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Impact of FIPIC
(Forum for India Pacific Islands cooperation)
Forum for India Pacific Island Cooperation (FIPIC) is a relatively new organization in the international relations which owes its birth to Indian Prime Ministers Narendra Modi’s visit to Fiji in November 2014.
Members of FIPIC include all 14 island countries i.e. Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu;while the 15th member obviously is India.
The second FIPIC summit was hosted by India in the pink city Jaipur, Rajasthan on August 21-22, 2015.Some of the important announcements made during the second FIPIC summit are as under –
- Capacity building measures to deal with natural disasters in island states including but not limited to application of space technology for early warning system and human resource development.
- Over the last three years, 43 women form eight island countries were trained as solar engineers. India will train 70 more women solar engineers and help in electrifying 200 to 2800 houses in each Pacific Island Country (PIC). This will not only provide livelihood to rural woman but would also save kerosene worth about a million US dollars.
- At least one information technology laboratory will be established in each PIC. In additional to improving local IT infrastructure, it will enable to provide facilities such as tele-medicine and tele-education to the people.
- Indian generic drugs are very expensive in PIC ascurrently they are routed through third countries.India has offered to set up a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant and distribution centre in the Pacific Island region and offered a Line of Credit for this project.
- Issue of Gratis visa has now been extended to the nationals of PIC.Gratis (free of charge) Visa are issued to the persons holding Diplomatic or Official passports and to the nationals of Afghanistan, Argentina, Bangladesh, Hungary, Jamaica, Maldives, Mauritius, Mongolia, Poland, Republic of Slovakia, South Africa and Uruguay. Now 14 PIC have also been added to the list.
- India offered training courses for diplomats from PIC.
- Two scholarships for college education in India offered to each of the 13 countries. 33 scholarships were already granted to Fiji.
- India will assist in establishing Space Technology Applications Centre’ in any one of the Pacific Island Countries which will support the entire region. India also recognized the support granted by Fiji in Mars Mission.
- The annual grant in aid to each PIC is increased from USD 125,000 to 200,000.A new Visitors Programme for Pacific Island Countries is also launched.
- India will set up an Institute for Sustainable Coastal and Ocean Research and a network of marine biology research stations in the region.
- While supporting the development of micro, small and medium enterprises, India also extended support for purchase of machinery for coconut processing and increasing productivity of rice and sugarcane. India will also improve market access for these countries.
- India will push for greater cooperation with the island countries in sectors like oil and natural gas, mining, IT, healthcare, fishing and marine research besides many other areas.
- Nauru expressed its appreciation for Indian help in building sea walls to combat rising sea levels.
- India will host International Conference on Ocean economy and Pacific Island Countries in New Delhi in 2016 with participation of officials and independent experts of all 14 Pacific Island Countries.
- India also announced opening a new space research and satellite monitoring station on the Fiji Islands which will provide India with an independent satellite tracking capacity.
Traditionally, the focus of Indian establishment was limited to Indian Ocean where it looked to play the major role. However with the increasingChinese presence in almost every region of the world including the Indian and Pacific Ocean, it become imminent for India change the foreign policy outlook in synergy with the present geopolitical realities. In order to check the rise of China, India also expanded its outreach to the Pacific Island nations.
Apart for geopolitical interest, increased cooperation with PIC will in the economic interests of India. The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean covering 46% of water surface and 33% of the earth's total surface. It is spotted with thepresence of 41 sovereign states plus Taiwan, and 22 non-independent territories. With surplus marine resources, Pacific Ocean accounts for 71% of the world's ocean fishery catch. Though PICsaccount for small geographical area their exclusive economic zone (EEZ) encompasses very large area of the ocean which has huge potential for mineral and other hydro-carbon resources. For a developing country like India, significance of energy resources is second to none.
As India is looking for permanent membership at United Nations Security Council (UNSC), it had to garner support of most of the nation, irrespective of its size, resources or geopolitical significance. PICs form an important voting bloc in the United Nations. In the international climate talks also,they form an influential group. The support of PIC will help safeguarding Indian interests in the global climate talks. Thus, there enough reasons to elevate the relation of India and PIC to the next level.
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