Libyan leader Colonel Moammar Gaddafi’s death last Thursday sparked heated reactions from major powers in Asia. In this post, we highlight the viewpoints coming out of Russia, China and India, many of which are highly critical of NATO’s role in Libya.
Compared to China and India, reactions from Russia have been the most critical and extensive, including the official response. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said NATO actions preceding the death of Gaddafi should be scrutinized for their compliance with international law, and emphasized “they should not have killed him.”
Commentaries in the press have likewise been negative. A round-up of expert reactions was reported by the Moscow News:
- Andrei Fedvashin, RIA Novosti political analyst: “No one gave NATO sanction to hunt Gaddafi and bomb the suburbs of Sirte under siege.”
- Georgy Mirsky of the World Economy and International Relations Institute, however, thought that Russia was to some extent complicit in NATO’s actions in Libya: “If in March, Moscow did not abstain in the UN Security Council vote [that authorized the no-fly zone], then the colonel would still be in power now.”
Views on Libya’s future appear mixed:
- Sergey Markov, director of the Institute for Political Research: the situation in Libya “will be more or less peaceful.” He expressed confidence that the new Libyan government would be able to unify the different tribal factions, including those who were dominant during Gaddafi’s rule.
- Evgeny Minchenko, director of the International Institute for Political Enterprise, was less optimistic: “low-intensity civil war…is likely to continue for quite a while, same as…in Iraq and…the AfPak region.”
- Fedor Lukyanov, editor of Russia In Global Politics, said Gaddafi’s death has removed the single unifying force in Libya, adding that he did not believe in the West’s and NATO’s abilities to manage the situation. Lukyanov was also skeptical of Russia’s future access to Libya’s oil resources, commenting that “The British, the French, the Italians did not risk their money, reputation, etc to then share the Libyan market with companies of the countries who did not take part in the operation.”
In contrast to Russia, the official reaction from China struck a positive tone. Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Jiang Yu commented that “The history of Libya has opened a new page. We hope that Libya will swiftly launch the inclusive political process of transition.”
Commentary in the press, however, was more cynical:
- Li Hongmei, editor and columnist of the online version of People’s Daily, expressed skepticism that Gaddafi’s death would bring peace to Libya. Aside from the challenge of how to govern the deeply divided country, Libya also needs to revive its oil production, which Li characterized as “Libya’s lifeline and also the only bait to fish Western power’s appetite and attention.“
- A commentary in the Xinhua News sounded a similar note: “What’s also fueling the uncertainty about Libya’s future is the involvement of foreign powers, which may seek to have a hand in the post-Gaddafi era for their own benefit.”
- Gaddafi’s death is “perceived as the end of strongman rule in the Middle East“,
said the Global Times. The editorial noted that “democracy will be further regarded as the general trend accepted by various regimes,” but then highlighted worldwide “dissatisfaction and doubt” over the ability of democratic governments to provide public services, as seen in the current global recession. Democracy “needs to needs to adapt to the reality of different countries.”
The Economic Times reported that while “India refrained from reacting officially” to Gaddafi’s death, the government did issue a joint statement with France that expressed India’s willingness to work with France to help the National Transitional Council of Libya “to establish democratic institutions in a free Libya, to promote human rights, and to rebuild their country.” (A brief comment from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs is available here.)
- In an accompanying editorial, the Economic Times urged India to “offer all possible assistance to Libya to make that transition, in the interests of democracy and also those of the large number of Indian workers formerly resident in the country.” The paper also said Gaddafi’s death “signal[ed] the end of an era in Arab countries,” and that “the regimes in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain…would do well to…comprehend the sweeping desire for democracy and make way for the opposition.”
- In contrast, The Hindu ran an editorial with a markedly different viewpoint, strongly criticizing the way in which Gaddafi was killed and questioning the humanitarian justification for NATO’s intervention. Calling attention to the role of western powers and “this sorry saga of violent regime change,” the paper asks, “Does the West want democracy in Libya or just any friendly regime that will give it access to the country’s oil?” On India’s role, The Hindu also expressed its disappointment that the Indian government had not expressed concern at Gaddafi’s violent death.
For a review of earlier Russian, Chinese and Indian reactions to military intervention in Libya, see our 24 March 2011 blog post on “Military Intervention in Libya.”