India has historical links with Fiji. The ties commenced in 1879 when Indian labourers were brought to Fiji under the “indenture system” to work on sugarcane plantations. Between 1879 and 1916 around 60,000 Indians were brought to Fiji. Beginning with early 20th century, Indian traders and others also started arriving in Fiji. Agitation by the workers and the reports of C.F. Andrews, who visited Fiji in 1915 and 1917, led to the abolition of the indenture system in 1920. Currently, of the 900,000 population, 37% are people of Indian origin. Prior to Fiji’s independence in 1970, India had a Commissioner since 1948 to look after the interests of people of Indian origin. The Commissioner’s post was upgraded to that of High Commissioner after independence. Both sides share a robust and dynamic relationship. High level visits have taken place from both India and Fiji.
India sent two consignments of relief for the cyclone-affected people that has already reached Fiji. The island-nation was hit by a Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Yasa on December 17-18, 2020, which caused extensive damage and destruction of critical infrastructure. The relief material sent by the Government of India, consisting of shelter and hygiene kits, will provide immediate assistance to the cyclone-affected communities.
Despite challenges posed by the pandemic, over 6 tons of relief supplies were put together in a short span of time by India’s National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and were airlifted to Fiji with the help of Air India and Fiji Airways via Sydney, Australia. This was possible thanks to the effective cooperation among multiple agencies in three countries to deliver the relief material to Fiji in record time.
Reflecting the deep-rooted and friendly ties, India has firmly stood by Fiji during times of crisis and devastation caused by natural disasters like Tropical Cyclone Winston in 2016. The relief material sent now in the wake of Tropical Cyclone Yasa highlights India’s commitment to provide Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) support to Friendly Foreign Countries as a first responder.
Disaster Risk Reduction and Management is an important pillar of India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans’ Initiative (IPOI) announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in November 2019. India remains committed to extend full support to Fiji’s efforts to restore livelihoods of the affected communities and to build resilient infrastructure.
In fulfilment of announcements made by the Indian government for grant-in-aid to each of the Pacific Island Forum (PIF) countries, India provided funds to Fiji for 5 Toyota Cars for Fiji Police; 500 sewing Machines; 5 Ambulances for hospitals; 134 Water Tanks for primary and higher secondary schools, and mobile Library Vehicle for Suva City Carnegie Mobile Library; 4×4 Double Cab for Rarawai & Penang Cane Producers’ Association; upgradation of a road in Kieuva near Suva, and Equipment and books for TISI Sangam college of Nursing and Health Care Education in Labasa. Project Assistance: GOI provided assistance to Fiji National University in April 2012 for purchase of five sets of motorized sugarcane crushing units with associated accessories, and to Kidney Foundation of Fiji in April 2012 for purchase of dialysis machines and equipment for its new Dialysis Centre.
Grant was also provided in January 2014 for purchase of medicines from India at a total cost of Rs.10 lakh. Relief Assistance: A total of US$ 100,000/- in February 2009 after Cyclone Tomas in March 2010; US$ 200,000 in July 2012 following floods in January and March 2012, and US$ 100,000 in 2013 after the cyclone Evan were provided by India to Fiji. Government of Fiji had given F$ 30,000 to India in October 2005 following an earthquake in Kashmir. Line of Credit: India extended US$ 50.4 million A Line of Credit was extended in July 2005 for up-gradation of sugar mills in Fiji. India offers 55 slots under the Indian Technical & Economic Cooperation (ITEC) and 30 slots under the TCS Colombo Plan to Fiji for short-term training courses in various Indian institutions. In addition 40 slots for Navy and 10 slots for Army have been offered to Fiji defence personnel for short/long-term training programmes during the year. Scholarships are also available in many educational institutions for Fijian students in India.
Script: Kaushik Roy, AIR: News Analyst