India-Fiji relations refer to foreign relations between India and Fiji. India has a high commission in Suva whilst Fiji has a high commission in New Delhi. There is strong cultural relations b/w the two countries as 38 percent of Fiji's population is of Indian descent. India has used its influence in international forums including the Commonwealth of Nations and United Nations on behalf of ethnic Indians in Fiji, lobbying for sanctions against Fiji in the wake of the 2000 coup and the 1987 coups, both of which removed governments, one dominated and one led, by Indo-Fijians.
Fiji, in the heart of the Pacific Ocean, is an archipelago of 332 islands of which around one-third are occupied permanently. The total land area is 18,333 square km. English, Fijian and Hindi is widely spoken languages. Main ethnic groups include Indian, Fijian, European, other Pacific Islanders, and Chinese.
India-Fiji Relations history
India’s relations with Fiji started in 1879 when Indian laborers were brought here under the bond system to work on sugarcane plantations. Beginning with the early 20th century, Indian traders and others also started arriving in Fiji. At present, of the 849,000 population (2009 estimates), 37% are people of Indian origin.
India-fiji Relation since freedom movement
Before Fiji’s independence in 1970, India had a Commissioner since 1948 to focus on the interests of people of Indian origin. The Commissioner’s post was upgraded to that of the High Commissioner after independence. Fiji established its first High Commission in New Delhi in January 2004. Fiji had several revolutions started in 1987. India-Fiji bilateral relations have grown progressively during the past few years due to several ongoing initiatives and bilateral visits to and from Fiji.
India and Fiji Development Cooperation
- Four MOUs pacts on Cooperation in health, Tourism, IT, and establishment of Joint Trade Committee were signed during the visit.
- A Few electronic voting machines for trial and possible use in their elections; training of election officials
- The Sahyadri Group of Hospitals trains Fijian doctors, nurses, etc in India. GoI has given a grant of US $ 200,000 to upgrade the facilities in CWM Hospital in Suva.
- In the perspective of flood and devastation in Fiji Islands caused by Cyclone Tomas in March 2010, the Government of India gave assistance of US$100,000/- in May 2010 and contributed US$ 100,000 to the Prime Minister’s National Disaster, Relief and Rehabilitation Account for the floods and cyclone in 2009.
India extended Line of Credit for various development programmes India has offered 55 slots under the ITEC and 20 slots under the TCS Colombo Plan to Fiji for short-term training courses in various Indian institutions during the recent financial year. In addition, 43 slots for Navy and 10 slots for Fiji defence personnel for short &long-term training programmes have been offered during the year 2012-13. Scholarships are offered for Diaspora Children (SPDC of the MOIA), and Certificate/Diploma Course in Hindi conducted by Kendriya Hindi Sansthan. India and the Republic of Fiji had signed an MoU on the establishment of Joint Trade Negotiations on India-Fiji Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) were completed in Suva on 19-20 October 2011.
Cultural Relationship b/w India and fiji
A Cultural Centre in Fiji was set-up by GOI in 1972. After the 1987 revolution, the Cultural Centre was closed down in 1990. At present, ICC Suva and Sub-Centre Lautoka provide classes in Indian classical music and dance, Hindi language, and Yoga. ICC, Suva, also organizes cultural evenings, film shows, exhibitions, workshops, and discussions. A year-long series of events were held to mark 40 years of ICC in Fiji during 2011-12. A 12- member Odissi dance group, a 15-member Bollywood group "Karmic Konnection", classical singer Vidushi Savita Devi, a 23-member Ramleela Group, Bharatanatyam dancer Dr. Lata Singh Munshi, , folk singer Malini Awasthi, a 14-member Bollywood dance group “Matrix” and an 8-member Qawwali group led by Qawwal Wajahat Husain Badayuni visited Fiji as part of the events.
The University of Fiji signed a Memorandum of understanding with the University of Calcutta in September 2012 for Cooperation b/w the two universities. A MoU on Supervisory Cooperation and Exchange of Supervisory Information between the Reserve Bank of Fiji and the Reserve Bank of India was signed on 05 March 2013. A group of Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Limited from India visited Fiji hospitals and health centres signed a MoU with the Fiji National University, for cooperation in training and capacity building and the possible introduction of a mobile health programme.
China issue in India-fiji Relationship
Fiji was disqualified from the Commonwealth and the Pacific Islands Forum for its failure to set-up liberal democratic rule. Politically isolated in the international community both at the regional and multilateral levels, it has found a right supporter in China to ward off any further pressure including in the form of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
China doesn’t demand any democratic or human rights track record in return for grants and aid. China wants a market to sell its products and Fiji is ready to accept the deal. Moreover, China finances many infrastructure projects in Fiji and use it Yuan diplomacy. With respect to Fiji, India could follow one of two courses. Either it could isolate the military regime internationally, or it should engage with the military dictator and influence the democratic transition. Going by the Indian experience with Myanmar, the second option sounds good.
Air Services Agreement
Air Services Agreement is an agreement which two nations sign to permit international commercial air transport services b/w their territories. The Union Cabinet gave its approval for the signing of the new Air Services Agreement (ASA) between India and Fiji. The Agreement is for the updating of the existing Air Services Agreement b/w the two countries which was signed in January 1974. The selected airlines of either country shall have the right to establish offices in the territory of the other country for the sale and promotion of air services. The designated airlines shall have an equal opportunity to operate the agreed services on specified routes. The designated airline will be free to decide tariffs in respect of the agreed services at reasonable levels based on commercial considerations.
India is a dialogue partner at the Pacific Islands Forum and it can apply for membership. It needs to open diplomatic missions in the South Pacific region and encourage developmental activities there. An East policy should be extended to cover the South Pacific Ocean in general and Fiji in particular. India’s soft power can be an answer to China’s Yuan Diplomacy.