Pain in Spain

By NT Bureau Published on Oct 30, 2017 01:50 PM IST

All nations that were at the receiving end of Europe’s preachy sermons on human rights and self-determination must be silently gleeful over its predicament ever since the Syrian refugee crises began. Europe pulled up short on the very standards it had set for the rest of the world in dealing with economic refugees. And the world watches again as Europe tackles another tricky political issue — the independence of Catalonia, Spain’s economic engine. From Kosovo to Kashmir, and from Sri Lanka’s Northern Province to South Sudan, Europe has promoted the right to plebiscite. Europe’s stand was in tandem with its foreign policy aims because it had a bone to pick with each of those nations.

Europe didn’t face the problem of unsolicited mass migration as long as its economy was humming. It could pick and choose migrant workers from the developing world (Turks in Germany, Asians in the UK, North Africans to France). Its lack of diversity encouraged its politicians to talk down to countries grappling with diversity after WW II. Is it any wonder that all those countries that sought plebiscite in Kashmir are now backing Madrid against the separatists of Catalonia who have the wind of a favourable plebiscite behind them?

However, Europe is deeply steeped in the rule of law and the two World Wars weakened the spirit of vengeance in many of its citizens. Therefore, hopefully Catalonia will not witness the brutalities inflicted by the state on dissenters elsewhere. Catalonia is up against the entire Western power structure. India would also want Catalonia to peacefully negotiate its differences with Spain predicated on the very postulates that thwarted Quebec from seceding from Canada: upholding the constitution as the supreme law of the country and the federal government acting only with powers allocated to it. Madrid has started taking heavy-handed measures, though mailed fist is not yet in evidence. The world will watch keenly how Spain settles its internal differences.