Monday 9 May 2022

Diplomatic relations

with another country are never simple. "Best mates" may be what the leader of the country tells his or her citizens but the reality is more likely a relationship of cautious negotiations on both sides.

You do not simply pick up the phone, dial a number and talk to your opposite number - even if you both happen to speak  (approximately) the same language. No, even those phone calls are made through others. Secretaries will phone one another. Is s/he free? How urgent is it? Is there a crisis? What do they need to talk about? Who else needs to be involved? Those are just a few of the considerations.

The media here has made much of the fact that our Prime Minister (who is in "caretaker" mode) did not pick up the phone and speak to the Prime Minister of a small Pacific nation. According to the current Opposition and the media this should have been done because the small nation had signed an agreement with a much larger one. The larger one is seen as a threat to regional stability. Oh and the relevant Minister should have been flying off to talk to the Prime Minister of the small nation. 

Really? These assertions are absolutely ridiculous. This is not how it is done. It is irresponsible to even suggest it. It would have been seen as interfering in the affairs of another country. 

Of course the Opposition does know this but it makes for a good story, one that makes the government look bad during an election campaign. It is also why they complained when their Foreign Affairs spokesperson was not included in the meeting which eventually did occur. 

That meeting, like any other at that level and about matters like that, would have taken time to negotiate. It would have been particularly difficult to arrange when the government of the day is in caretaker mode. It was made even more difficult by the fact that the third party involved is at odds with the present government here. It has made no secret of the fact that it wants a change of government here. That means treading particularly carefully. Negotiating a meeting would have been very difficult. The details would have been agreed to at the last minute - quite possibly on a "take it or leave it" basis by the other side. 

The Foreign Affairs spokesperson on the other side was informed the meeting was taking place. She would have been asked what issues she wanted raised. Not inviting her to attend should not however be taken as a breach of caretaker conventions. There was only a few hours notice. She was campaigning elsewhere and in all likelihood was not going to be able to get to the venue in time.  No, you don't do those sort of meetings  via Zoom or any other electronic device. You do them face-to-face for reasons of security. 

So the fact that she was not "invited" is of little significance. There were a range of factors that almost certainly made it impossible for her to be there. It wasn't a "snub" or a "breach of caretaker conventions". It was simply the circumstances of the day. 

Perhaps the present Opposition (and the media) think we are all too lacking in intelligence to understand these things. If this is the case then I am more than a little concerned about the way they will treat us for the next three years. 

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