By Thomas H Kingston
In his work, A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge (1710), philosopher George Berkeley imagined that a tree, falling in some lonely garden, might make no noise at all if no person were around to perceive it. It was, and still is, an interesting thought experiment that has proven potent across the human experience. What we don’t perceive, we pay little attention to.
During the last week of April, President Nicos Anastasiades visited India. Few journalists perceived this event amongst the din of commentary on the French presidential election, a Chinese-made aircraft carrier, a North Korean-made ballistic missile and the continuing confusion of US national politics. And so it would seem appropriate. Most people are paying attention to what they hear from an increasing concentration of increasingly authoritarian strongmen in positions of increasing power. Discussions on the relationship between Cyprus and India hardly register as sound at all.
To be fair, Anastasiades, took some care not to make too much noise. The Republic of Cyprus is at a critical point in negotiations to re-unify this Eastern Mediterranean island nation after Turkey carved out more than 40 per cent of it by military invasion more than forty years ago. The resulting dark territory has been occupied by Turkish troops ever since, and remains a pariah pseudo-state without international recognition, regulatory structure or legal jurisdiction. But that pariah state exists within the territory of the European Union, forcefully-occupied by a non-EU member of Nato, and straddles the divide between the “West” and the “East”, however one defines either.
Cyprus, both north and south, would like some help in fostering re-unification. The great global powers have not demonstrated much inclination to do so at a time when peace and stability seem so passé. At least to them. But emerging global nations, such as India, have more to gain from partnerships than mere power. They gain leadership positions that have been neglected, or simply abandoned.
The re-unification of Cyprus would offer the PTSD-suffering global community a direct refutation of the nationalistic crescendo dominating much of the “Western” world’s attention. But, if one listens carefully enough, the sound of President Anastasiades’ whispers would be music to any rational human ears. He has been singing, until near hoarse, across the EU, the US and at the UN. But after falling on deaf ears for so long, his tune may have finally begun to resonate.
Unlike the Sirens of Greece, this Cypriot Song attempts to lure global leadership away from the rocks. Few have been listening. Given the world’s distracted attention, directing his voice to India was strategic, and intelligent. And India is listening. With more than €8 billion in investments being directed through its economy over the past decade, Cyprus is the eighth largest foreign direct investor in India. And there is much room for growth. Cyprus and India also share ex-colonial and “non-aligned nation” legacies. Few diplomats understand the significance of this today. The Cypriots do. The present Cyprus High Commissioner to India, Demetrios Theophylactou, has directly cultivated substantive political, diplomatic and commercial relationships from New Delhi that would not be considered possible anywhere else in the world. And even fewer diplomats have noticed. The subtle strategic initiative of the Cyprus foreign ministry has yielded material dividends. India and Cyprus have now signed a fiscal treaty that may just eclipse those enjoyed by Mauritius and Singapore from the perspective of investment and trade with India. The Cypriots are putting a band together, even if they do so quietly.
Of subtle significance, India granted President Anastasiades the honorific of a state visit ending on the same day as Turkey’s President Erdogan’s state visit began. In so doing, India has announced from the world stage, and particularly to President Erdogan himself, that power is more than personality; that strongmen stand alone, when nations can only stand together. And perhaps it should be India that makes this statement, when even the permanent members of the UN Security Council have not. In doing so, India begins to take its rightful place at that very table. For if the US, the UK, France, Russia and China can no longer link human prosperity to peace and stability, then room should be made for nations of growing stature to do so.
In this regard, the ascendancy of India as a global trade partner may have been co-opted. While few have noticed, India has been set on a trajectory toward global leadership. Few other nations may be up for the task. By simply listening to tiny Cyprus, India has heard the tree fall. With Cyprus offering itself as the fulcrum, India now holds an Archimedean lever of just the right length to move the whole world off a dizzyingly crazy course.
Thomas H Kingston is an American lawyer who lives and works in Europe and the Middle East. His career spans 25 years focused on economic development, food security and private sector growth/expansion programmes operated by some of the world’s largest private and state-owned investment groups. He is the founder and CEO of Cyprus Capital Partners. This article first appeared in The Economic Times, India