Recently, the US says it will open an embassy in the Solomon Islands, laying out in unusually blunt terms a plan to increase its influence in the South Pacific nation before China becomes “strongly embedded.”
About Solomon Islands:
- Solomon Islands is a sovereign country consisting of six major islands and over 900 smaller islands in Oceania, to the east of Papua New Guinea and northwest of Vanuatu.
- Its capital, Honiara, is located on the largest island, Guadalcanal.
- The country takes its name from the Solomon Islands archipelago, which is a collection of Melanesian islands that also includes the North Solomon Islands (a part of Papua New Guinea), but excludes outlying islands, such as the Santa Cruz Islands and Rennell and Bellona.
- The islands have been settled since at least some time between 30,000 and 28,800 BC, with later waves of migrants, notably the Lapita people, mixing and producing the modern indigenous Solomon Islanders population.
- In 1568, the Spanish navigator Álvaro de Mendaña was the first European to visit them, naming them the Islas Salomón.
- Mendaña returned decades later, in 1595, and another Spanish expedition, led by Portuguese navigator Pedro Fernandes de Queirós, visited the Solomons in 1606.
- Britain defined its area of interest in the Solomon Islands archipelago in June 1893, when Captain Gibson R.N., of HMS Curacoa, declared the southern Solomon Islands a British protectorate.
- During World War II, the Solomon Islands campaign (1942–1945) saw fierce fighting between the United States, Commonwealth forces and the Empire of Japan, including the Battle of Guadalcanal.
- The official name of the then-British administration was changed from the British Solomon Islands Protectorate to The Solomon Islands in 1975, and self-government was achieved the following year.
- Independence was obtained, and the name changed to just “Solomon Islands” (without the definite article), in 1978. At independence, Solomon Islands became a constitutional monarchy. The Queen of Solomon Islands is Elizabeth II, represented by the Governor-General.
Why US opening embassy in Solomon Island?
- Solomon Islanders cherished their history with Americans on the battlefields of World War II (1939-45), but that the US was in danger of losing its preferential ties as China “aggressively seeks to engage” elite politicians and business people in the Solomon Islands.
- The move comes after rioting rocked the nation of 7,00,000 in November, 2021.
- The riots grew from a peaceful protest and highlighted long-simmering regional rivalries, economic problems and concerns about the country’s increasing links with China.
- The embassy announcement fits with a new Biden administration strategy for the Indo-Pacific and emphasises building partnerships with allies in the region as a way to counter China’s growing influence and ambitions.
- In the Quad meeting held recently, the US has said that it is committed to a “free and open, connected, prosperous, secure, and resilient” Indo-Pacific region.
Indo-Pacific and India
What is the Indo-Pacific and its Significance?
- The phrase “Indo-Pacific” has almost completely superseded the word “Asia-Pacific” in recent years, notably in the United States, India, Japan, and Australia.
- The term “Indo-Pacific” has entered the geopolitical conversation and the language of international relations. On the definition of the growing Indo-Pacific idea, there is no consensus.
- Indo-Pacific has a strategic future because it allows states to manage
- the partially contradictory desires that arise from China’s ascent.
- the growing uncertainties regarding the United States’ commitment to the security of its allies.
- the desire to avoid the undercurrents of Sino-American polarization.
Strategic Aspects of Indo-Pacific
- The Indo-Pacific is gaining prominence as a result of the mutual interests and convergences of multiple strategic powers, each with their own set of influences and goals, as a result of three geostrategic and geoeconomic developments.
- First, the marine and blue economy will dominate strategic rivalry over the next few decades.
- Second, the Indo-Pacific encompasses a vast and varied region that includes Southeast Asia, South Asia, and the Indian Ocean littoral states.
- Third, China’s ascent, outward expansion, and the intensification of the US-China competition.
- Quad, the US-Japan-India-Australia communication structure, will play a crucial role. The Indo-Pacific and the Quad are closely linked and Quad’s growth is essentially identical to the institutionalization process of the Pacific region.
- The Indo-Pacific plan has the potential to grow, bringing additional nations into the fold, with South Korea, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Vietnam, and other ASEAN countries as the primary targets.
- Europe is also developing and executing its own Indo-Pacific Strategy, which will provide an extra boost to Indo-Pacific growth.
- Furthermore, by emphasizing the “pillar of four nations” and neglecting the status and function of South Korea, Vietnam, the Philippines, Singapore, and other countries in the framework, the “Indo-Pacific” policy has put South Korea and Southeast Asian countries at a disadvantage.
Recent Developments in Indo-Pacific
- The emergence of India as a global economic powerhouse and a significant political player, notably in Asia.
- China’s assertive foreign policy and deployment of military might to claim its sovereignty over disputed islands in the South China Sea is the second most important development.
- The third significant trend is the deterioration of ASEAN’s self-confidence, which used to project itself as a triumphant political grouping in the area, despite differences in political systems, economic philosophy, religious views, and socio-cultural traditions.
- The development of the new framework is hampered by America’s isolationist impulses and practices in Asia.
Fiji: Special Interest to India
- The Indo-Pacific is becoming an increasingly crucial arena in the rising great power competition.
- As ethnic violence between Indian immigrants and local populations in Fiji became more intense, Delhi focused only on safeguarding the diaspora’s interests.
- Following a series of coups in Fiji and discrimination against the Indian population, Delhi sought to isolate the government and lose its larger influence on the island. India is expanding its economic aid programmes and establishing defense ties with Fiji.
France and Indo-Pacific
French Colonies and its Interests
- Due to its numerous overseas territories in the Indo-Pacific (e.g., Mayotte, La Réunion, New Caledonia, and French Polynesia), France perceives itself as an “island state” in the area.
- These areas give France the world’s second-largest exclusive economic zone, after the United States.
- France’s Indo-Pacific strategy strives to safeguard the country’s international position and distinctive interests, particularly in the overseas territories that serve as an anchor and source of legitimacy for the French policy.
- A large military presence complements the Indo-Pacific’s people, geographical, and economic connections.
- New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna, and Clipperton Island—as well as Reunion Island, Mayotte, and the French Southern and Antarctic Lands—are crucial to its concept of the region’s geographical breadth.
- They jointly make up France’s second-largest exclusive economic zone in the world.
- Three avenues of action, in particular, stand out among the French.
- First, France is prioritizing improving the regional military balance.
- Second, Paris is a strong proponent of multilateralism as a pillar for the stability of the Indo-Pacific.
- Third, France actively supports Europe’s engagement in the Indo-Pacific.
Embracing the Indo-Pacific Concept
- In 2018, Paris opted to accept the “Indo-Pacific” idea as a natural continuation of these tiny but steady moves, becoming the first EU country to do so.
- France recognised the region’s cohesiveness as well as its increasing geopolitical significance.
- The Indo-Pacific is typically defined differently geographically from one country to the next.
- The French idea is broad, extending “from Djibouti to Polynesia.” This demonstrates France’s determination to treat the Indian Ocean with the same priority as the Pacific.
Aspirations of France in Indo-Pacific
- By contributing to increased coordination of efforts from like-minded countries across the region, France might play a significant role in US policy. It has already begun with the conversation between France, India, and Australia.
- France may also be able to influence EU policy in the Indo-Pacific, ensuring that Europeans play a valuable and coordinated role in the area.
- France and the United States, as an Indo-Pacific “island state,” may collaborate more effectively to compete with China.
Source: The Hindu