Canberra [Australia], November 2 (ANI): Australia on Wednesday announced the donation of dozens of semi-automatic rifles to the Solomon Islands where it is competing for influence with regional rival China.
The Australian Federal Police said the handover of 60 Daniels Defense MK18 rifles and 13 police vehicles was part of an ongoing rearmament program and would help the South Pacific archipelago nation "counter criminal threats and maintain peace and stability."The gifting ceremony was attended by Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and Australia's commissioner Lachlan Strahan, who said the donation represented another landmark in the longstanding security and policing partnership between the two nations .
"We have been with each other through thick and thin. As Prime Minister Sogavare has said, our partnership is based on our shared duty to ensure that our region remains peaceful, prosperous and stable," Strahan said.
"Australia and Solomon Islands' security cooperation is multifaceted, spanning not just policing, but also Defence, border security, justice and non-traditional security threats. Australia's support is quick, forthright and responsive," he added.
The Solomon Islands, consisting of six major islands and over 900 smaller islands in Oceania, relies heavily on foreign aid. The country struck a security deal with China last year, which also supplied it with police gear, prompting Australia to scramble to counter Beijing's influence.
Solomon Islands opposition leader Matthew Wale slammed Australia on social media for "sucking up" to PM Sogavare and questioned the purpose of giving high-power rifles to a nation with no external enemies.
In 2021, the Solomon Islands saw a wave of deadly anti-government protests that led Australia and New Zealand to deploy peacekeepers. Their troops will be stationed in the country until the end of 2023. (ANI)