China, Solomon Islands sign landmark security pact
Part of: Prelims and GS II – International Relations
Context: China has announced the signing of a security pact with the Solomon Islands, despite the US and Australia raising concerns over the landmark deal that could result in China setting up a military base in the South Pacific country, close to Australia.
- According to the agreement, the two countries will conduct cooperation in such areas as maintenance of social order, protection of the safety of people’s lives and property, humanitarian assistance and natural disaster response, in an effort to help the Solomon Islands strengthen capacity building in safeguarding its own security.
- The news comes amid concerns from Australia, the US and New Zealand that the agreement would include the setting up of a military base, similar to the deal that China struck with the African nation Djibouti in 2017. But the Pacific island nation has clarified that there was no such clause in the deal.
What are the concerns?
- China’s increased military activity and influence in the Indo-Pacific could destabilize the region as the island could also be used as a stopover for China’s troops for tactical replenishments.
- A major shift in the geopolitics since it gives China direct access to the South Pacific, including Australia and New Zealand.
- The Pacific islands, in the post-World War II scenario, were exclusively under the spheres of influence of the Western powers, in particular the U.S., U.K., France and the regional heavyweights, Australia and New Zealand.
- All of them have territorial possessions in the region, with the three nuclear powers among them having used the region as a nuclear weapons testing ground.
- The smaller island nations of the region are heavily dependent on them, especially Australia as it is a resident power.
- This established power structure in the region is being increasingly challenged by China through the steady displacement of Taiwan and the cultivation of economic and political clout.
- Its proposed deal with the Solomon Islands has added a security dimension to its fast-growing profile in the region.
- Solomon Islands are strategically located for China to insert itself between America’s military bases in the Pacific islands and Australia. This is especially significant in the current scenario, given the emergence of the AUKUS (Australia, the U.K. and the U.S.) which seeks to elevate Australia’s strategic capabilities vis-à-vis China through Anglo-American cooperation.
- 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.
- It is located in the southwestern Pacific Ocean.
- Its capital, Honiara, is located on the largest island, Guadalcanal.
- Have significant reserves of timber and mineral resources, along with fisheries.