The decline of idealistic multilateralism is visible even in multilateral institutions such as the UN and the International Monetary Fund, which have become battlefields for countries’ advancement of their interests. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s favoured concept of “enlightened sovereignty” is an expression of the same trend to what the French have sometimes called égoisme sacré.
India’s foreign-policy priority is to be a permanent member of the Security Council. That status is a mark of being a great power, a rank that was granted to China at the end of the Second World War. Now that both China and India are both emerging as major economic powers, India is naturally eager for equality with its rival in Asia.
Canada, for its part, has to pursue its interests, too. The federal government is right to refrain from supporting India’s aspiration to a permanent Security Council seat. Canada contains large diasporas from both India and Pakistan – perhaps one million and a quarter of a million Canadians, respectively. Both countries are Canada’s allies. In general, we should not show a preference for either, though some situations may call for our taking sides. But in November, 2009, Mr. Harper was mistaken in visiting India without also visiting Pakistan – a departure from precedent.
This country should not appear to take sides in the long-term tension between India and Pakistan, especially not at a time when Pakistan is an ally of Canada’s (even if an ambivalent one) in Afghanistan.
It should not be a surprise that the historical connection between India and Canada through the Commonwealth does not trump all other considerations.
Temporary membership of the Security Council is not a prize for virtuous behaviour, and Canadians should not take offence at being passed over, this time around.