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Forum for India Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC)

GS Paper 2

 Syllabus: International Relations

 

Source: TH

 Context: Addressing the opening session of the FIPIC-3 summit (in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea/PNG), the PM of India highlighted the importance of the 14 members of the FIPIC.

 

The Pacific Island Countries (PICs):

  • It consists of the 3 major groups of islands: Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia, and commonly refers to the 14 countries scattered in the South-West Pacific Ocean.
  • These are the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
  • The region comprises strategically located (at the crossroads of significant maritime trade routes) small island nations, with small populations and resource-rich Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs).
  • Their profile is rising particularly given the popularity of the Indo-Pacific construct.

 

India’s engagement with the PICs:

  • In the early 19th century, Indian workers were taken to the region to work as indentured plantation labourers and most of whom settled particularly in Fiji and PNG.
  • After independence, the region did not find much significance in India’s foreign policy.
  • However, the changing geopolitical scenario and strategic and economic compulsions, rising naval capabilities have driven India to refresh and redesign its Pacific policy.
  • India’s renewed interest can also be seen in the light of its own rechristened Act East policy.
  • At this moment, the total annual trade between India and PICs is about $300 million – exports are around $200 million and imports are around $100 million.

 

The Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC):

  • It was launched during the PM of India’s visit to Fiji in 2014 and includes 14 of the PICs.
  • The FIPIC initiative marks a serious effort to expand (from the Indian Ocean) India’s strategic and commercial interests in the Pacific region.

 

India’s major assistance projects in the PICs:

  • Setting up a special USD 1 million fund for adapting to climate change and clean energy, establishing a trade office in India, Pan Pacific Islands e-network to improve digital connectivity.
  • India has increased the annual “Grant-in-Aid” from USD 125,000 to 200,000 to each of the 14 PICs for community projects of their choice, and launched a new Visitors Programme for PICs.
  • At the FIPIC-2 (Jaipur, 2015), FICCI launched the Business Accelerator for FIPIC to provide necessary information and facilitation to businessmen on both sides.

 

The advantage to India: Presence of a sizable Indian Diaspora – nearly 40% of Fiji’s population is of Indian origin and about 3000 Indians live in PNG.

 

Challenges: India’s interaction with the PICs still largely revolves around its engagement with Fiji and PNG.

 

Way ahead:

  • Climate change is a crucial area of common concern where closer partnerships can be developed for effective and concrete solutions.
  • For India, it is important to develop a comprehensive and clearly defined strategy to engage with all the PICs.

 

Conclusion:

  • The PM of India (at the FIPIC-3) called PICs “large ocean states”, highlighting their strategic-commercial importance for India.
  • The recent efforts have brought India much closer to PICs and to further strengthen its ties, India should assist the development goals of the PICs.

 

Insta Links:

Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue