There is a certain but implicit nervousness among the advanced countries of the so-called ‘fully-developed nations’ over the developments unfolding in Fiji.
While this little, beautiful country of beautiful people have shown resilience over natural disasters, the latest being Tropical Cyclone Winston (we carry three reports on the subject in this issue), their government has shown fortitude and courage against odds and more importantly, failure of its powerful neighbours understanding its peculiar predicaments.
The fact that no nation, however small, should not be ignored or taken for granted has been demonstrated by Fiji as it received its first consignment of military supply early last month. The $19 million deal was sealed about three years ago during the state visit of Prime Minister Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama to Moscow in June 2013.
Fiji has shown the world that is has the right to self-determination and that it would extend its hand to any country that understands and respects its political integrity and steer its own destiny.
Australia and New Zealand, followed by others including America, Britain and much of Europe, miscalculated Fiji’s ability to endure strangulating economic sanctions imposed soon after Mr Bainimarama staged a coup on December 5, 2006 and took the reins of power. He needed time to put his house in order; remove inequalities and most important of all, recognise the Indian community as an integral and inseparable part of its political and economic system.
India remains the only major power to have stood by Fiji during all its difficult moments in modern history, not only because of its substantial Indian Diaspora but also because of its Non-Alignment policy and non-interference in internal affairs approach in foreign relations.
The arms deal with the Russian Federation takes Fiji to a different level in geo-politics and more importantly, makes a sound statement: that the influence of economic and nuclear powers outside the Western World on small countries cannot be ignored.
There is more than arms deal at stake in Fiji. After decades of misrule, corruption, divisive and regressive policies, Fiji is on the path to real progress. Infrastructure including health, education, water supply, roads and ports, to mention a few, need improvement, necessitating foreign investment. The government in Suva has put in place impressive and attractive initiatives that have begun to attract foreign direct investment. As well as former citizens, investors from other countries have also begun to stake their interest in Fiji.
According to Canterbury University Professor Steven Ratuva, Russians see themselves as a ‘Pacific Power.’
“They are trying to get a foothold in the Pacific. They want to get access to the region’s resources, such as seabed mining and fishing,” he said.
Foreign Minister Inoke Kubuabola had indicated more than two years ago that his country would choose its “future friends carefully,” a clear signal that Suva has had enough of being chastised by its powerful neighbours including New Zealand and Australia.
Vital ANZ ties
The ties that bind New Zealand and Australia and Fiji are clearly greater than the issues that sometimes divide them.
“Our people are genuinely fond of each other and nothing is more important to Fiji than continuing to welcome the hundreds of thousands of Australians and New Zealanders who visit our shores every year. There are also tens of thousands of Fijians living either side of the Tasman, adding the richness of their culture to the great multicultural melting pot that is modern Australia and New Zealand,” he said in speeches in Auckland and Brisbane in 2013.
Fiji is on its way to becoming an important political and social entity and certainly a power in the Pacific. Countries, big and small, must understand its penchant for equality for its citizens and parity with the rest of the world as an inalienable right.
Russia’s entry into the Fiji equation would certainly change the political landscape of the Asia Pacific region and in the larger context the Asian Continent.
The future holds as much interesting developments as uncertainties and geocentric games.
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