Indigenous imperialist? | The daily blog

NANAIA MAHUTA’S APPOINTMENT as New Zealand’s foreign minister has been hailed as a triumph for indigenous peoples around the world. Now, at last, Aotearoa-New Zealand’s foreign policy could go beyond the very white and very masculine outlook of its predecessors. (A group that, unfortunately, includes Winston Peters.)

As the Maori development minister who commissioned the controversial project He Puapua ReportMahuta has given every appearance of wanting to bring a new and radical perspective to the task of representing a state born and still plagued by the historical processes of colonialism and imperialism.

As recently as November 2021, Mahuta was still reporting that his was a distinct perspective from that of most of New Zealand’s friends and allies:

“Our connection to the Pacific is reflected through language, people, ocean, history, culture, politics and common interests. Together we share kaitiaki responsibilities for Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa – the blue ocean continent. This concept is long-lasting and intergenerational: what we do today for our children sets the course for our tamariki and mokopuna. When we look at livelihoods, we are talking about intergenerational goals.

Alongside his earlier statements suggesting a measure of diplomatic separation between the perspectives of New Zealand and those of its “Five Eyes” partners, Mahuta’s remarks to the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs continued to fuel controversy. hope that she remained determined to give her political country’s “independent foreign policy” a decidedly indigenous inflection.

It shouldn’t be. When the going gets tough in the Pacific, New Zealand will always find itself among the pushed and pushed. However fervently the New Zealand Defense Force and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) factions might wish, it is unlikely that this country will ever be included among the major league pushers and the shovers. In the five-fingered Anglo-Saxon fist, the New Zealand one is the little finger – attached to, but wielding no power over the much larger and stronger fingers of the US, UK, Canada and Australia.

But, if New Zealand possesses insufficient weight to push up or push out, they are considered by their Anglo-Saxon big brothers to have more than enough power to push.down on the microstates of the Pacific. The countries he condescendingly describes as living in New Zealand’s “backyard”.

In a diplomatic division of labor indistinguishable from the imperialist carve-ups of the 19th century, Australia arrogated to itself the responsibility of keeping the independent nations of Melanesia in check. New Zealand’s job is to do the same in Polynesia.

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Like a couple of marrow-helmeted district officers of the British Raj, the two “White Dominions” of the southern hemisphere are positioned side by side on the imperial veranda, sipping their gin and tonics and keeping a watchful eye on the “natives ” of the Blue Ocean Continent.

Obviously, it was too much to hope that Mahuta would balk at this farcical mission. That she could simply refuse to act as a Five Eyes policewoman in the South Pacific. Sadly, Mahuta’s response to the Solomon Islands’ decision to sign a security deal with the People’s Republic of China was all his Anglo-Saxon bosses could wish for.

Not only did she and her fellow Maori Labor Group member, Defense Minister Peeni Henare, fly to Fiji to sign the “Duavata Partnership,” a beefed-up climate, economic and defense deal with Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, but Mahuta also introduced a whole new term into the strategic vocabulary – “Regional Sovereignty”.

Assuming that the actions of the Solomon Islands government might necessitate a postponement of the planned Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) meeting in June, Mahuta said:

“I am of the view that several of the Pacific nations will want greater clarity from the Solomons on the nature of these agreements and the extent to which Solomonic sovereign interests may well impact on regional sovereignty and interests. Pacific Security.”

Clearly, it is Mahuta’s view (and probably the view of his advisors at MFAT) that if the Solomon Islands, as an independent nation-state and member of the United Nations, possesses, along with all other states, “sovereign interests” to advance and protect according to his best judgment; the “Blue Ocean Continent”, which, as a mere figure of speech, cannot claim the rights of an independent nation-state, nor become a member of the United Nations, nevertheless possesses regional sovereign interests of its own.

Moreover, in this new invention of Mahuta, it is implied that “regional sovereignty” trumps national sovereignty. Straightforward: Honiara proposes, but the BIP (i.e. Australia and New Zealand) disposes.

Not only is this concept new, but it is also deeply pernicious. With the undoubted support of New Zealand’s Five Eyes “partners”, Mahuta claims the right of the Solomon Islands’ neighbors to determine its foreign and defense policy.

A century and a half ago, at the height of the era of imperialism, such an overt restriction of national sovereignty would have been described as turning what was once an independent territory into a “protectorate” of one or the other. of the great imperial powers. In Solomon’s case, the “protectors” are the five English-speaking nations which, since the end of World War II, have regarded the Pacific Ocean as an Anglo-Saxon lake.

So much for the “Pacific resilience” that Mahuta bragged about in his speech to the NZIIA last November. New Zealand’s foreign minister openly participates in the restoration of Anglo-Saxon imperialism on the “blue ocean continent” – for no other reason than to exclude the largest and most important trading partner of her country. country.

China will draw its own conclusions. And the same goes, if he has any instinct for national self-preservation, the Solomon Islands will too.