Indian Navy visits, ocean economy meet; India-Pacific Islands for closer ties


Jaipur: Outlining several steps to forge closer cooperation with the Pacific Island nations, India on Friday proposed to create a network of marine biology research stations on them, hold a conference on ocean economy in New Delhi next year and have good will visits by its navy. In his remarks at the second Forum for India-Pacific Island Countries, Prime Minister Narendra Modi termed climate change “a pressing concern for all” and proposed that India will work with the 14 countries “and others for a comprehensive, balanced and fair outcome at COP 21 in Paris”. On the proposed reforms of the UN Security Council, he asked the 14 countries to “help conclude negotiations at the UN General Assembly” that could see “long awaited reforms come to fruition”, said Anil Wadhwa, secretary (east) in the MEA, briefing reporters later. Modi also proposed setting up an Institute for Sustainable Coastal and Ocean Research in the region and a network of marine biology research stations on many island nations. He suggested that both sides could begin with research collaboration and capacity building with institutions in India.

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He also offered holding an International Conference on “Ocean economy and Pacific Island Countries” in New Delhi in 2016, and for the Indian Navy to provide “direct support and capacity building to island states”, especially for coastal surveillance and hydro graphic surveys, like it has done with some Indian Ocean islands. During goodwill visits, Indian Navy ships could also extend support in areas like healthcare through medical camps on the islands.

India also pitched for cooperation in the sphere of space, to help in making an inventory of land and water resources; fish zoning; forest resources management; coastal and ocean studies; weather and climate change; and, disaster management support. Modi said India could assist in establishing a Space Technology Applications Center in any one of the countries and enhance support for training in space applications. Referring to Fiji’s support for India’s Mars Mission, Modi said he hoped to continue receiving support for telemetry, tracking and command for India’s future missions. He said India would be pleased to create capacity in the Pacific Island States to deal with natural disasters, including through human resource development and application of space technology for early warning system and incident response. Referring to India’s help in capacity building through the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) scholarships, he said Fiji will get 110 slots, and the number of slots for the other 13 countries will be doubled from 119 to 238.

India would also offer two scholarships for college education in India to each of the 13 countries that do not receive them yet, while continuing with the 33 scholarships presently offered to Fiji. India will also expand training courses for Pacific Island diplomats and offer a two-week business management course at the Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore. Noting India has trained 43 rural women from eight island countries as solar engineers in the last three years, he now committed to training 70 more women and to provide solar electrification to 2,800 houses – 200 houses in each country. Modi also announced the setting up of one information technology laboratory in each Pacific Island country to help improve local IT infrastructure as well as enable India to fulfill its commitment of tele-medicine and tele-education. In the sphere of trade, Modi said that in addition to the FIPIC (Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation) Trade Office in New Delhi, India would support the development of micro, small and medium enterprises and also extend support for purchase of machinery for coconut processing and enhancing rice and sugarcane yields.

On the supply of generic drugs presently routed through third countries and thus very expensive, he offered setting up a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant and distribution center in the Pacific Island region. He also said India would offer a Line of Credit for this. During his visit last November to Fiji, Modi had announced electronic visas for Pacific Island countries and on Friday announced the visas would be gratis. He said Prasar Bharti, India’s national broadcaster, would gift television and radio programs on culture, entertainment, news, education, in English and Hindi as well as organised a specialized training programs over the next few months for local broadcasters. India would also support the creation of India Centers through e-libraries and supply books to university libraries. Modi said the partnership “demonstrates that geography is no barrier to productive partnerships of convergent interests and shared challenges. This partnership will be of great relevance to all of us in the 21st century”. “We see this as a partnership of equals, driven by similar aspirations, in which we will all be more successful by being together.”