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Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Photo: Bloomberg
Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Photo: Bloomberg

Narendra Modi likely to visit Fiji in November

If the visit materializes, Modi will be the first Indian Prime Minister after Indira Gandhi in 1981 to visit the Pacific Ocean archipelago

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi could visit Fiji next month on a day-long trip after his visit to Australia for the Group of 20 Summit of developed and developing countries and a bilateral visit to Australia.

If the visit materializes, Modi would be the first Indian Prime Minister after Indira Gandhi in 1981 to visit the Pacific Ocean archipelago.

Details of the proposed visit were still being worked out, government officials in New Delhi said on condition of anonymity, but a Fiji news website—FijiSunOnline—gave 19 November as the proposed date for Modi’s visit.

One of the reasons for Modi visiting the remote nation is reaching out to the Indian diaspora. This follows extensive outreach programmes in Japan and the US and planned events in Australia. According to news reports, in Sydney, Indian-Australian community organizations are hoping to use the famous Olympic Grounds as the venue for a reception for Modi, while in Melbourne, Modi’s speech is likely to be broadcast from the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Modi’s outreach to the Indian diaspora in the US was intended to thank them for their support to his election campaign, but equally, to bring them together as a cohesive group to influence US policy on India. The outreach to the people of Indian origin in the US took place at New York’s Madison Square Garden. With the profile of the Indian diaspora in Australia similar to that in the US—wealthy, educated and integrated—the content of Modi’s message is likely to be similar.

Out of the 849,000 population in Fiji, 37% are people of Indian origin, according to the foreign ministry’s website. Many Indians arrived in Fiji as indentured labour in the 19th century.

Ties between India and Fiji in recent years frayed following several coups starting from 1987. After the 1987 coup, the high commission of India and Indian Cultural Centre were closed on 24 May 1990, according to the ministry website. The high commission was subsequently reopened in March 1999 and the Indian Cultural Centre in February 2005. Fiji established its first high commission in New Delhi in January 2004.

Earlier this year, India supplied indelible ink for Fiji’s September elections that brought Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama to office.

India is also looking at hosting a meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum—a political grouping of 16 independent and self-governing states—in New Delhi next year. Members of the Pacific Islands Forum group include Australia, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

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