Fiji, in the heart of Pacific Ocean, is an archipelago of 332 islands of whicharound one-third are inhabited permanently. The total land area is 18,333 square kms.English, Fijian and Hindi are widely spoken. Main ethnic groups include Fijian, Indian,European, other Pacific Islanders and Chinese.
India’s links with Fiji commenced in 1879 when Indian laborers were broughthere under indenture system to work on sugarcane plantations. Between 1879 and1916 around 60,000 Indians were brought to Fiji. Beginning with early 20thcentury,Indian traders and others also started arriving in Fiji. Agitation by the workers and thereports of C.F. Andrews, who visited Fiji in 1915 and 1917, led to the abolition of theindenture system in 1920. Currently, of the 849,000 population (2009 estimates), 37%are people of Indian origin.
Prior to Fiji’s independence in 1970, India had a Commissioner since 1948 tolook after the interests of people of Indian origin. The Commissioner’s post wasupgraded to that of High Commissioner after independence. Fiji’s Prime Minister RatuSir Kamisese Mara visited India in 1971 and Prime Minister Smt. Indira Gandhi visitedFiji in 1981.
Fiji had several coups starting from 1987. After the 1987 coup-s, the HighCommission of India and Indian Cultural Centre were closed on May 24, 1990. TheHigh Commission of India was subsequently reopened in March 1999 and the IndianCultural Centre in February 2005. Fiji established its first High Commission in NewDelhi in January 2004.
India-Fiji bilateral relations have grown steadily during the past few years due toseveral ongoing initiatives and bilateral visits to and from Fiji. Prime Minister of FijiLaisenia Qarase, visited India in October 2005. Four MOUs/Agreements onCooperation in health, Tourism, IT and establishment of Joint Trade Committee weresigned during the visit.
Other important visitors from Fiji to India included the then Minister of ForeignAffairs & External Trade along with a trade delegation in October 2006, Interim Ministerfor Foreign Affairs & External Trade in March 2007, visit of Mr. Mahendra Chaudhry,Interim Minister for Finance, National Planning & Sugar Reforms in May 2007 and thevisit of the Acting Chief Justice of Fiji Anthony Gates in May 2007. Commissioner ofPolice Mr. Teleni visited India in June 2008. Mr. Mahendra Pal Chaudhry, Minister forFinance, National Planning and Sugar Industry and Public Utilities visited India in April2008. Dr. Neil Sharma, Minister of Health visited India in May 2012. Dr. Jiko FatafehiLuveni, Minister for Social Welfare, Women & Poverty Alleviation visited India in Juneand September 2012.
MOS (EA) Smt Preneet Kaur visited Fiji on 11-12 September 2011. This was thefirst ministerial visit from India in five years. She called on President Ratu EpeliNailatikau, PM Bainimarama and Acting Foreign Minister and Education Minister PhilipBole on 12 September. She also interacted with the Indo-Fijian community. During thevisit she offered (i) US$ 200,000 for up-gradation of facilities at the CWM Hospital, Suva; (ii) a few electronic voting machines for trial for possible use in their elections;training of election officials, and (iv) hosting a delegation from Fiji for a study visit toCoconut/Coir Development Board.
Prime Minister Commodore Bainimarama paid two private visits to India in February2008 and March 2009. Prime Minister Bainimarama met with Indian Finance MinisterPranab Mukherjee on 2nd May 2010 at the ADB Annual meeting in Tashkent,Uzbekistan, and discussed bilateral issues. Fiji’s Minister of Works, Transport andPublic Utilities Mr. Timoci Natuva visited India in October 2010 to participate in theInternational Renewable Energy Conference and visited India again in October 2012 toattend the International Seminar on Energy Access.
PM Bainimarama visited India to attend the 41st Meeting of the InternationalSugar Council from 22-29 April 2012. PM Bainimarama met with Agriculture MinisterShri Sharad Pawar on 24 April, 2012 who offered help for Fiji's sugar, rice andhorticulture sectors. PM Bainimarama also called on PM and Finance Minister ShriPranab Mukherjee. PM Bainimarama visited India again from 5-10 September 2012and had a meeting with EAM and MOS (EA).
The President of Fiji, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, called on the President, Shri PranabMukherjee, in New Delhi in August 2012 during a private visit.
Attorney General and Communications Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyumaccompanied by Telecommunication Authority of Fiji Chairperson Mere Vuniwaqavisited Hyderabad in May 2010 to attend the 5thWorld TelecommunicationsDevelopment Conference.Attorney General and Minister for Tourism Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum led a tourismdelegation from Fiji to Chennai, Hyderabad, Delhi and Mumbai in February 2011. Heagain visited India in February 2012 for tourism promotion roadshows in Kolkata,Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore.
Chief Justice of Fiji Mr. Anthony Gates visited Mumbai and New Delhi from 11 to17 December 2010 and held meetings with the Minister of Law and Justice, ChiefJustice of India and other senior dignitaries.
Commander Francis B. Kean, Chief of the Navy of Fiji along with another navalofficer attended the HYDROIND 2011 - International Seminar and Exhibition onHydrology held in New Delhi on 3-4 March 2011.
India has bestowed Pravasi Bhartiya Samman on Mr. Mahendra Chaudhry,former PM (in 2004), internationally acclaimed Golfer, Mr. Vijay Singh (in 2005), SirMoti Tika Ram, former Supreme Court Judge (in 2007), and businessman andcommunity leader Mr. Y.P. Reddy (in 2010).In view of the flood and devastation in Fiji Islands caused by Cyclone Tomas inMarch 2010, Government of India gave assistance of US$100,000/- in May 2010 andcontributed US$ 100,000 to the Prime Minister’s National Disaster, Relief andRehabilitation Account for the floods and cyclone in 2009. Government of Fiji had givenF$ 30,000 to India in October 2005 following an earthquake in Kashmir. India contributed US$ 200,000 in July 2012 for relief operations in the flood affected areas ofWestern Division.
The First Foreign Office Consultations between India and Fiji took place in Suvain July 2005. The second FOC was held in New Delhi on July 23, 2007. Secretary(East) Shri N. Ravi visited Fiji from August 3 – 5, 2009 for the last FOC.A 6-member team from Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti (BMVSS),Jaipur visited Fiji for a month in June 2011. During their stay they equipped around 300amputees selected from different parts of the country with artificial limbs. Their visitwas sponsored by the Ministry of Health of Government of Fiji.A 16-member delegation from National Defence College, led by Rear AdmiralRavindra Gaikwad visited Fiji from 13 to 18 May 2012.
As a follow up of the Agreement signed between the Sahydri Group Hospitals,Pune and Ministry of Health, Government of Fiji in July 2012, Sahyadri Group ofHospitals started providing tertiary care services in Fiji. In accordance with theAgreement, Sahydri Group Hospitals will provide medical teams and equipment forsurgeries and Ministry of Health will provide physical infrastructure and nursingsupport. The Sahydri Group of Hospitals will also train Fijian doctors, nurses etc. inIndia. Government of India has given a grant of US $ 200,000 to upgrade the facilitiesin CWM Hospital in Suva.
In fulfillment of announcements made by Government of India for grant-in-aid toeach of the PIF countries, Government of India has provided funds for purchase of 5Toyota Cars for Fiji Police; purchase of 200 sewing Machines; supply of 5 Ambulancesfor hospitals; supply of 134 Water Tanks for primary and higher secondary schools anda mobile library for Suva Library. In addition GOI has provided assistance for purchaseof five sets motorized sugarcane crushing units to Fiji National University and Dialysismachines and other equipment to the Kidney Foundation of Fiji under aid to developingcountries.
India extended US$ 50.4 million Line of Credit in July 2005 for up-gradation ofsugar industry in Fiji. GOI has extended the moratorium period of the LOC by another2 years in July 2012, bringing the total moratorium period to 8 years.India has offered 55 slots under the ITEC and 20 slots under the TCS ColomboPlan to Fiji for short-term training courses in various Indian institutions during thecurrent financial year. In addition 43 slots for Navy and 10 slots for Fiji defencepersonnel for short/long-term training programmes have been offered during the year2012-13. India has also offered 25 scholarships under the General CulturalScholarship Scheme of ICCR. Scholarships are also offered for Diaspora Children(SPDC of the MOIA), and Certificate/Diploma Course in Hindi conducted by KendriyaHindi Sansthan.
India and Republic of Fiji had signed an MoU on establishment of Joint TradeCommittee (JTC) in October 2005. The first meeting of the JTC is scheduled to beheld in Nadi on 30-31 January 2012. Unfortunately, the meeting was called off due to severe floods in the Western Division of Fiji and is likely to be convened in Delhi thisyear.
Negotiations on India-Fiji Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) werecompleted in Suva on 19-20 October 2011.
The Chemicals & Allied Products Export Promotion Council (CAPEXIL) BookDivision of India (sponsored by Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Government of India)brought a 11-member delegation from Indian Books, Publications and Printing industryto Suva for a Buyer Seller Meet on 21stJuly. Local Publishers, Booksellers, Printers,Importers, Distributors attended the meet.India Tourism Sydney participated in the Hibiscus Festival held at Suva fromAugust 17 to 25, 2012. A stall was set up and posters, pamphlets pertaining to IndiaTourism were displayed and distributed to the visitors who visited the stall. A tourismworkshop was also held on 21.8.2012.
A Cultural Centre in Fiji was established by GOI in 1972. After the 1987 Coup,the Cultural Centre was closed down in 1990. The Indian Cultural Centre wasreopened in February 2005. A sub-Centre of the ICC at Lautoka was inaugurated inSeptember2005. Currently ICC Suva and Sub-Centre Lautoka provide classes inIndian classical music and dance, Hindi language and Yoga. ICC, Suva, also organizescultural evenings, exhibitions, film shows, workshops and discussions. A year-longseries of events were held to mark 40 years of ICC in Fiji during 2011-12. A 12-member Odissi dance group, a 23-member Ramleela/Raasleela Group, a 15-memberBollywood group "Karmic Konnection", classical singer Vidushi Savita Devi, folk singerMalini Awasthi, Bharatanatyam dancer Dr. Lata Singh Munshi, a 14-member Bollywooddance group “Matrix” and an 8-member Qawwali group led by Qawwal Wajahat HusainBadayuni visited Fiji as part of the events.
The High Commission joined the Fiji National University and others in organisingan International Film Festival, where Indian films won a few awards.Prof. S. Ghosh joined as ICCR’s Dada Saheb Phalke Chair of Film Productionat the Fiji National University in December 2012.University of Fiji signed an MoU with University of Calcutta in September 2012for Cooperation between the two universities.
An MoU on Supervisory Cooperation and Exchange of SupervisoryInformation between the Reserve Bank of India and the Reserve Bank of Fiji wassigned on 05 March 2013 by Shri G. Jaganmohan Rao, Chief General Manager,RBI and Mr Barry Whiteside, Governor, RBFA sum of FJ$ 177,588.35 (= US$ 100,000) was donated on 07 March toFiji as India’s contribution towards relief efforts following cyclone Evan in Fiji.A three-member team of experts from the National Sugar Federation ofCooperative Sugar Factories Limited, New Delhi, visited Fiji from 11thto 24thMarch2013 to study the sugar mill upgrade funded by GOI under EXIM Bank credit.A total of 300 sewing machines were donated by India to Fiji in March 2013.The then Minister for Urban Development, Local Government, Housing andEnvironment, Col. Samuela Saumatua visited India in March 2013 for a stdy of housingand urban settlements.
Joint Secretary (South), Shri Sanjay Bhattacharyya, visited Fiji on 11-12 April.During the visit he called on Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, Minister of Foreign Affairs andInternational Cooperation, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Attorney General, and Neil Sharma,Minister of Health. JS(South) also met Feleti Penitala Teo, Deputy Secretary-General,Pacific Islands Forum, Abdul Khan, Chairman, Fiji Sugar Corporation, had aninteractive session with the academics at the University of the South Pacific, and alsovisited the Kidney Foundation of Fiji.
A team of Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Limited from India visited Fiji hospitalsand health centres signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Fiji NationalUniversity, for cooperation in training and capacity building and possible introduction ofa telemedicine / mobile health programme.
Fiji’s Health Minister, Dr. Neil Sharma, visited India in May 2013 to observehospital facilities, procurement of equipment and establishment of an oncological unitin Fiji. He met Hon. Health Minister on 31 May 2013, and also met Health Secretary.