Wednesday, June 29, 2011

An alarming alliance

So, John Key goes to India seeking progress on a free-trade agreement, and comes back with closer defence ties. Its completely out of the blue, and quite alarming. India is a nuclear-armed nation and one of the few non-parties (along with Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea) to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty - closer to a rogue state than a good international citizen. it has an ongoing conflict with Pakistan, and a long-term rivalry with China. And we have just taken sides in those conflicts. Woo-hoo!

But quite apart from questions of ethics and interests, there's also a question of democracy. To put it bluntly, we weren't asked about this. The government did not say "we're looking at closer military ties with India, what do you all think of that?" They didn't seek a mandate for buying into a possible nuclear conflict and the superpower rivalry of the late 21st century. Instead, they did it over our heads, and without our consent. This is par for the course for our foreign policy, which regards the people of New Zealand as dirty peasants to be ignored rather than citizens to be obeyed, but it means that their deals have no democratic mandate, and thus no legitimacy.

This is not the 18th century, when inbred absolute monarchs could cut deals amongst themselves without reference to their people. We're supposed to be a modern democracy, and we should act like one. That means seeking consent for foreign policy as well as domestic. That means asking us first what we want to do and who we want to pursue alliances with. Democracy does not stop at the water's edge. And if our government thinks it does, then they're no better than those eighteenth century hereditary dictators.