Sugar-sweet: India galvanises ties with Fiji


modi-fiji-talksSUVA (FIJI): In a defining outreach to the Pacific islands community, India has unveiled a $75 million line of credit for Fiji for upgrading the sugar industry and sought to deepen defence and security cooperation with the archipelago nation.

Revitalising development partnership with Fiji, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who touched down in Suva at the crack of dawn on a day-long visit, also pledged $5 million fund to develop villages in the Pacific nation that is home to a large Indian diaspora. Persons of Indian origin comprise over 37 per cent of Fiji’s population.

Mr Modi held wide-ranging talks with his Fijian counterpart Frank Bainimarama in the Fijian capital Suva and focused on galvanising bilateral ties across the spectrum. He also announced a visa on arrival for Fijians and unveiled assistance projects that included a parliament library and doubling the scholarships and training slots in India for people from this country.

In his remarks at a joint appearance with the Fijian leader at the prime Minister’s office, Mr Modi captured the significance of the November 19 talks. “It is a new day and a new beginning in our relations with Fiji,” Mr Modi said.

“Fiji could serve as a hub for stronger Indian engagement with Pacific islands. I see this visit as an opportunity to renew an old relationship and lay the foundation for a strong partnership in the future,” he added.
Mr Modi also addressed the Fijian parliament, the first by a foreign leader since the parliamentary elections in the island in September that saw a return of democracy to the Pacific nation.

Signalling a diplomatic upsurge with the Pacific island community, the Indian leader also held a summit meeting with the leaders of the island states.  Mr Modi announced an ambitious Pan-Pacific Islands Network  that will provide telemedicine and tele-education to residents of these countries.