December 5, 2006 ☼ Foreign Affairs
This is an archived blog post from The Acorn.
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.
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