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Kubuabola for better engagement with India

While Indo-Fijian relations have remained strong despite political storms that have raged in Fiji, the Government of Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama is confident that India will continue to promote its industrial and economic development programmes.

Leaders from Fiji, including Mr Bainimarama, have always considered their visits to India as significant signposts in bilateral relations.

India has been a popular destination for many Fijian leaders and their families for holiday, medical tests and treatment and for other personal reasons.

The recent official visit of Foreign Minister Inoke Kubuabola to India was no exception. He returned home convinced that his country would benefit immensely through closer bilateral relations with India and that apart from Government level talks and cooperation agreements, business ventures, and people-to-people engagement should be encouraged.

Biennial meetings

He was in Delhi from February 10 to 12 at the invitation of his Indian counterpart Salman Khurshid for the biennial India-Fiji Foreign Office Consultations.

Their discussions covered developments in the South Pacific, the ensuing elections in Fiji and other issues of interest to India.

Indo-Fiji relations are at an interesting stage and with both countries facing an election year, it is a foregone conclusion that Delhi and Suva will foster strategic relationship irrespective of the outcomes.

India has been a friend of Fiji, a stand that has remained unshaken despite the economic and political sanctions imposed by developed countries including UK, Australia and New Zealand on the South Pacific nation since Mr Bainimarama overthrew the Laisenia Qarase Government through a military coup on December 6, 2006.

Both countries have maintained full diplomatic relations and exchange visits over the years have fostered friendly relations.

Deep commitment

Mr Kubuabola described Fiji’s relations with India as a ‘long-term commitment,’ underscored by historical and cultural ties, good understanding and mutual respect.

“We share common interests and there are several existing and emerging opportunities for cooperation and partnerships that must be explored fully to maximise the benefit of our relations. Fiji has benefitted a lot from India through its bilateral assistance programmes and projects and we look forward to further enhancing our relations in the future,” he said.

MOUs signed

The visit culminated in the signing of three Memoranda of Understanding on renewed development cooperation, water resource management and trade measurements and standards.

The MOUs followed the signing of a Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement signed by Fiji’s Attorney General and Minister of Industry & Trade Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum with India’s Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram in the Indian capital on January 30 (Indian Newslink, February 15, 2014)

“There are other areas of cooperation which Fiji hopes to advance this year including sugar, youth and sports, reciprocal visa on arrival arrangements, capacity building programmes, technological advances in agricultural productivity, defence, women and pharmaceuticals,” Mr Kubuabola said.

Foreign Office matters

He said that he also discussed land lease arrangements for establishment of new chanceries in Suva and New Delhi and other Foreign Office issues.

His delegation included Foreign Ministry Permanent Secretary Amena Yauvoli, other officials and Fiji’s High Commissioner to India, Yogesh Karan

Fiji will host the next meeting in Suva in February 2016.

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