Cold War rationales no longer regulate external nation responses toward the Pacific Islands region. Particularly in Melanesian polities, clustered in the region’s western reaches, developments nevertheless continue to attract outsiders’ attention and, in respects, considerable policy investments. Individually and collectively, the Melanesian entities are by far the region’s territorially and numerically largest, but there is no common political status. Papua New Guinea (PNG), the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, and Fiji (which combines Melanesian and Polynesian characteristics) are independent. While on the road to independence, New Caledonia remains under French sovereignty; and West Papua (formerly Irian Jaya) is an Indonesian province. They, however, are the region’s most politically volatile members. They are prone to communal and ethnic frictions, at times with deadly consequences. They generate secessionist movements, destabilizing coups, and other institutional challenges. Owing in part to nation-building distractions laced with fecklessness and corruption, their resource abundance is not fully realized.
This chapter’s analysis connects external nation interests, their policy agendas and engagement with Melanesia and interplay vis-à-vis one another, and the manner in which responses on the part of resident entities themselves impact on external nation objectives.