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Keeping options and friends open

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This week provided an interesting demonstration of diplomacy involving St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Taiwan on the one hand and this country and Mexico on the other.

On Friday morning last, the Government hosted a welcoming ceremony for a visiting Taiwanese Naval Squadron at the Cruise Ship Berth. It was a formal affair and offered a very warm greeting to our Taiwanese friends, literally. {{more}} Those who could huddled under umbrellas as the merciless morning sun shone down in all her glory. On hand to greet the Taiwanese were Governor-General Sir Frederick Ballantyne, Deputy Prime Minister Louis Straker, Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace and several other members of Cabinet. Taiwanese Ambassador Elizabeth Chu headed the Republic of China side.

Several speeches were made as the politicians traded stories about the background to the 20 years of relations between this country and Taiwan which had been established by the St. Vincent Labour Party Government under former Prime Minister Robert Milton Cato. Notably present and acknowledged was Cato’s widow Lucy, sheltered from the elements by an umbrella.

This was one time that the government and opposition were at one in agreement on the importance of the friendly ties between these two island states. Madame Chu, once again thanked the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines for its unstinting support for her country, one Taiwan can count on always.

But most notably were the comments and the tone of the speech delivered by Foreign Minister Louis Straker. Going out of his way to demonstrate to the Taiwanese this country’s gratefulness for their assistance, he rightfully said that we have been thankful for the technical and other assistance given to this country. But one felt that he may have gone a bit overboard when he used the terms mendicants and mercenaries to describe other countries which may have one had relations with Taiwan and then decided in their own judgement and interests to switch friends.

Was he referring to our sister countries such as Grenada, Dominica or St. Lucia, which all formerly had relations with Taiwan, but later opted to link with Mainland China? Hopefully not, because one would well understand those countries being quite offended by Straker’s choice of words.

At a time when Taiwan and its mainland cousins are making moves toward mending the political problems which have separated them, we need to be mindful that there are no permanent friends in politics, only interests. We need not get too involved in the internal family fight between the two great countries on both sides of the China straits. The Chinese people from mainland and offshore China are going to mend their quarrel someday. We need to keep an open mind.

At the same time Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves returned to the state after visiting with Mexico’s Vicente Fox. This is a relationship where both leaders have seen the need for linking in each other’s mutual interests and are pursuing co-operation. We have already benefited from scholarships. Now we are going to benefit from assistance toward constructing our international airport. They can benefit from out support in areas that may be mutually beneficial. This is good diplomacy. Our airport therefore may end up being aided by countries that do not necessarily share each other’s political points of view. And that support that we may lend to Mexico or anyone else does not mean that we have to curse the links other countries have with others that may not be very friendly or in agreement with positions adopted by Mexico.

In politics as they say, there are no permanent friends, only interests.

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