Sunday, August 26, 2012

Objects In Mirror Are Closer Than They Apppear- The Relevance Of Pacific Islands Forum To Fiji.

The 43rd Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) in Cook Islands has been hyped as a much anticipated affair, not so much about the agenda, but more so about the invited guests-some with a higher profile than others. In a press briefing, PIF General Secretary, Neori Slade, admonished the journalists covering the PIF: “So if you can concentrate without getting too hyper on personalities (like US secretary of state Hillary Clinton) I think we’ll appreciate it.” 

Slade also mentioned that ,the journalists should not be sidetracked about the major powers attending the Forum and adroitly maneuvered the conversation to the prepared talking points of the PIF agenda. An important consideration, is that, the major power players attending the PIF did not travel thousands of miles to the Cook Islands, to chat about the dangers of climate change or just to exchange diplomatic niceties.
It is about furthering their own interests and maintaining their spheres of influence. Steven Ratuva, a Pacific affairs specialist at Auckland University, expressed his opinion with Pacific Scoop  regarding the current affairs: " [T]he US was trying to establish dominance in the Forum this year was because China had a strong foothold with the MSG, a powerful body in terms of its political power within the Forum, particularly through funding of infrastructure and supporting MSG operations.”

Graham Davis latest posting on Grubsheet, illustrated the undulated diplomatic landscape:
Hilary Clinton, who is making the first visit to a Forum summit by a US Secretary of State. Clinton knows that Fiji is too big to be ignored, too strategically important to be sidelined and that it’s high time its isolation was ended. This is almost certain to be the last time Bainimarama is excluded as America works this week to persuade its ANZUS partners, in particular, to bring him in from the cold.
There is no doubt that, the intransigent policies from Canberra and Wellington in isolating Fiji has resoundingly failed, and under girded their own shortcomings. Ratuva added: “[I]n spite of being suspended from the Forum, Fiji has some cards falling its way[...]Instead of weakening Fiji’s position, the suspension is actually strengthening it.”

Unquestionably, Fiji's suspension from PIF has opened up alternative channels of diplomatic exchanges, that invariably makes the PIF inextricably, obsolete. In an opinion piece in the The AustralianMichael O'Keefe, addressed the challenges to the PIF: "[The Pacific Islands Forum] will either forge a new path for the region's pre-eminent institution or give ground to the alternative architecture that has grown since Fiji's suspension from participation."

Fiji Hosts 3rd Engaging the Pacific Meeting -Pacific SIDS (video posted below)

Ratuva addressed the benefits of the 'free agent' status of Fiji's diplomacy: “[...]Fiji can do anything, it can mobilise its ‘alternative forum’ outside the Forum, and it has also strengthened the Melanesian Spearhead Group, because now the MSG is keeping tightly close as a group because they came around through Fiji’s support.”

Davis points out the waning relevance of the PIF:
Clinton knows that the Pacific Forum is a shadow of its former self so long as Fiji is excluded. Why? Because no Pacific plan of action can realistically be implemented without the country’s participation. It is too significant and too influential to be bypassed. It has also successfully defied all attempts by its bigger southern neighbours -Australia and NZ – to bring it to heel and has demonstrated a nimble dexterity to find support wherever it can.

O'Keefe added to the narrative of failed policies of isolating Fiji:
The rise of alternative forms of regionalism is a direct result of Fiji's suspension and poses the largest challenge to Australia[...]Fiji has made new friends and opened up new avenues of co-operation and as Australia chooses to re-engage it will be operating in a vastly different Pacific seascape. In this climate the continuing relevance of the PIF will need to be demonstrated rather than simply asserted. Fiji is not likely to accept the status quo and may need to be encouraged to resume its engagement with PIF.
Among Fiji's alternative diplomatic engagements, is their attendance to the Non-Alignment -Movement (NAM) Summit in Tehran; currently in session.

Analysis of NAM group. (video posted below)

This 120 member group of countries, include notable members of the BRICS, have come of age and are quietly overshadowing the Western bloc of countries, in terms of influence in shaping World affairs. NAM accounts for 14% of the World's GDP. There are three NAM Pacific island nations: Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu, who are also members of the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).

NAM policies are diametrically opposite to that of the ANZUS alliance, with respect to Non-Interference. Australia and New Zealand's role in Pax-Americana have eroded any perception of being a honest broker in the Pacific region. Notwithstanding, the tainted colonial history of the Trans-Tasman cousins, further compounds this .

This diplomatic coalescing of MSG and NAM principles in Pacific affairs, would represent a significant threat to the interests and influence of the Trans-Tasman countries in the region. There appears to be a similar situation of failed isolation policies affecting both Fiji and Iran. In both cases, Western aligned countries have attempted to isolate them.
In both cases, each have been recently elected to chair the important nation groups-MSG and NAM respectively. The policies and its architects, have since demonstrably been rejected. Without a doubt, these series of diplomatic Faux Pas in the Western Alliance, underscores their demise of influence. In discussions with Metropolitan neighbors and the Island diplomats, the stakes in the Pacific are simply undermentioned; but the leverage the Islanders wield are widely understood.


Fars News: Iran to establish diplomatic ties with Fiji.

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