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National Security should be an election issue

National Security and issues related to foreign and defence policy has found minimal occurrence in the New Zealand election campaign

Political parties are focused primarily on the state of economy, jobs and the exodus of Kiwis to other countries, especially Australia.

However, an effective National Security Policy should be discussed on priority by the National and the Labour think-tanks.

Defence Paper

National had started to pursue some changed stance on national security in its first term of this century (2008) with the release of a Defence White Paper and Capability Plan in 2010.

However, continuance is lacking.

The Labour Party on the other hand has concentrated on the welfare of New Zealanders rather than abstract and complicated issues related to national security.

Even if the issues are not addressed until after the election, New Zealand has to recognise the changed geo-political situation with the rise of China as a prominent power in the Asia-Pacific or in the newly coined geo-political term ‘Indo-Pacific.’

New Zealand is primarily a Pacific country with a strong emphasis on exports and hence should be more concerned about the developments in the South-West Pacific and the Indian Ocean than with just domestic issues.

Troops to allies

New Zealand has certain stated and un-stated policy on national-security in general and uses its military troops as a part of the country’s strategic objective.

It is ready to send troops to troubled areas as a part of a commitment to overall international peace and security and commits them to US or UK or UK to serve their national interests from time to time.

New Zealand’s sovereignty is not threatened by any invasion at present and its immediate neighbours (Australia and South Pacific countries) are also safe from invasions.

Possible challenges

However, the changing geo-politics with the emergence of Asia-Pacific as an important force in the international system rivalling the traditional European Powers can pose challenges to New Zealand’s strategy. The dilemma has increased with the emergence of China as a major power in Asia-Pacific and its increasing influence in the South Pacific.

While the New Zealand Defence White Paper did not explicitly state any likely threat from China, its Australian counterpart made a mention in its Defence White Paper 2009.

South Pacific nations

Countries in the South Pacific such as Fiji, the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu are in their transition to democracy. Their economies are struggling and China is ready to help them.

Therefore, South Pacific countries are more attracted to China and high-level visits of Chinese military and naval officers to the region have become a regular feature, with chances of a Chinese Naval Base in Vanuatu becoming a possibility.

Wellington is no doubt assessed of these developments, but there is no evidence of any change in policy.

The National Party cannot claim credit for initiating any substantial achievement with respect to its strategic objectives despite the much appreciated Defence White Paper and the Capability Plan. Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman does not seem to have substantial depth on defence and national security issues.

The Labour Party on the other hand has David Cunliffe, who has extensive experience in diplomacy and it is time that both the Party and its Leader considered a proper Defence Policy incorporating an appropriate National Security strategy.

Balaji Chandramohan is a graduate in Journalism from the Waikato University and our Correspondent based in New Delhi. The opinions expressed in the above article are not necessarily those of Indian Newslink.

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