Contributed by Jim Hayes
The attack on the Solomon Islands for singing a cooperation agreement with China is wrong. Worse, it is an uncalled for intervention in the internal affairs of another nations. It’s the deliberate bullying by a local big power of a small neighbour.
Nations that value democracy will hold that a nation belongs to its people and that the course the nation takes is up to them, not for someone from outside wanting to impose their will.
Comments from leading Australian politicians indicate they have a somewhat different view of the world. In his case, it involves trying to block any deal our neighbours might make with China. The reason? The Australian government is locked into the geopolitical ambition of the United States to maintain its dominance in the region.
Australia’s history in this part of the world has often not been a good one and given to a propensity to play a kind of colonialist role, denying the right of local peoples to be masters of their own destiny. In other words, Australia stood against democracy. We need only consider the roles played in Papua new Guinea, Timor-Leste, and the current backing of the Indonesian occupation of West Papua.
When the Solomon Island’s prime minister Manasseh Sogavare insists that Australia is meddling in his nation’s internal affairs, he makes an exceptionally good point.
Photo from the Australian: Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands Manasseh Sogavare
The current controversy concerns the deal with China, which seems to have been prompted by Australian moves to renege on its own prior agreement. We don’t know the details of this because the matter has been going on behind closed doors. What we do know is that the Solomon Islands are unhappy with the way they see they have been treated. The bottom line is that the Australian government insists that the Solon Islands should be denied this right. This isn’t said openly, of course. A smokescreen of security concern is put up to cover the reality.
A scenario of the Solomon Islands becoming a Chinese military base to launch attacks on countries like Australia is being painted.
The reality is that the deal with China largely replaces what Australia was supposed to provide, except that there is more and on better terms. Help will be given to build the nation’s infrastructure, agriculture, health services, and sport.
Concern over some training of Solomon Islands police and help in emergency situations has been made much of. The truth is this is less than Australia’s own past sending in police and even military personnel. The big difference according to the Solomon Islands, is that Australia imposed control and China isn’t doing this. The police deal is part of a security cooperation agreement to deal with emergency situations. It comes along with upgrading the port in the capital Honiara for commercial purposes and associated road networks to access trade.
Sogavere criticised Australia and the United States in an interview with the ABC:
“The narrow and coercive diplomatic approach of targeting China-Solomon Islands relations, and I want to use this word, is unneighbourly … This is nothing but interference of foreign states in the internal affairs of Solomon Islands,” he said.
There is absolutely no evidence of intention for a military buildup. In fact, this is not the proved modus operandi of China, which doesn’t have a military buildup outside its national boundaries and claimed territorial waters. This is their policy.
Instead of a military threat, this is about access to trade routes and economic relationships in the Pacific. The intention is to keep China out. And to ensure the region is for the access of only the United States and its allies.
The prime minister of the Solomon Islands has consistently been clear on his wish for a good relationship with Australia. One that is based on respect, rather than on a master-servant type of relationship.
Australia’s capacity to treat our smaller neighbours as equals and deserving the right to make their own choices, is the measure by which Australia will ultimately be judged.