“A question of survival”: focus on the climate crisis, the States of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific islands inform the major powers | world news

NEW YORK: At a time of intensifying geopolitical competition in the Indo-Pacific, small island states in the Indian Ocean and Pacific island states have sent a clear message to all players in the strategic theater – what matters to us , it’s the climate crisis, everything else is secondary.

Abdullah Shahid, the Maldivian foreign minister who just resigned after completing his term as president of the 76th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), said he had told all UN member states that as president, he would be impartial on all issues. – “outside the climate”. “It’s a matter of our survival.”

Across the Indo-Pacific, Tongan Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni said the onset of sea level rise means countries like his are living in “borrowed time”.

He recalled how the volcanic eruption, tsunami and ashfall earlier this year had destroyed a third of Tonga’s GDP. “We are the second most disaster-prone country in the world. Our people live in uncertainty every day.

Satyendra Prasad, Fiji’s permanent representative to the UN, sent a message to all the major powers vying for influence in the Pacific islands. “If you commit to zero by 2050, you are with us; if you don’t commit to zero by 2050, you’re against us.

Speaking at the Ocean Nations: An Indo-Pacific Islands Dialogue, a conference organized by the Carnegie Endowment on the sidelines of UNGA in New York, leaders of small island states broadened the definition of security in the region to highlight the urgency of the climate crisis. Their comments come at a time when the US and China are locked in a fierce competition for influence in the Pacific Islands, sparked by a Solomon Islands security deal with China, while New Delhi and Beijing are increasingly at odds in the Indian Ocean. he is.

In its Sixth Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) observed increased warming, ocean acidification, marine heatwaves and sea level rise. and storm surges in island states. These will “exacerbate coastal flooding… cause coastlines to recede”, and small islands will face more intense tropical cyclones. In the western Indian Ocean, the report pointed to decreasing rainfall trends, while in the western tropical Pacific, heavy rainfall events will increase.

Speaking of the Pacific Islands, Prasad from Fiji said that the Blue Pacific is vast (it covers 15% of the planet’s surface); it was diverse (it was home to 900 languages, 10 million people being the guardians of a third of the world’s linguistic diversity); it was thriving and an ocean superpower. “Our main message is to work with us, not against us to protect the world’s assets.”

He argued that for island states, their own agency and sovereignty mattered given their colonial history. “Pacific island states cannot be bought off,” he said, in what could be seen as a reference to comments about Chinese and US efforts to woo island states.

While emphasizing the importance of multilateralism, he also referred to the inequalities inherent in the global financial architecture, the fact that small island states had to follow the same process as other large emitters to access funding and support, and asked for support. “We get angry. The big emitters are going down the suicide road and have no interest in saving us. But this concerns all of us. »

Shahid, who became the first leader of an Indian Ocean island state and only the sixth from an island state to become UNGA chair, stressed that while island states were “exceptionally vulnerable”, they were not helpless.

He recalled that the Maldives had been at the forefront, since 1989, in the establishment of the alliance of small island states. “For us, it is clear. From where we are, we are in the heart of the Indian Ocean. For the body to survive, it needs the heart to be strong… and to have peace, stability and good health.

Nilanthi Samaranayake, director of the Strategic and Policy Analysis Program at Central for Naval Analyzes in Washington DC and Indian Ocean security affairs analyst, said it was important to develop a framework that places the perspective of small states central islanders. “They are diverse, but they have a set of shared needs, shared concerns and surprising strengths. They are opinion leaders on the climate agenda.


    Prashant Jha is the US correspondent for the Hindustan Times based in Washington DC. He is also the editor of HT Premium. Jha previously served as the newspaper’s editor and national political editor/bureau chief. He is the author of How the BJP Wins: Inside India’s Greatest Election Machine and Battles of the New Republic: A Contemporary History of Nepal.
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Lynn A. Saleh