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Could Wellington become an Antipodean Diplomatic Village?

Since the 1970s, New Zealand’s fixation on traditional Anglo Saxon connections for its prosperity and security has diverted attention from productive new possibilities that exist right in front of it. The recently passed ANZAC day (April 25) provides a case in point.

This new thinking will require a connecting of new dots – historical, geographic, cultural, diplomatic, technological and other.

The question needs to be asked afresh, how can a small, independent, geographically-remote country flourish and help others to flourish in this 21st century?

To illustrate what might be done as distinct from what is being done, I shall describe how an opportunity-focus could be developed around ANZAC Day. I will first briefly describe the original ANZAC day and then consider the new nature of war in the context of New Zealand’s relationship with Turkey and its region, today.

ANZAC Day 101

The 1915-16 Battle of Gallipoli, April 25th was a tragic debacle in which some 130,000 New Zealand and other troops from the British Empire, and Turkish troops, died fighting one another.

Troops from Australia and New Zealand combined in what was called the “ANZAC army corps”, so the annual commemoration of their invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula has come to be called “ANZAC day”.

Happily since then, Turkey and the ANZAC countries have developed very amicable relations. This is reflected tangibly in the fact that commemoration ceremonies are held annually, where the invading troops landed, at what has come to be called “ANZAC Cove”. These ceremonies also provide an opportunity for New Zealanders and Australians living in Europe to come together each year to commemorate this historic event.

Connecting new dots for new foreign policy

The intention to make World War One in which the Battle of Gallipoli was fought “a war to end all wars” has of course been all too often negated since by much tragic history.

However, the spread of nuclear weapons has introduced a new urgency into this project of ending wars, including right now in the volatile region where Turkey is located.

World war one was the result of a chain of events that began in an unstable Balkans where one thing just led to another. A repeat of such a chain in this era could indeed end all wars, but in a way that no one would want!

In recent times Israel, supported by the United States, has been threatening to attack Iran for what both see as Iran’s nuclear-weapons development program. The US already has forces based in the region. In anticipation of such a combined attack on its regional neighbour, Russia has announced contingency plans for a large-scale military mobilisation through Georgia to reach Iran.

In other words, a situation is looming up in which two major nuclear powers could come head-to-head in conflict because of what some perceive Iran to be doing.

An important question now arising is, what can be done to ensure this situation does not escalate?

As other village-connections blogs have highlighted, Turkey has been heavily involved in mediation efforts over Iran.

Could New Zealand and Turkey build on their historical ANZAC relationship to help prevent war(s) in the present? Could they begin conversations accordingly, possibly also involving other interested parties, in antipodean Wellington, geographically distant from areas of tension?

Could all concerned be brought together to connect some new dots in some innovative and more hopeful ways?

A note on “costs”

Currently the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs is engaged in large-scale restructuring to cut costs which its staff are finding to be very unsettling.

If there is to be a review, wouldn’t it be rather better to start by identifying what a small, remote antipodean country might be able to offer the world, and then identify what personnel and resources could be needed? This approach to restructuring might even identify ways of bringing in more income and balancing the financial books by having more staff rather than fewer.

Comments, questions and debate are very welcome (see comment box below)

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