Asia & the Pacific Policy Studies

The mood in Melanesia after the regional assistance mission to Solomon Islands

By George Carter and Stewart Firth

Melanesia is becoming a region of many partners, expanding diplomatic options and a new sense of independence. The wider context of the new Melanesian assertiveness is one in which China is a rising power and Indonesia is forging closer links with the western Pacific. The impetus to Fiji’s new assertiveness arose from the diplomatic isolation imposed upon it by Australia and New Zealand after the 2006 military coup. Papua New Guinea’s new confidence is founded upon its liquefied natural gas boom. Even Solomon Islands is expanding diplomatic connections. Regionally, the change can be seen in the Melanesian Spearhead Group, which now counts Indonesia among its members, and in Fiji’s push for its own vision of Pacific regionalism. Australia and New Zealand nevertheless remain the indispensable countries in the region. Australia’s commitment to Melanesia remains constant but without the bold initiatives and interventionist enthusiasm of the early RAMSI years.


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