By Prince Akpah The 2017 Premium Bank Ghana Startup Awards,…
History has proven overtime that proximity has little to do with friendly relations between countries. A shared border does not necessarily translate to closer political and economic ties between countries. Some of the worst international rivalries and conflicts have occurred, and still occur between neighboring countries who in some cases also share a common heritage, culture, language and ancestry besides a common geographical border.
In this list, we look at seven examples of such neighbors having ‘fifty shades of problems’ with their neighborliness.
Relations between these two regions that later became Iran and Iraq had always been bitter as both were, for long, seats of rival empires. Present day Iran and Iraq, neighbors sharing a long border post of about 1460 km, have had a topsy-turvy relationship for many decades. There have been conflicts from land and waterways borders and the desire to dominate affairs in the Persian Gulf axis. This mutual feeling of animosity escalated after the Iranian revolution of 1979 which brought the Theocrats to power. The leader of the revolution, Ayatollah, then called on Iraq’s majority Shi’a population to overthrow Saddam’s regime
This feeling of mutual hatred came to a head with the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988. The war which began with Iraq’s invasion of the Iran’s Khuzestan region, saw both sides employ every available war tactic, including chemical weapons to inflict heavy casualties on each other.
Presently, the rivalry has toned down considerably, partly due to the weakening of Iraq after the US led invasion and the lack of a coordinating, central government and the re-emergence of the Shi’a population after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
- North Korea-South Korea
Prior to 1945, NK and SK were one country and one people occupying the territory known as the Korean Peninsula. This territory was administered by the Imperial Japanese Government up until Japan’s defeat in WW II in 1945. What is known as North Korea and South Korea today is simply a product of the cold war. After the defeat, Soviet forces occupied the Northern Part of the Korean Peninsula while US Forces took the South basically to check further Soviet advances. Both regions had separate governments, with each claiming legitimacy over all of the Peninsula.
In 1950, NK forces led by Kim Il-Sung (Kim Jong-Un’s grandpa) and supported by Soviet tanks invaded the South, starting the three-year Korean War. SK, supported by US, pushed back. The Korean eventually ended with no ceasefire, defeat, surrender or formal peace treaty but a mere armistice. Today both countries separated by a De-militarized Zone (DMZ), are still, officially, at war. Both have adopted different ideologies; communism, seclusion for the North, and Capitalism and Freedom for the South.
The Indian nation that attained independence in 1947 comprised present day Pakistan and Bangladesh. Differences in religion stoked by British colonial leaders resulted in an intense mistrust between Muslims and Hindus in the years leading to independence. This led Prominent Muslim leaders led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah to demand for a separate Muslim State. Thus the ‘Great India’ was partitioned into Pakistan and India. The partition was anything but thorough anyway, and till date, certain border regions are not clearly defined, chief among them the Kashmir Regions. Following partition, millions of people migrated across both territories.
Today, India and Pakistan are both nuclear power nations. Both have fought series of wars, three over the unresolved Kashmir region and one over Bangladesh. Both have accused each other of sponsoring terrorism and rebellion. Decades after partition, the divide between people who look the same and once shared a common territory and destiny is even deeper.
- Sudan-South Sudan
That landlocked South Sudan is the World’s youngest nation as at today is not in doubt. That the nation has been, effectively, dead on arrival due to inter-ethnic strife spearheaded by its leaders is also not in doubt. For decades, up until 2005, the mainly non-Muslim Southern region, through the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army, fought to break out of Sudan in order to escape perceived marginalization and victimization by the mainly Muslim Sudan. The peace deal of 2005 led to the referendum of 2011 and a new nation was born. After Independence, a diplomatic crisis broke out with ‘North’ Sudan over Abyei region, a key border town rich in oil deposit and which accounted for more than a quarter of oil exports by Sudan prior to break-up. With key oil pipelines passing through ‘North Sudan’ to the port city of Port Sudan, both nations have laid strong claims to exploration rights and are yet to agree on any sharing formula. Today, feelings of mutual mistrust remain strong following decades of wars, violence and perceived exploitation.
- United Stated and Russia
To start with, are the US and Russia actually neighbors? Hell Yes, if you are not thinking about Moscow to New York or Washington DC. In the Bering Strait, somewhere in the Pacific, there are two rocky islands; Big Diomede (Russian territory) and Little Diomede (US territory) which are 3.8km apart!
Seriously though, little else can be said about the US-Russia rivalry. The Alliance by both nations saw to the defeat of Hitler’s Nazi-axis forces in 1945. With the common enemy dead, both nations started out on a quest to dominate world affairs and this show of superiority traversed global economy, politics, military, intelligence, space science and technology. The Cold War that lasted for decades was a clash of ideologies (Communism V Capitalism) championed by both powers through several direct and proxy conflicts and near conflicts from the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, Korean and Vietnam Wars of the 50s, the Congo Crisis of the 60s and more. Actually, things have toned down considerably since the collapse of the Mighty USSR in the early 1990s.
Today, the rivalry, less confrontational but still as deep, is executed using more diplomatic channels such as sanctions, and veto powers at the UN Security Council. Both are nuclear powers with the largest arsenals on earth. In recent time, both nations have expressed their animosity by adopting differing stances on North Korea, Syrian Crisis and accusations and counter-accusations of meddling in each other’s internal affairs.
- Israel and Egypt
Israel and Egypt may enjoy relative peace today due to the Camp David Accords of 1978, but things have not always been like this. In the decades prior to the accords, Egypt and Israel had fought no less than six wars directly or by proxy.
Past leaders, Anwar Sadaat and Menachem Begin risked their political futures and lives to work out a very difficult but fairly comprehensive peace agreement for Israel and Egypt in 1979. This agreement binds both parties to this very minute. The treaty saw Israel relinquish control over the Sinai Peninsula while Egypt must leave the area permanently demilitarized and also to grant Israeli ships free passage through the Suez Canal amongst other agreements concessions.
The peace between these two is, in reality, a ‘cold peace’. It is one necessitated by both parties’ desperate needs for the objects of the agreement, rather than the desire to foster mutual love and neighborliness. Despite the treaty, low level diplomatic conflicts have occurred over keeping to terms of the treaty and doubts over one party’s continued commitments. Thankfully, such conflicts have been resolved diplomatically.
- Israel and Palestine
What else can one say about Israel and Palestine? To discuss the very origin and nature of this pair would be beyond the scope of this piece. It is also one that stokes a lot of emotion and sentiments. We shall however, attempt a very short but balanced summary of the roots and issues of the World’s most protracted conflict.
Prior to 1948, the region comprising Israel and Palestine presently was part of the Ottoman Empire. Britain assumed control after the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1917, creating a ‘British Mandate of Palestine’. This gave Britain administrative authority over the region that comprised present day Israeli and Palestinian territories and Jordan, effective July 1922 to 1948. Just around the expiry of this ‘British Mandate’, a partition plan by the League of Nations to divide Palestine into Jewish and Arab States was accepted by the Jews but rejected by the Arabs.
Following the expiry of the ‘British Mandate’ in 1948, a series of events led to the formal declaration of a State of Israel in 1948. Since that event, the ‘displaced’ Palestinian population have never held back in their bid to reclaim what they believed were their ancestral lands from Israel or at the very least, enjoy total autonomy over the occupied territories of West Bank and Gaza amongst other demands. From the Arab Israeli Wars of 1948 to the Intifadas of the 1980s and 2000s, there has never been a shortage of violence between these two parties and highly contentious issues such as the status of Jerusalem, settlements, security, water control are considered non-negotiable by both parties.
Today, little progress is made on the diplomatic fronts as negotiations have stalled totally. The level of mistrust and hatred gets deeper with each generation.
Tijjani Abdulsalam loves research, history, football, good food. Follow him on Twitter:@TeejayKool, and Instagram:@teejay.kool