19 November 2014. Today, at a meeting in Fiji between Pacific Leaders, including Prime Minister Tu’ivakano, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Modi put forth his ten-point plan on how he hopes to restart stalled Indo-Pacific Island Country relations.
Declaring that “India wishes to be a close partner of the Pacific Islands”, Modi announced a range of initiatives, including Indian visas on arrival for all Pacific Islanders, tele-medicine, and diplomatic training. A summary of his speech and initiatives:
- Setting up of a Special Adaptation Fund of $ 1 million:
“India would be happy to provide technical assistance and training for capacity building to our Pacific Island Partners.”
- Pan Pacific Islands Project:
“Given the distance between the islands and poor connectivity, e-networks are an effective means for coordination. In keeping with the success achieved in the pan-Africa Project, we propose to develop Pan Pacific Islands Project for telemedicine 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.”
- Indian Visa on arrival all the fourteen Pacific Island Countries, including Tonga.
- Increase in Grant-in-Aid to Pacific Island Countries:
“Currently, [India] provides Grant in Aid of US$125,000 annually to each Pacific Island Country for community projects selected by you. I am happy to announce that we are increasing this aid to $ 200,000 annually. This would be rolled over annually.”
- Establish Trade Office in India [Note: this doesn’t affect Tonga as Tonga has no diplomatic representation in New Delhi]:
“This has been a long time request from you to promote trade between India and Pacific Island Countries. We are ready to support the setting up of a Trade Office at an existing diplomatic representation in New Delhi.
“We shall also provide complimentary space to Pacific Island countries during exhibitions organised by ITPO to showcase your products.
“We need to find complementarities in our trade. India could be important source of low cost medicines. We can do joint research in traditional medicine. Explore options of developing healthcare facilities for the benefit of people in the region.”
- Deputation of ITEC experts:
“We will continue to share our experience and expertise with all of you. In this context, I propose that we shall depute technical experts to your countries including in the fields of agriculture, healthcare and IT.”
- Training to Diplomats from Pacific Island Countries:
“We shall be happy to expand our efforts for your diplomats. In this context, Foreign Service Training Institutes will organise training programmes to the Diplomats of Pacific Island countries. These would be held here and in India.”
- Distinguished Visitors Programme:
“I propose to commence a Distinguished Visitors Programme. Under this we can organise seminars and invite friends from the region. This would help to explore new ideas for strengthening our mutually beneficially economic cooperation.”
- Space Cooperation:
“We propose cooperation in use of Space technology applications for improving the quality of life of our people and communications. We can look at possibilities of sharing data that could be used for monitoring climate change, disaster risk reduction and management, resource management.”
10. Forum of India-Pacific Island Cooperation:
“Lastly, given the response I have received today, I propose that a Forum for India – Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC) be held on a regular basis. The next meeting can be held in 2015 in one of the coastal location in India.”