Seeking stronger engagement with the Pacific Islands, India on Wednesday announced a $75-million line of credit for Fiji for a co-generation power plant and upgrading the sugar industry and also a $5 million fund to develop its villages even as the two countries agreed to expand their Defence and Security cooperation.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who made these announcements after talks with his Fijian counterpart Frank Bainimarama shortly after his arrival, also announced a visa on arrival for Fijians and assistance projects that included a parliament library and doubling the scholarships and training slots in India for people from this country.
The lines of credit were part of three agreements signed between the two countries in the presence of the two leaders. Modi arrived in Suva at the crack of dawn on the third and final leg of his 10-day three-nation tour, for a day-long visit, the first by an Indian premier to the country in 33 years after Indira Gandhi in 1981.
The tiny remote pacific Island nation rolled out the red carpet for Modi, who was received by Frank Bainimarama, a former military ruler, at the Suva International airport. Bainimarama was sworn in as prime minister on September 22 after the first parliamentary elections in the pacific nation since he seized power in a coup in 2006.
Modi was accorded a ceremonial guard of honour at the airport after which he attended the traditional ceremony of Welcome at Albert park, close to the Prime Minister's office and Parliament. He shook hands with people from the Indian diaspora assembled at the ground as he walked past the enclosures. "It is a new day and a new beginning in our relations with Fiji," Modi said in remarks to the media at a joint appearance with Bainimarama at the prime Minister's office.
"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. Modi also addressed Fijian parliament, the first by a foreign leader, after parliamentary elections, during which he said that India was prepared to work with Fiji to build a "Digital Fiji". The Line of Credit included $70 million for a co-generation power plant at Rarav sugar mill and $5 million to strengthen and modernise Fiji's village, small and medium scale industries. "I regard Fiji as an important partner for India. We have deep and enduring ties of history and culture.
Fiji is an influential voice in the Pacific Region and the developing world, and our partner in multilateral institutions," Modi said at his joint press interaction.
Reciprocating Modi's sentiments, Bainimarama said the Indian Prime minister's visit has laid the groundwork for "productive relationship" between the two countries.
"We are proud to have India as a partner in Fiji's future," he said, adding that 15 more bilateral agreements are in the works. Modi touched a chord at all his events starting his speeches with a Fijian greeting "Nissan Vola" and ending them with "Vinaka" (Thank You). "We will also expand our defence and security cooperation, including assistance in defence training and capacity building. We agreed to identify opportunities to expand our trade and investments and work out a concrete roadmap," Modi said. He said that India looks forward to closer engagement in areas like information technology and Space applications. "I want to offer to convey a special word of gratitude from the people of India for hosting Indian scientists for tracking India's Mars Mission earlier this year. Together we made history," the prime minister said.
"We are also prepared to increase cooperation in renewable energy, especially solar and wind energy, and in building capacity to adapt to climate change," he added. He also suggested Fijian leaders to invite Bollywood to shoot their films in Fiji to attract more Indian tourists.
"Fiji is a leader in the region and a strong voice in the developing world. Together, we can also work for a future in the region, in which there is an equal place for all nations big and small, developed and developing and a climate of peace and tranquility," he added.