Moving Towards South Asian Confederation
Ideal of Human Unity - Chapters

Chapter XXXI Part II

The Conditions of a Free World-Union

Elimination of War and Recognition of Equal Rights

A Free World –Union should have two desiderata:

(a) the elimination of war, and

(b) the recognition of the equal rights of all peoples.

These two principles are “intimately bound up with each other”. (The Ideal of Human Unity, pg.542). Sri Aurobindo opined that unless this interdependence was acknowledged, there would not be any unification of the human race.

Ideally, people should be allowed to group in accordance with their free-will and natural affinities though this might have difficulties with the political and commercial perspectives. Yet natural groupings, even if initially commercially untenable cannot afford to have allowances for war because “force as arbiter of international differences and a free world-union are two quite incompatible ideas and practically could not coexist.” (Ibid, pg.541) The political necessity of war would also not be there as it is usually sported by organically strong nations who do not care about natural groupings. It is expected that in a world-union, the stronger nation would try to deal with differences not by military strength but by a judicious arbitration.

Problems are bound to arise if large masses of men not naturally aligned with each other were included against the will of the nations brought together in the World-State. It would then be “a source of weakness and disunion in the State’s international action – unless indeed it were allowed in the international system to weigh by its bulk and population without regard to the will and opinion of the peoples constituting it.” (Ibid) Sri Aurobindo gives an example of what could happen if Finland and Poland joined Russia in the post-World War I scenario – the will, sentiment and opinions of the Finns and Poles would have no means of expression in a mechanical and unreal unity in a system where comradeship thrived solely on external bonds.

Thus a world-union has to give allowance not only to principles of justice, reason and human rights, but to the principle of freedom that alone can “ensure a sound and peaceful basis for the world-arrangement”.(ibid) To balance the principle of justice with the principle of freedom would be very difficult in a world-order marked by inequality of participant States unless international guidelines for arbitration were set up.

It seems that a forced unity would have both military and political compulsions. Both these compulsions need to be removed. The elimination of war and institution of peaceful arbitration to solve disputes would remove the military compulsion to employ force whenever there is any dissonance. The right of every people to a free voice and status in the world would remove the political fall-out of forcibly bringing people together against their will and right of self-determination. That is why the elimination of war and the acknowledgement of equal rights of all peoples are interlinked with each other in the formation of a viable world-union.

The road to an ideal world unity is long drawn but nevertheless has to proceed through stages that might span more than a century. A year after Sri Aurobindo penned these lines in 1918, the Versailles Treaty of Peace between the Allied and Associated Powers and Germany was signed on 28 June 1919 to fulfill the aspirations of a new global order. Article 14 of that famous treaty projected the establishment of a Permanent Court of International Justice that would ideally operate by reconciling the political inequality of Nations with the principle of judicial equality of States. Arbitration by the Permanent Court remained popular, more so as it served to be a quasi-diplomatic instrument. The Swiss lawyer Max Huber’s arbitration in the American-Dutch dispute regarding the sovereignty of the Island of Palmas (now part of Indonesia) still remains a classical text on the acquisition of sovereignty. When the 1946 International Court of Justice was established, it essentially continued the tradition of the Permanent Court.


Date of Update: 23-Sep-19

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu