#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: Engaging with Fiji - another opportunity lost?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Engaging with Fiji - another opportunity lost?

By Dev Nadkarni for Island Business

Despite the unchanging rigidity of their isolationist approach towards Fiji, the political leaderships in Australia and New Zealand would now have all but realised that trying to keep Fiji out of the South Pacific regional equation was never going to be a tenable strategy.  

This isolationist tack has come a complete cropper—it has achieved next to nothing. Suspension of bilateral ties, suspension from the Commonwealth, suspension from the Pacific Island Forum, travel bans, adverse travel advisories, besides all sorts of other measures have brought little change, if any, in Fiji.

Reams have been published on the lead up to the December 2006 military action, the regime and its style of functioning since then. And nearly all the ideas from politicians, academics and the media especially in New Zealand and Australia on dealing with the Fiji situation have centered on such isolationist strategies that have come up almost solely with punitive measures. 

It is as though engagement can never be an option. That sort of rigidity is hard to explain. Especially so, when the writing was clearly on the wall that the strategy wasn’t working and the situation could not be remedied with that tack. No matter what the situation within Fiji, there ought to have been more efforts from the ANZAC nations to engage with it these past years. 

Several windows of opportunity were lost, the latest one being last month. 

With no recourse to any regional platform now that it has been suspended from the Pacific Island Forum, Fiji pushed hard for regional engagement through the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG)—the sub regional grouping of Melanesian countries that was to have been held in Fiji last month.

Fiji has alleged that the meet was scuttled by the ANZAC nations to predictable denials from both, as well as Vanuatu, which was supposed to have been prevailed upon not to attend the meet. The decidedly isolationist policy hitherto followed by Australia and New Zealand is what could well give credence to that allegation.  

With the MSG meet not happening, Fiji thought up another ploy at engagement and invited regional leaders to the “Engaging with the Pacific” meeting just about a week later. Though several leaders, ministers and government representative attended, Australia, New Zealand – and Samoa – did not. And that was a huge opportunity missed by the Anzac nations.

Among other things, the Fiji regime presented its updated roadmap to the proposed 2014 election. The presence of political leaders from Australia and New Zealand or at least their representatives—no matter how junior—would have been extremely useful in that they would then have had an all new handle to hold the regime to account in the months ahead leading up to the 2014 election and the achievements of the stated milestones.

By not sending representatives and refusing to engage even tentatively at the most tenuous of levels, Australia and New Zealand have chosen to persist with their one pronged, unimaginative isolationist tack of trying to force Fiji into a tight corner with no room to manoeuvre.  

Except that in this rapidly globalising world, there aren’t any corners anymore. If the traditional longstanding South has stonewalled it, a huge front from the rapidly growing, increasingly prosperous North has long opened up not only for Fiji but also for almost all other South Pacific nations. 

Chinese and Korean investment in Fiji has grown tremendously in the past few years and with every passing month the country is further building up its ties with Asian countries. The ANZAC nations know it only too well that the region’s future—including their own—is tied up with Asia. New Zealand is the first western nation to have signed a Free Trade Agreement with China, which is now not only poised to become its largest trading partner but also wants to buy big into its dairy sector.

Australia and New Zealand’s rigid stand notwithstanding there is no denying that Fiji is the hub of the Pacific and is too significant geopolitically for their simplistic, almost childish, isolationist non-strategy. Their persistence in following this tack beggars belief and exposes their leaderships’ paralysis in trying to come up with more sensitive, open minded and communicative approaches. 

The Melanesian brotherhood has realised this. And more than just the warm fraternal ‘wantok’ feeling, it is the hard and practical knowledge that they are sitting on a great deal of mineral wealth both inland and offshore that is at work here.
The potential of that offshore wealth is poised to grow with the redrawing of the continental shelf boundaries following changes to the United Nations Law of the Sea in the coming years.  

The countries know that together they stand much to gain—and that explains why its leaders attended Fiji’s hurriedly called engagement gig with such alacrity. That message seems lost on the leadership of the ANZAC nations that has gone on record saying that there will be no change in their Fiji policy.

Fiji’s efforts to engage with the region despite being suspended from the Forum need to be actually seen as a positive step. The ANZAC nations need to set their hurt false pride aside and engage at whatever level—to begin with even informally, outside the ambit of recognised channels out of which Fiji has been excluded in any case.

Nothing can ever be achieved by non-engagement and isolationism especially in modern day geopolitics. Engagement and communication are key to diplomatic conflict resolution—particularly so when one of the parties sends all the right signals that it is game for it. 

The flawed assumption that any engagement with the present Fijian dispensation would be illegitimate needs to change because inaction based on such assumption will go nowhere and negate any possibility and hope of addressing the situation.

The events that have taken place so far cannot be reversed and despite the ongoing controversial developments in Fiji, the regime has once again presented its plan for elections in 2014—which, according to media reports have been received positively by the leaders who attended the meet.

Attending that meet would have been a great opportunity to restart dialogue and work with Fiji to work towards an outcome that is best for its people and for the region as a whole. 

Fiji should also realise that once it has made an undertaking or promise it must keep its end of the bargain. The writing on the wall is clear. Sticking to their isolationist strategy is not an option and staying rigid will undoubtedly have huge consequences for the geopolitics of the South Pacific region in the years to come.


Anonymous said...

Not sure what planet you are living on, Dev. But on planet earth, the concept of dialogue is totally anathema to the Fiji Regime!

So what would be the point of dialogue then, Dev?

Bai is just going to do what he's going to do regardless of any dialogue. The only "dialogue" he engages in is stage-managed theatre and bald lies designed only to manipulate a target audience.

So anyone who thinks there's any point or benefit to that is fooling themselves. It's just a charade like 90% of everything else the Regime has done.

Those who engage in that charade will just be risking their own reputations when the regime's hair-brained ideas meet their inevitable fate on the trash-heap of history.

Those who avoid contamination by the treason and stupidity of the Fiji Regime, will at least get to keep their reputations when the Regime just goes ahead and does what it was always going to do anyway - monologue or no monologue.

Anonymous said...

It is one thing for other leaders to be postive about the roadmap, it is another thing to live under the Bainimaram regime. What people like Dev should realise, is that Dictators are masters at lying. They may present an acceptable roadmap for "better democracy" but the underlying theme or purpoes is to prolong their hold on power as long as they can.

As Hitler said, "make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it and eventually they will believe it". I guess Baini has mastered the art to a T.

kaicolo said...

Dev,have you read history?Dialogue has never been part of a Dictators political DNA you idiot!

Kai Colo

Opportunity lost? said...

Opportunity lost? For what, a free lunch paid for by the Chinese? Wake up to yourself Nadkarni - all you are doing with this rubbish is digging a bigger hole for indo-fijians who have been stupid enough to support this failed coup. It will take them decades to get back any trust and credibility as it is. The smartest strategy, to ensure any future, would be to openly condemn this human rights abusing junta. To support such criminal is suicide.
Do you actually believe your own rubbish here?

sara'ssista said...

I agree with the other commenst as far as this rgime does not want dialogue it wants approval, amnesty and congratulations. They will not budge an inch but expect everyone else to lighten punitive travel bans as some sort of trade off for nothing., the status quo. And then they will come empty-handed, as usual, looking for someone else to pay for their follyies.

Anonymous said...

Despite best attempts - Viti is not - never has been - nor ever will be - an Indian colony or outpost.

Quicker people such as Dev understand & appreciate this fact -better things will be.