India sought to "renew an old relationship" with Fiji and forge closer ties with small South Pacific island nations as Prime Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday announced steps to boost closer ties with the geo-strategically important region.
Remembering the people of Indian origin who comprise 37% of Fiji’s nearly 9 lakh population, Modi said: “Fiji will always have a special place (for us).”
Modi became the second Indian PM in 33 years, after Indira Gandhi, to visit the Fijian capital. He later left for home, ending a 10-day tour that took him to Myanmar and Australia.
The Fiji visit underlined the growing geo-strategic importance of the 14 South Pacific islands that lie at the centre of a key maritime route rich in resources. The islands dot the ocean east of Australia, over 11,500 km away from India.
The Fiji government accorded Modi a ceremonial welcome. PM Voreqe Bainimarama received him at the airport. Modi’s visit comes ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s three-day trip to Fiji from Friday.
Modi held talks with Bainimarama, presided over the signing of three MoUs, addressed the Fijian parliament, attended the first India-South Pacific Island nation meet and spoke at the Fiji National University.
In his address to parliament boycotted by the opposition, Modi said Fiji could serve as a hub for stronger Indian engagement with the Pacific Islands. He also thanked the Pacific nation for the role it played in India’s Mars Mission. He announced visa on arrival for Fijians.
Modi is a ‘man with clear vision’
British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Tuesday that he had a ‘very good meeting’ with PM Modi during the recent G20 summit in Australia, and called the latter a man with a ‘clear vision’ who could replicate Gujarat’s economic success throughout India.
Speaking in the House of Commons on the summit, Cameron agreed with senior Labour leader Keith Vaz that more could be done to improve trade relations between India and Britain. Cameron said, “I had a very good meeting with Modi, who got the conference off to a good start by agreeing to lift India’s block to the Bali trade facilitation agreement, which is vital to helping drive global growth”.
With inputs from Prasun Sonwalkar in London