The Hari Putar Dialogues - 10
(The Hindustan Times, Canberra, June 19th
Australia's Mandarin-speaking Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said on Thursday he would attend the Beijing Olympics, ignoring human rights activists' demands that he boycott the event over China's Tibet crackdown. Rudd, a former diplomat who served in Beijing and who has been accused at home and abroad of being too close to China, said attending the Games was the "right thing to do". )
Putar: According to a story carried in The Hindustan Times today Kevin Rudd, the Australian Prime Minister has announced that he will be attending the Beijing Olympics.
Hari: That's right, putar.
Putar: But earlier his office had announced that he may not be able to attend due to prior commitments.
Hari: That is correct, putar. But now he has found the time.
Putar: Human rights activists had been happy with his earlier decision not to go even though the office had said it was owing to his busy schedule and had nothing to do with Tibet. Now they are upset.
Hari: That is to be expected, putar.
Putar: The newspaper quotes Australian Greens Senator Bob Brown as saying that Rudd had turned his back on Tibetans by agreeing to attend the Games opening ceremony, as well as shooting, women's basketball, cycling and diving events. Brown is reported to have said:
"It's the wrong thing to do, it's not the right thing to do. The pollution of Beijing strong-arm politics has reached the prime minister's office,"
Hari: You can't please everyone, putar.
Putar: China recently overtook Japan as Australia's biggest trading partner and the country is Canberra's biggest customer for energy and mineral exports, with two-way trade worth A$52 billion ($49 billion) in 2007.
Hari: I understand that is the case, putar.
Putar: It has been said that it is the China-driven boom that is responsible for rocketing Australians from 15th place in the world in terms of GDP per capita in 1992 to seventh.
Hari: That has also been mentioned in the same report, putar.
Putar: Mr Rudd says he is going for the games because Australians love sport and he is Australian.
Hari: That is his statement, putar. And he can also practice his Mandarin.
Putar: Of course his presence will please Australia's largest trading partner.
Hari: That's true, putar.
Putar: And make Australian businesses exporting to China feel more secure and relaxed about future exports to China.
Hari: Of course they will feel easier in their mind, putar. Especially since the Chinese did indicate that they were not very happy with Mr Rudd's earlier decision.
Putar: Mr Sarkozy, the French President, on the other hand, did announce publicly a while ago, that he did not rule out the possibility he could boycott the August 8 opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics if China did not make more effort to resolve unrest in Tibet.
Hari: He was fairly outspoken on the issue, putar.
Putar: Tell me something Papaji?
Hari: Bol, putar?
Putar: Is the French President less sports loving than the Australian Prime Minister?
Hari: I don't think so, putar. He is trim and fit and his wife Carla admires his physique. Moreover he did make it clear that it was only on account on Tibet that he might, possibly, boycott the games.
Putar: Then is it that he is a greater advocate for human rights than the Australian Prime Minister?
Hari: I wonder if that is the case, putar. The Australian Prime Minister has been very outspoken about the human rights abuses suffered by indigenous people in his country.
Putar: Could the reason for Mr Sarkozy's more outspoken stance then be that French-China trade, is, relatively speaking, not that significant or important for French businesses and industry as the Australia-China trade is for the Australian economy?
Hari: I don't know, putar.