The coup is in Fiji

India should only “monitor the situation closely”

Commodore Frank Bainimarama, Fiji’s military chief, has staged a bloodless coup, disarmed the Australian-backed civilian police force and sent Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase into exile. Australia (the regional power), New Zealand and the United States have reacted in the predictable manner—by condemning the coup and by cutting off this and that. The Commonwealth—the OstrichDodo of the international community—has chipped in too, threatening Fiji with (what else?) explusion.

Considering that it had backed the Qarase government and the civilian police force, Australia’s reaction to the coup has been mild, as realism would demand.

Given that Bainimarama’s coup gets rid of an administration that had been unwilling to punish the leaders of a previous coup (who had staged it to oust a government led by an ethnic-Indian prime minister), some commentators (see Naveen Bharat) have argued that India should support the good Commodore.

Indeed, it is ironical that Bainimarama should stage a coup to punish those who previously staged a coup. But the irony may fade when one consider’s his role in preventing the previous coup makers from setting up a regime that would have discriminated against Fiji’s large ethnic-Indian population. Bainimarama’s public stand against a racially motivated regime, along with the Qarase government’s reluctance to adhere to its promises (to Bainimarama, among others) suggests that knee-jerk anti-coup measures—like economic sanctions—are premature, and perhaps ill-considered.

But should India actually support the coup—as opposed to ‘monitoring the situation closely’? The mere presence of ethnic Indians in Fiji is insufficient for India to throw its weight behind one party or another. Fijian Indians are Fijians. The coup is their business. Not India’s. Foreign policy based on commonality of ethnicity might be justified only when there is first a commonality of interests.

4 thoughts on “The coup is in Fiji”

  1. Apollo,

    India’s MEA has no business speaking for Fijian Indians. The government of South Africa has no business speaking for African-Americans. The government of China has no business speaking for Chinese-Surinamese. And the British Foreign Office has no business speaking for English Australians…

    (See also French Sikhs are French and French affairs)

  2. Nitin, France is not the same as Fiji. France has passed a law banning the display of religious symbols for ALL French citizens including the majority Roman catholic. No exclusions allowed. The aim of France is egalitarianism.

    Fiji on the other hand is guilty of racism against its own citizens on ethnic lines even though most of the people of Indian origin were born and brought up in Fiji itself yet they are being targetted as Indians.

    We as a responsible member of the International community and the one country that the ethnic Fiji-Indians can look back to as their country of origin have an obligation to speak up and raise this issue in the International fora and put pressure on Fiji to behave. otherwise who else is going to do it for us. Iceland, Latvia, Malta?

    And since our MEA and its (mostly failed to get into IAS) officers harbour notions of International grandeur let me put it this way. if they don’t even stand up for People of Indian Origin in dire need.Will they be able to stand up for say Darfurians or Kurds ever? And even if they do will anyone take them seriously? surely someone will “politely” tell them to go and do something for their own people instead.

    No wonder nobody takes Indian diplomacy seriously.

    p.s- Britain does speak out for ethnic English Zimbabweans and south Africans, China does speak out for ethnic Chinese in South East Asia and so on. Only our shining India is an exception.

  3. Apollo,

    Indian diplomacy will be taken seriously when it concentrates on furthering India’s national interest. Taking up the cause of ethnic Indians even if they are nationals of other countries is not the way to acquire respect.

    China does not speak out for ethnic Chinese in South East Asia. But it takes care to protect its own citizens.

    As for Britain, fat lot of good its intervention in Zimbabwe is doing. So Britain protested, and that two-bit dictator thumbed his nose at mighty Britain. Fat lot of respect that got for British diplomacy.

    The Republic of India is not the protector and benefactor of ethnic Indians who are citizens of other countries. Indeed, most ethnic Indians are proud to be citizens of the countries they belong to.

    On the other hand, the Indian government should go to the extreme to protect the lives of its own citizens, wherever they may be. Yes, there is a case for India to act against murderous/autocratic regimes that repress their citizens, but ethnicity should not determine the Indian position—calculation of national interest should.

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