On visit to Fiji, Jaishankar underscores India’s strong stance on climate justice | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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On visit to Fiji, Jaishankar underscores India’s strong stance on climate justice

Feb 16, 2023 07:51 PM IST

External affairs minister S Jaishankar described Fiji as a “very important partner” in the Indo-Pacific and said that India will co-host the third summit of the Forum for India Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC) in the coming months

NEW DELHI: Fiji on Thursday sought greater cooperation with India to develop the island country’s sugar industry and infrastructure, even as external affairs minister S Jaishankar emphasised New Delhi’s strong commitment to ensuring climate justice in the Pacific region.

Jaishankar said India has worked with Fiji in various sectors and done projects in the sugarcane industry (Twitter/DrSJaishankar)
Jaishankar said India has worked with Fiji in various sectors and done projects in the sugarcane industry (Twitter/DrSJaishankar)

Jaishankar, the first senior Indian leader to visit Fiji in nearly a decade, was in the country to participate in the World Hindi Conference co-hosted by the two sides. On Thursday, he held talks with Fiji Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka to review bilateral ties and to advance cooperation in a range of areas.

With climate change a major challenge for Pacific island states, Jaishankar and Fiji President Wiliame Katonivere jointly launched a project funded by India to install solar power systems in the official residences of Pacific heads of state, beginning with the “solarisation” of the presidential residence in Fiji. The two-year project, costing more than $ 1.3 million, has been largely funded by the Indian government through the India-UN Development Partnership Fund.

Following talks with Jaishankar, Rabuka told a joint news conference that the two sides had “positive discussions” on advancing cooperation in key areas such as the sugar industry, infrastructure, renewable energy, health and education. He also appreciated India’s commitment to supporting the Pacific Islands Forum’s 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific for the sustainable long-term development of the region.

Jaishankar said India has worked with Fiji in various sectors and done projects in the sugarcane industry. “Today, one part of our discussion looked at areas like IT and support for medium and small enterprises. So there is really a very substantive bilateral agenda before us,” he said.

In a region prone to natural disasters, India has also stood with Fiji in difficult times and acted as a first responder on certain occasions. During the Covid-19 pandemic, India provided 100,000 doses of vaccines in March 2021 and it has also taken up community projects under a demand-driven development partnership approach, Jaishankar said.

Describing Fiji as a “very important partner” in the Indo-Pacific, Jaishankar said India will co-host the third summit of the Forum for India Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC) in the coming months.

Rabuka skirted a question on whether China figured in the talks, saying: “We thought it was bad manners to talk about somebody who was not in the building...We have great old friends, really no need to look for new friends. There are no real new friends in this region. We’ve been friends with India, we’ve been friends with China. We will continue our relationship.”

Under the project to set up solar power systems in Pacific island states, photovoltaic systems will be installed on buildings of national significance such as the executive administrative residences of Fiji, Federated States Micronesia, Palau, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Solomon Islands, Timor Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. In Fiji, solar equipment is being installed at the State House or presidential residence in Suva.

“This project reflects India’s strong commitment to climate action, to climate justice, which is also underlining our shared priorities with the Pacific islands on this very important challenge of climate change,” Jaishankar said.

Jaishankar inaugurated the renovated Girmit Gallery in Fiji Museum, which has been supported by the Indian government under bilateral grant-in-aid. The gallery showcases the journey of “Girmits” or Indian indentured labourers to Fiji. He also unveiled a bust of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel at India House in Suva, where he interacted with a gathering of the diaspora.

India and Fiji also signed a visa waiver agreement that permits diplomatic and official passport holders of the two sides to travel and stay in each other’s country without holding a visa for 90 days.

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