NAM and PIF summits will take place around the same time

If the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit taking place in Tehran later this week will be the perfect platform for India to position itself as one of the leaders of the developing world, it will also be pushing for its permanent membership credentials in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) at a meeting with 16 members of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) around the same time.

While Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will head the Indian delegation in Tehran with the unstated objective of showcasing India as a mature participant in world affairs, Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed will be in Cook Islands to attend a follow-up meet after the PIF summit.

“Supportive of Indian stance”

“The Pacific Island countries are small islands, located far away from India, having limited economic resources and small populations. Our interaction with them so far has been limited. They have been supportive of our initiatives at the U.N. and other multilateral fora, including our bid for the Permanent seat at the UNSC,’’ said an official note about the meeting at Rarotonga, the largest of the Cook Islands and known more for marine adventure sports such as snorkelling, scuba diving and deep sea fishing.

But for students of foreign affairs, Rarotonga brings to mind two other exotic sounding names, Pelindaba and Tlatelolco, along with Bangkok which have been venues for the signing of treaties for regional nuclear-free zones.

Look East policy

“Our interaction with Pacific Island countries (PICs) may be seen in the context of an extension of our Look East Policy, and our growing role in international affairs, as well as the importance of these countries in climate change negotiations, and their traditional support to India in U.N. and Commonwealth elections and on most issues. In some of the countries, there is an Indian origin community and in some viable business opportunities exist,’’ added the official note.

The importance of the region is recognised by various countries, including the U.S., Russia, China, Taiwan and South Korea, among others. The U.S. is attending the Post Forum Dialogue Meeting in the Cook Islands at the level of Secretary of State for the first time and Mr. Ahamed might meet her on the margins.

Assistance in projects

In regular dialogue for a decade, India stepped up its engagements with PICs from 2006 by offering to assist them in their socio-economic development projects with grant-in-aid to each of the 14 member-countries. This grant was raised by 25 per cent three years later.

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