PM Modi underlines importance of free and open Indo-Pacific at FIPIC summit in Papua New Guinea

India’s engagement with the 14 Pacific Island Countries (PICs) is part of New Delhi's Act East Policy

May 22, 2023 09:25 am | Updated May 23, 2023 12:07 am IST - New Delhi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivers his opening remarks during Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation at APEC Haus in Port Moresby on May 22, 2023.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivers his opening remarks during Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation at APEC Haus in Port Moresby on May 22, 2023. | Photo Credit: AFP

Small Island nations of the Pacific Ocean are in fact “large ocean states”, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 22 highlighting the importance of the 14 members of the Forum for India Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC).

Addressing the opening session of the FIPIC-3 summit in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, Mr. Modi spoke in favour of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. He focused on India’s commitment to assisting the development goals of the member countries of FIPIC and said New Delhi will continue to help the Pacific island states in “every possible” way.

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“This time we are meeting after a long gap. In the meanwhile, the world dealt with the COVID pandemic and several other global challenges. Climate change, natural calamities, poverty and famine already existed but now new challenges are emerging as supply chains of food, fuel fertilizer and pharma are facing hurdles. Those we thought were reliable, we came to know they were not standing with us. In this time of difficulty, the old saying that a friend in need is a friend in deed has been proved. From vaccines to medicines, wheat and sugar, India has supplied the countries that required these items. For me, you are large ocean countries and not small island nations. Your ocean connects India with you,” said PM Modi.

The previous two meetings of the India-Pacific Islands Cooperation were held in November 2014 in Fiji and August 2015 in Jaipur.

Mr. Modi arrived in Port Moresby on May 21 after completing his engagements at the G7 summit in Hiroshima where India was a guest country. Welcoming the guest, Prime Minister James Marape said the members of the FIPIC have suffered because of the high tariff on energy and food.

“We suffered as a result of the big nations at play in terms of geopolitics and power struggle,” said Mr. Marape who is the co-chair of the FIPIC-3 Summit.

“We are victims of global power play and we want you to be an advocate for us and sit in those meetings,” he said, urging India to serve as the voice of the Global South in the G-7 and the G-20. Mr. Marape said the small size of the island nations of the Pacific Ocean region should not overshadow the fact that the islands have large space in the ocean. Mr. Modi assured the FIPIC members of India’s support in the field of sustainable development, science and technology and space application.

In a special ceremony, Governor General Sir Bob Dadae conferred the Grand Companion of the Order of Logohu (GCL), the highest civilian award of Papua New Guinea, on PM Modi.

Mr. Modi’s visit to Papua New Guinea highlights the growing strategic significance of the Pacific Island nations that has also received attention from China which signed last year a security agreement with the Solomon Islands.

FIPIC consists of Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. His visit coincided with the visit of the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken as the two sides plan to seal a defence partnership agreement.

PM Modi reached Sydney on Monday evening to start the last leg of the three-nation tour that will see him hold the official bilateral dialogue with Prime Minister Albanese. In an interview given to The Australian, Mr. Modi said he wants to take India-Australia relation to the “next level” with closer defence and security ties to safeguard the Indo-Pacific region. The two Prime Ministers will address a public meeting at Sydney Olympic Park on Tuesday night, where at least 20,000 expat Indians are expected to be in attendance.

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