Banning Landmines: A Foreign Policy for "Shared Humanity"

Posted by under Editorial on 14 June 2001

There comes a time when the dictates of some foreign policy cum military policy issues cannot be constructed in the secret rooms of diplomats, intelligence officers, or cabinet ministers. Even though the domains of both military and foreign policies have in the past followed traditional modes of not consulting the general public, globalisation and the extended reach of the media, have forced foreign policy makers to contend with new challenges and a new idealistic paradigm of international relations.

One such issue is the banning of landmines. The late Princess Diana's personal courage to endorse the banning of landmines coupled with extensive global media coverage has meant that the momentum for the banning of landmines has given the peace lovers ironically ample ammunition to fight the established military complex of preserving the status quo of landmine production. They have been able, in the international community, to convince most sovereign states to limit sales or altogether ban production, and some have even decided to stop buying and have made commitments to destroy existing stockpiles.

The small state of Singapore is not one such nation. Even though our establishment has expressed concern for the fate of landmine victims and acknowledge the maiming effects of innocent victims outside the scope of war, it still continues to endorse landmines and strongly claims that it has the right as a sovereign state to use it as a deterrent against potential aggressors. The bottom line is the survival of the small republic and banning landmines would be against the national interest. Would most Singaporeans agree? Or to put it more bluntly, would they really care? Maybe our viewpoints would elicit a response if the general public was able to know the facts and follow the arguments. Their opinions could help current victims and at the same time reduce future casualty to the zero mark.

Yet the voices of the landmine victims remain silent despite the growing international public opinion for banning landmines. The stubborn resilience of the military establishment who view through the narrow lenses of self interest refuse to accept the fact that banning landmines go beyond the purview of state sovereignty. In fact, it offers an opportune moment in history to build a foreign policy on "shared humanity". Banning landmines would mean that we would in the future not witness the loss of limbs of perfectly innocent children who are victims of warmongers.

Of course, the militarists would argue that we are as dumb as doves, to dream of transforming the way states look at themselves and also others. Think Centre Asia is determined to make the dream a reality. To educate, to debate, to rationalise and to finally come to the conclusion that landmines have no place in this world whether in war or peace would be part of Think Centre Asia's policy of harnessing the internet for more open debate of our foreign and military policies. It is a process of opening up the locked policies of a bygone era and to replace it with dynamism of engaging the public on foreign or military issues that have humanitarian concerns. Ethics in foreign policy is becoming a norm.

Ethics are not only part of our internal political make up, it also concerns our commitment to humankind. A landmine victim would tell you that the landmine has no way of discriminating against race, colour, religion or nationality. It is borderless in its destruction and a morbid senselessness surrounds the usage of it. Think Centre Asia is for a "shared humanity"; a humanity that recognises that the paramount interest for all states is human security. Invest in the mechanisms for peace rather than the technology of destruction. Our future progeny will thank us for it. Think for humanity.

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