Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid.
Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on Wednesday welcomed the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Fiji, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola and said that the bilateral relations between the two nations have been developing very well in the recent years.
Khurshid also congratulated the visiting dignitary on Fiji’s adoption of a new Constitution, and added that India will extend its electoral assistance as Fiji prepares for elections in September 2014.
“India supports the democratic process in Fiji. We shall be providing Fiji with indelible ink for the elections, vehicles for the Election Commission and training of election and parliamentary officials as our contribution towards Fiji’s march towards a democratic polity,” he said.
He further said that India and Fiji share close and cordial relations, and added that Fiji is an important partner for India in the region and for its Look East Policy.
“We agreed that bilateral relations have been growing and people-to-people contacts are developing very well in recent years. Our relations received positive momentum with exchange of visits, including visits by both Prime Minister Bainimarama and President Nailatikau to India,” he said.
“Fiji is an important partner for India in the region and our Look East Policy. We agreed to continue our excellent cooperation and understanding at political, regional and multilateral levels and expand cooperation in a variety of socio-economic sectors. We have been happy to share our development experience with Fiji bilaterally and in the framework of South-South Cooperation. Fiji has supported us consistently in international fora. I congratulated Foreign Minister for a commendable job as Chair of G77 + China, in 2013,” he added.
Both sides agreed to enhance cooperation in the area of agriculture, especially in the sugar sector.
“The upgradation programme provided by India has helped to increase sugar yield, strengthen capacity building and promote technology transfer. I am glad to that we are embarking on a second LOC for sugar sector and are also considering cooperation on a co-generation project in the sector,” Khurshid said.
He also noted that there has been substantial progress on cooperation in the health sector.
“We had provided assistance in form of medical equipment and ambulances. Ministry of Health of Fiji has entered into a Public Private Partnership with Sahyadri Hospital, Pune for providing tertiary healthcare at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital (CWM) in Suva,” he said.
“Apollo Hospitals have set up a tele-medicine centre at the College of Medicine at the Fiji National University. A number of Fijian students are studying medicine in India. We also see the prospect of Fiji emerging as a regional hub for generic medicines sourced from India to provide affordable healthcare,” he added.
Khurshid expressed happiness that the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) has stepped up the annual intake of Fiji students for higher studies under its Scholarship Program to 30, from 25, besides private students.
“All the three universities in Fiji have MoUs and other arrangements with various institutions in India. We hope these academic linkages will expand further,” he added.
He also noted that cultural exchanges between India and Fiji have been growing in recent years.
“The Indian Cultural Centre in Fiji was the first Centre opened by ICCR abroad, more than 40 years ago. We are happy to see that several film makers have been travelling to Fiji for shooting their films,” he added.
He also appreciated Fiji’s assistance during the visit of two ships from India for monitoring from the Pacific the launch of the Mars Orbiter Mission in November 2013.
Khurshid said that the two sides have also discussed the allocation of a plot of land for the Fiji High Commission in New Delhi and a plot of land for the Indian High Commission and the Indian Cultural Centre in Suva, and added that they have agreed to step up cooperation on training of diplomats.
“Besides, agreements, MoUs are under consideration including in Agriculture Cooperation, Coconut Industry, Training of Police Personnel and others and these will further deepen our bilateral cooperation,” he added.