Thursday, April 22, 2010

Commonwealth of States Should Define Britain's New Global Role

Commonwealth could provide muscular alternative to US, UN

As the 2010 British election prepares to turn its attention toward foreign policy in the next leaders' debate, many Britons are speculating about the role Britain should play on the global stage.

A study conducted by the Royal United Services Institute suggested that a majority of Britons believe that Afghanistan is crucial to the United Kingdom's security. A similar number -- 58% -- believed that a special strategic relationship with the United States is necessary. A strong nuclear deterrent was also highly favoured.

But Britain cannot move forward with a revitalized foreign policy based on a strategic relationship with the United States alone. If Britain is to play a stronger role on the global stage, it must also look to its other allies.

In order to take on such a hefty role, Britain would need to look toward a special relationship it has not with the United States, but with another country:


And also Australia and New Zealand.

Of all the countries that currently hold membership in the Commonwealth of States, four are uniquely poised to lead: Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

India, Pakistan and South Africa each face unique challenges that currently prevent them from realistically being able to aspire to leadership. But these are challenges that can be overcome in time, with help from the rest of the Commonwealth.

With Afghanistan central to the national security of Britain, whichever party takes the offices of government after May 6 need to understand that Afghanistan is not an issue that can be solved within the borders of that country.

Rather, continuing tensions between India and Pakistan, and nuclear proliferation between the two countries, must be addressed.

Afghanistan's border with Pakistan -- one that remains largely unrecognized by Afghanistan -- must be stabilized and secured in order for stability to be brought to Afghanistan. But in order for this border to be secured, Pakistan must come to view itself as secure enough from an Indian incursion to move troops away from its border with India.

This requires that the issue of Kashmir somehow be settled -- certainly no short order for any one country. But if Canada, Britain, India and Pakistan were able to come together with a broad coalition of Commonwealth allies, a peacekeeping mission in Kashmir may be possible. This mission would serve the purpose of stabilizing the entire region, allowing for greater security and stability in Afghanistan.

In a world where the United States is over-engaged on the global stage, and the United Nations far too weak to address key challenges -- such as the Sudan -- a revitalized Commonwealth of States could prove to be key to British and Canadian leadership on the global stage.

For both countries it would prove to be an excellent supplementary strategy to simply snuggling up to the USA.

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