Meaning of the right of self-determination:
The right means that each nationality should have in separate state. John Stuart Mill in his book, “Representative Government”, has laid a special emphasis on the theory. Late President Woodrow Wilson of the U.S.A. also said, “Self-determination is not a mere phrase, it is an imperative principle of action, which statesmen will henceforth ignore at their peril”. (Quoted by Dr. Garner).
Implementation of the right of self-determination:
According to this principle the province of Alsace Lorraine was given to France. Poland was considered as a free state and its boundaries were merged with ethnic boundary. North Sheleswig was returned to Denmark. The Czechs and Slovaks got freedom from the slavery of Austria and a new state named Czechoslovakia was formed by merging both of them.
Western Slov-serbs; Crete and Slovene were also freed from the Austria- Hungary Empire and a new free state named Yugoslavia way established. Similarly Syria, Mesopotamia, Palestine and Hejaz were freed from the control of Turkish Empire and became partially independent states. According to this right, after the Second World War, India, Sri Lanka, Burma, Malaya, Indonesia, Egypt, Cyprus, Algeria, Ghana, Rhodesia, Congo, Zanzibar and Guinea were freed.
Violation of this right:
In spite of this, the principle was not fully implemented in Paris Peace Conference, 1920. Many Germans were left under the regimes of Poland, Czechoslovakia and Italy and certain people of Hungary were pulled out of the country and were handed over to other states.
Many Lithunian and Rudinian nationals were shifted to Poland and Czechoslovakia. Many Austrians, Albanians and Bulgarians were sent over to Yugoslavia. Similarly in Rumania and Greece, the number of people of other races was so high that they outnumbered the original inhabitants.
Practical difficulties in adopting this principle:
If this principle is adopted, there will be practical difficulties. According to this principle, Scotland and Wales shall have to be separated from England. Moreover, many nationalists will have to be given the right of separation from the Soviet Union and China which will not be tolerated by the governments of these countries.
The Pakhtoons shall be separated from Pakistan, and there will be disorder and anarchy in India. The rebel Naga leaders and Sikh terrorists, had demanded separate states for the Nagas and the Sikhs respectively. These demands were not accepted by the Government of India. Pakistan is harping on the theme of self-determination for Kashmiris.
If on the basis of this right, a plebiscite is held in Kashmir, it will give rise to many complications. According to this principle, many states of Europe will be cut into pieces because, they are inhabited by people belong to several nationalities.
Therefore President Smarik in his tract ‘Small Nations in the European Crisis” wrote that “there are 68 small nations in Europe and if this principle is adopted, Europe will have to be divided into 68 instead of 28 states, which will be a practical difficulty.
For this reason, in Lausanne Peace Conference, 1923 Lord Curzon said, that the principle of self-determination is a double-edged sword and it can only be accepted with some reservations. In 1918 and 1919, plebiscite took place in Aland Island (Europe) and according to that the people decided, almost unanimously, to be separated from Finland and to join Sweden. There was a great controversy over it.
The League of Nations appointed a committee of renowned jurists. The committee suggested that, “there will be a great shock to the sovereign power of the modern states, if the inhabitants of Aland Islands are given the right of self-determination and this will endanger the stability of the state. Not only this, there will be a great danger to the interests of international society.
In India on the basis of this principle, the Muslim League continuously demanded the right of self-determination till 1946-47, with the result that the country was divided in 1947 and Pakistan was established. It rendered millions of people homeless as refugees. Thus this right should be utilized with great caution.