24 May 2023

Pacific health, IT and water to benefit from Indian commitment

11:14 am on 24 May 2023
From Left: Surangel Whipps Jr., James Marape and Narendra Modi.

From Left: Surangel Whipps Jr., James Marape and Narendra Modi. Photo: Supplied/India Government

India Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced support for more than a dozen Pacific Island nations at a summit held on the same day as the US-Pacific meeting in PNG.

Pacific Islands Forum Chair and Cook Islands Prime Minister Mark Brown has explained what was announced in detail at the Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC) Summit in Port Moresby.

The package includes the construction and operation of a specialist cardiac hospital for the region which will be built in Fiji.

"Then, everyone gets a dialysis clinic, desalination or water supply support, sea ambulances and solar projects," Brown said.

"The reaction by all of the the leaders that were present was one of gratitude to India.

"As a country that is the fourth largest economy in the world, but also looking to lift as many of its people out of poverty, to be able to provide this sort of support to the Pacific is a tangible demonstration of good cooperation between India and the Pacific Island countries," Brown said.

On top of the health support, he said there is provision of a number of scholarships that will be divided out over the next few years.

"Basically, for the IT area of qualifications. So quite a remarkable announcement really," Brown said.

Modi said the Indian government would bear the full cost of this "mega greenfield project".

'We are now talking as a consolidated front'

The Deputy Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea welcomed India's greater engagement with the Pacific region.

"Our Prime Minister was basically pushing the agenda of the whole Pacific. And some of the smaller nations don't have as big of voices as some of us do. So we are now talking as a consolidated front," John Rosso said.

India can provide things that other countries can not, he said.

While he could not talk about the specifics as the PNG Prime Minister has not released the official outcomes, he welcomed the support from India in general.

"India would be able to also help specifically countries like Papua New Guinea in terms of setting up manufacturing plants in Papua New Guinea, with our fishing, also, it can be able to help us with obligations towards health and IT," Rosso said.

FIPIC was established in 2014, with the aim of promoting collaboration between India and the 14 Pacific Islands nations which are involved.

Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu are part of FIPIC.

Australia, New Zealand and the French Pacific territories are not part of it.

But they were at the US-Pacific Islands Summit round table which was held in PNG on the same day.

Palau was in the room.

"Having India here as another important partner, I mean, they're a developing nation. We see their progress," Palau's President Surangel Whipps Jr said.

Whipps is encouraged by the dialogue between India and Pacific states in the areas of technology, healthcare, and climate change.

"I congratulate Prime Minister Marape for bringing the Pacific together here in PNG, really to meet these two great superpowers," Whipps said.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, walks with his Papua New Guinea counterpart James Marape at Port Moresby International Airport on 21 May, 2023, ahead of the Forum for India–Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC) summit in Papua New Guinea.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives in Papua New Guinea on 21 May for talks with Pacific island leaders, the first visit by an Indian premier. Photo: AFP

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