Almost 70 years ago — within a year of the Allies’ World War II victory, the establishment of the United Nations and the partition of India — Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah, Aga Khan III, noting that ‘what is history except on rare occasions one long, long story of war and warfare?’, delivered this sweeping, global assessment outlining out potential contributions the major actors on the world stage — the United States, Europe, Russia and China — could offer to ensure world peace.

While Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah singles out the United States and Britain as the linchpins for a peaceful, post World War II world — explaining that “without a common peace policy of these two central world powers … we will be building on the sands of the seashore” — he also issues a cautionary note that it was also essential to draw the curtain on the era of “plantation” colonialism, lest the colonies themselves become “apples of discord” and “breeding grounds for future world warfare.”

Particularly noteworthy from his assessments are, firstly, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah’s observation that China has “from time immemorial [been] essentially peaceful … and has for thousands of years never shown any spirit of aggression and has been one of the bastions of moral peace and live and let live in the world.” And secondly — particularly in light the present Aga Khan’s call for nations to cooperate with one another on common issues through regional alliances — was his retrospection that “the absence of proper provisions for regional alliances organised under the League [of Nations] itself, for the maintenance of peace, was another, and perhaps the most serious, of the causes of its break-down when it came up against the realities of power politics.”

Notwithstanding that, given more recent events, informed observers are of the opinion that the United States has forgone the nobler role of peacekeeper it had assumed in the years immediately following World War II, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah’s global assessment, remains as relevant in today’s troubled times of as it was some 70 years ago.

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Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah, Aga Khan III’s 1946 lecture at the Dar es Salaam Cultural Society, ‘World Peace and Its Problems’ (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)

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