Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed that Fiji could become the hub for India’s regional cooperation in space as he announced visa on arrival for Fijians and two Lines of Credit totaling $75 million.
In an address to the Fiji parliament, Modi, the first Indian prime minister to visit the Pacific island nation in 33 years, also proposed help to build a digital Fiji.
He announced a grant of $5 million to strengthen and modernize Fiji’s village, small and medium industries and a Line of Credit of $70 million for a co-generation power plant at Rarav Sugar Mill and another $5 million for upgrading the sugar industry in Fiji.
He also offered India’s expertise and assistance in the agriculture and offered India’s help in developing Fiji’s dairy industry. He said that both could expand trade in areas like fisheries, textiles and garments, and gems and jewellery and announced that India is setting up a centre of excellence in information technology in Fiji.
“We are prepared to work with you to build a Digitial Fiji and to equip your youth to integrate Fiji into the global IT network,” he said.
He added: “We could work to make Fiji the hub for our regional collaboration in space, just as India has done with ASEAN.”
“Today, I propose that we work together to harness the potential of space technology for governance, economic development, conservation, climate change and natural disasters,” Modi said.
He also expressed thanked for Fiji hosting Indian scientists for tracking the Mars Mission, Mangalyaan.
“It was the only mission in the world (to Mars) to succeed in the first attempt,” he said and added that the “simple yet profound act of cooperation reflects the boundless possibilities in our relationship, if we choose to seek them”.
He described Fiji as a “strong voice on behalf of the Pacific Islands and a hub of this region”.
“You are playing an influential role in shaping the global dialogue on climate change.”
Referring to Indian origin Fijian golfer Vijay Singh, who was No 1 in world rankings, Modi said “there are many in India who wish Vijay Singh wore the Indian colours on the golf course”.
“For India, Fiji will always have a special place. The tide of history brought many from India to your shores. It has forged our ties of culture and kinship. But, our relationship today stands on a much broader of our shared values and our common interests as developing countries. And, now, together we were partners in making history,” Modi added.
There are over 300,000 Indian origin people in Fiji. Called girmitiyas, after the name of the indenture agreement girmit, the persons of Indian origin now comprise 37 percent of the 849,000 population (2009 estimates).
He spoke of the common challenges of climate change that both nations face and said “I look forward to working with Fiji in areas such wind and solar energy”.
India has stood shoulder to shoulder with Fiji and the Small Islands Developing States is seeking a fair and urgent response from the international community for a sustainable future.
“We also have shared stakes in a peaceful, cooperative and prosperous Asia and Pacific regions. Stretching from the Indian Ocean through continental Asia into Pacific, this is a region of enormous dynamism and opportunities, but also a region with many challenges.”
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 said.
He announced setting up of a Special Adaptation Fund of $1 million to provide technical assistance and training for capacity building to the Pacific Island nations.
He announced Visa on Arrival for nationals of all Pacific island-countries – Cook Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Nauru, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Niue, Palau, Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.
He proposed an e-network to connect the island nations, given the distances between the islands and poor connectivity.
He said “in keeping with the success achieved in the pan-Africa Project, we propose to develop Pan Pacific Islands Project for tele-medicine and tele-education”.
“We are also working on a solar energy project with the Pacific islands at the community level. The regional hubs will be developed in the Pacific islands,” he said.
Modi announced a hike in the grant-in-aid to Pacific island-countries from $125,000 to $200,000 each annually for community projects selected by them.