Fiji is an archipelago of more than 332 islands, of which 110 are permanently inhabited. Fiji is one amongst advanced economies in the Pacific due to an abundance of forest, mineral, and fish resources. Indian labourers were taken to Fiji by British to work in sugar plantations. Today, the main sources of foreign exchange are its tourism industry and sugar exports. There are strong cultural links between the countries as nearly half of Fiji's population is of Indian descent. Fiji would be important to India for stronger engagement in Pacific Islands.
Indian links with Fiji
In international forums such as the Commonwealth of Nations and United Nations India used its ropes on behalf of ethnic Indians in Fiji, urging for sanctions against Fiji in the wake of the 1987 coup and the 2000 coup.
During Fiji’s PM visit to India in 2005, the Government of India had loaned F$86 million for the upgrading of Fiji's sugar mills, which would enable Fiji to diversify its sugar industry into bio-fuels.
In the wake of the Kashmir earthquake which devastated northern areas of India and Pakistan, on 8 October 2005. Fiji manifested its comradeship to the two Governments and their people in the time of national agony and adversity.
India provide scholarship to students every year to pursue graduation and post graduation in India and 18 civil servants from Fiji travel to India to further their studies under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) through Diaspora.
Outcome of present visit
Mr Modi, the first Indian prime minister to visit Fiji in 33 years in Nov 2014, also announced visa on arrival for Fijians which would boost tourism and people to people connect.
Both countries complied to widen their defence and security cooperation, including support in defence training and capacity building.
Both sides have conceded to identify opportunities to bolster trade and investments and also closely engage in areas like information technology and Space applications.
India contributed new assistance projects in Fiji, including a Parliament Library together with a fund of $5 million to foster small business and village enterprises in Fiji.
India is ready to extend cooperation in renewable energy, particularly solar and wind energy, additionally capacity building to adapt to climate change. India is also inclined to share acquaintance and expertise in disaster management and response.
Fiji endorsed cooperation with India by hosting Indian scientists for tracking India's Mars Mission earlier this year.
To strengthen its role in pacific islands India could seek for membership in Pacific islands forum beyond its present dialogue partner status. It should commit to extend diplomatic missions in the South Pacific region and promote developmental activities there. The extended Look East policy i.e ‘Act east policy’ of PM Modi should be extended to cover the South Pacific Ocean in general and Fiji in particular.
India’s soft power and cultural diplomacy would be answer to china’s Yuan diplomacy to appeal to both native Fijiian’s and Indo-Fijiian community which would strengthen India’s role and presence in Pacific Islands and would catalyse south – south cooperation.