsellor of the Saharawi embassy asked for the reason. None was given. Later the same day, an announcement before the media and on the ministry’s website said: “Keeping in mind all aspects of the evolving situation in the region and discussions currently on between the parties concerned, it has been decided to withdraw recognition from the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) with immediate effect. India continues to keep in touch with developments in line with its support for UN efforts and the warm and friendly relations traditionally existing with all the parties concerned.” The only additional information was that “in response to a question, the briefing official said that India supports [the] UN settlement plan on this issue”.

The statement was deliberately vague. Those who drafted and okayed it were careful to avoid specifics. Derecognition of a state is a weighty matter and this is the first time the Indian republic has resorted to it. The foreign policy managers in New Delhi should have explained to all concerned, including the people of India in the first place, how the situation which had induced the government to extend recognition to the SADR 15 years ago, had changed – if it really has – to warrant withdrawal of that recognition. The statement skirted round that duty by using words and phrases which tried only to obscure the present situation in Western Sahara. What is the “evolving situation” and what are the “discussions currently on between the parties”? The EA ministry’s statement of October 1, 1985 announcing recognition of SADR and the justification is on record. The full text needs recalling and here are the three paragraphs:

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