Air Services Agreement Symbolises Deep, Strong Relations Between Fiji, India
The relationship Fiji and India share goes beyond diplomacy. Deep personal relations have been forged between the two countries – starting from the top.
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi share very good rapport.
The relationship shared at the top has been instrumental in the manner in which things have moved forward between the two countries.
India has treated Fiji as its equal. This was evident during negotiations leading up to the signing of a new Air Services Agreement.
This new agreement replaces the previous one, which was signed over 40 years ago, in 1974.
India was also one of those countries that were first to donate cash post Tropical Cyclone Winston – this was apart from the tonnes of seeds and other help that teams from India brought into the country.
India has been ready to assist Fiji in the agricultural sector, in defence, information technology, education and now India’s Jet Airways has a code sharing agreement with Fiji Airways.
Tourism Fiji and Fiji Airways have partnered with leading Indian newspaper Times of India for marketing purposes.
India has stood firm behind Fiji in its trying times and has not hesitated in extending a helping hand. Fiji too has played its part. The role India played in the Pacific Islands Forum was through the backing of Fiji.
Government documents show that relations between Fiji and India date back to 1879 when Indian indentured labourers were sent to Fiji to work on sugarcane plantations.
The Indian labourers played a crucial role in the country’s development. Indo-Fijians are now proud citizens of Fiji.
India’s diplomatic presence in Fiji commenced even before Fiji attained independence from Britain on October 10, 1970.
India had a Commissioner stationed in Fiji to look after the interests of the indentured.
Even in the early stages, the importance of relations between Fiji and India was underscored with the high level visits by Fiji’s then Prime Minister and late President, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara to India in 1971, which was reciprocated by India’s then Prime Minister, the late Indira Gandhi, who visited Fiji in 1981.
The two countries have been side-by-side in championing developing country issues.
Fiji has greatly valued India’s leadership and guidance in forums such as G77 (Group of 77 Developing Countries) and NAM (Non-Aligned Movement) and more recently the WTO (World Trade Organisation), where with India’s help, concerns of the developing countries were brought to the mainstream.
In 2002, as part of India’s ‘Look East’ policy and further to India’s dialogue partnership of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), India successfully applied to become a dialogue partner of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), with the support of the Fijian Government.
The dialogue partnership of PIF provides India and the Pacific Region a structured mechanism of interaction on issues of mutual importance.
In an increasingly inter-connected global environment, coupled with the rise of India as a global (economic and political) player, the broadening and deepening of bilateral relations is advantageous to Fiji, both in terms of Fiji’s international profile (engagement and partnership with a powerful global player) and Fiji’s economic prosperity and development aspirations.
The Fijian Government knows that if it can lay the foundations of a strong relationship with India, it will be in a favourable position to reap the benefits of India’s present and projected phenomenal growth.
The latest developments show we are definitely moving in the right direction.