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Vanuatu aims high with a new trade

commissioner in Europe
On last Friday, the 22nd of April, at the WTO in Geneva, The Minister of Foreign
Affairs, International Cooperation and External Trade, Bruno Leingkone Tau,
announced the appointment of Mr.Shiv Shankaran Nair, as Vanuatus Trade
Commissioner covering the major European countries and MENA.

At first sight, this appointment looks very ambitious, for a nearly bankrupt country
like Vanuatu, which relies heavily on tourism for making ends meet. However, Nair
and Vanuatu have some interesting history.

In 2013, the then Foreign Minister of Vanuatu, Edward Natapei, desperately looking
for a face saving formula to get out of the recognition of Abkhazia, the breakaway
part of Georgia, contacted Nair in Malta. Nair was already an Advisor to The
Government of Vanuatu on political Affairs at that time

Vanuatu along with Nauru and similarly impoverished Tuvalu had recognized
Abkhazia, after being promised grants of upto 50 million USD by the breakaway
Republic of Abkhazia. After recognition, The Abkhaz government stated that
payments had been made, however all the countries involved denied ever receiving
any funds. What it did for the three Pacific islands, was to bring down a very
negative reaction from the western countries and Australia and New Zealand.

Natapei, who came to power in a snap election made it his primary goal to distance
himself and the incoming administration from the recognition of Abkhazia. It is in
this context that he turned to Shiv Shankaran Nair, a business man with interests in
Vanuatu, who also happened to be a former employer of the Georgian President,
Mikhail Sakhashvilli. In 1995, Nair set up the first post soviet, insurance Company
in Georgia, The British Caucasian Insurance Company, where the young Mikhail
Sakhashvilli worked as an analyst, before winning a Muskie scholarship and
travelling to the US. He returned to Georgia, led the popular Rose Revolution
overthrowing the Govt. of EduardSchevernadze and became President of Georgia.

After the ill-fated war against Russia where Georgia lost substantial part of its
territory, Sakhashvilli had made it his mission to overturn international recognition
of the breakaway parts of Georgia as sovereign countries. However Georgian
diplomacy was no match for Russian cheque book diplomacy, and these territories
continued to enjoy international recognition by a handful of states.

Vanuatus overture through Nair was God sent for Georgia. The Georgians
immediately responded and several secret meetings were held in Dubai, the
culmination of which was an announcement by the Georgian President that he had
persuaded Vanuatu and Tuvalu to de-recognize Abkhazia and to recognize the
territorial integrity of Georgia .

Based on his close relationship with Vanuatu, therefore Shiv Shankran Nairs
appointment as Trade Commissioner doesnt altogether come as a surprise.
Born in Kerala India, Nair is an Economist by training, having graduated from Don
Bosco College and subsequently having done a Masters Degree in political Risk from
The Scottish Business School, Glasgow. He then became a FX trader with Equatorial
Bank in the City of London, before being appointed Head of The Nigerian
Governments Procurement arm in London, called ADPLA.

In 1995, he embarked on a career as the first foreign advisor in the Cabinet of


Ministers of Turkmenistan, that has led him to be subsequently described by The
Economist as Chinas secret weapon in Africa. He then went on to work in similar
capacities for most of the Former Soviet Republics, forging close relationships,
amongst them Mikhail Sakhashvilli, who went on to become the Georgian President

In appointing Nair as its European Trade Commissioner, Vanuatu is banking on


accessing Chinese, Qatari and Korean credit through Nairs contacts with these
governments and state companies. The Vanuatuan Foreign Minister has stated that
as Trade Commissioner, Nair will focus on cleaning up Vanuatus online gaming
regulations as well as bringing in European and Middle Eastern FDI in tourism and
Agriculture. Hopefully Vanuatuans wont have to wait long to see some results