Modi offers Navy help to Pacific Island nations

Modi offers Navy help to Pacific Island nations

Modi offers Navy help to Pacific Island nations

In a bid to step up its strategic footprints in a region where big powers compete for geopolitical influence, India has pledged the Pacific Island nations support of its navy to secure their coastlines and exclusive economic zones (EEZs).

 Besides, India has also offered setting up of 17 IT labs in the tiny nations and a space technology application centre in one of them.

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday hosted the leaders and high representatives of 14 Pacific Island nations at the Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC) Summit here on Friday, New Delhi offered to work with those nations and others for a “comprehensive, balanced and fair outcome” at the UN climate summit scheduled to be held in Paris at the end of this year. Modi told the visiting leaders that India would work together with the Pacific Island countries “towards adaptation of technologies to combat the effects of climate change”.

He, however, gave no indication of any change in New Delhi’s position opposing a legally binding climate treaty. The Pacific Island nations have since long been seeking a legally binding climate treaty to come out of the COP 21 (21st Session of the Conference of Parties) in Paris.

While presidents and prime ministers of nine countries–Fiji, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tuvalu and Vanuatu–arrived for the talks, Micronesia was represented by its vice president and Solomon Islands by its deputy prime minister. Cook Islands, Kiribati and Tonga were represented by ministers and senior officials. The FIPIC came into existence and had its first summit in Suva in November 2014, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the capital of Fiji.

“Indian Navy has provided direct support and capacity building to island states in Indian Ocean, especially for coastal surveillance and hydrographic surveys. This has helped them get a better understanding of their maritime zone and strengthen security of their EEZs. We will be prepared to extend this assistance to our Pacific Island partners,” the PM said.

He said the Indian Navy would look forward to goodwill visits to Pacific Islands when the ships could also extend support in areas like healthcare through medical camps on the islands.

The prime minister’s offer for the Indian Navy’s support to Pacific Island nations for coastal surveillance is significant, as it indicated New Delhi’s desire to expand its strategic footprints in a region, where the US, Japan and Australia compete with China for geopolitical influence.

India also offered to establish an Institute for Sustainable Coastal and Ocean Research in the region and a network of marine biology research stations in the island nations, said the prime minister.

New Delhi would also assist in establishing a Space Technology Applications Centre in any one of the Pacific Island countries for the entire region and enhance India’s support for training in space applications.