Fiji can expect closer economic cooperation with India, leading to technical assistance in implementing growth-oriented programmes and constructive engagement in a number of sectors over the next few years.
These indications came to the fore at the end of a recent official visit to Delhi (January 19 and 20, 2015) by Fiji’s Attorney General and Finance Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, during which he met a number of ministers and key officials of the Indian government.
Among them was India’s high profile External Affairs and Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, who has reportedly assured India’s ongoing support to Fiji.
Mr Sayed-Khaiyum was in the Indian capital with Industry, Trade and Tourism Minister Faiyaz Siddique Koya and a number of key officials of his Government.
Joining them at the official talks was Fiji’s High Commissioner to India Yogesh Karan.
“The idea of meeting senior Ministers was to ensure that the commitments made during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Fiji (on November 19, 2014) and his discussions with our Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama are materialised,” he said.
It is understood that apart from technical assistance, Mr Sayed-Khaiyum and Mr Koya discussed the ways and means of enhancing private sector participation in Fiji’s growth plan, trade, investment, health, agriculture, sugar and air connectivity between the two countries.
“Discussions were initiated regarding an Air Services Agreement and the possibility of code-sharing by Air India with Fiji Airways. We also discussed training of medical staff to allow for specialised skills to be developed in Fiji,” Mr Sayed Khaiyum said.
“We have sought assistance from India to put in place implementation systems on the supply, procurement methodology and distribution of medicine including drugs under the free medicine scheme,” he added.
Fiji needs better farming techniques to boost agricultural production, an area in which India has the requisite expertise and technology. Mr Sayed Khaiyum reportedly sought the assistance of the Indian government in research and development of new commodities and mentoring programmes for Fijian farmers.
“We need business models in our agriculture sector. Our Agriculture Minister Inia Seruiratu will discuss the related issues with his Indian counterpart. Both Fiji and India want early implementation of the commitments made by Mr Modi in Suva,” he said.
As reported in our December 1, 2014 issue, Mr Modi announced a number of initiatives to boost Indo-Fijian relations during his maiden visit, the most significant of which was the grant of $70 million Line of Credit (LOC) facility and $5 million grant.
The LOC will enable the Fijian government to establish a co-generation power plant at Rarawai Sugar Mills. This will expand the scope of bilateral cooperation in the sugar sector by enhancing value addition and addressing climate change concerns.
India had earlier provided assistance for up gradation and product development at three of Fiji’s major sugar mills.
Visa on Arrival
‘Visa-on-Arrival and Electronic Travel Authorisation,’ was another initiative of the Indian government to facilitate easier travel of Fijians to India. The facility, which reportedly came into effect on November 22, 2014 for Fijian nationals, has been in place for 43 other countries for the past four years.
We expect shortly an official notification regarding the grant of visas to Fijian passport holders on their arrival at various ports in India but we would like to remind our readers that visa applications should be filed in the first instance online at the High Commission’s website and follow the instructions.
According to official sources in New Delhi, the facility of obtaining visas on arrival will be restricted to twice during a 12-month period.
“Visas are processed without delays if applicants have complied with all the requirements. Visitors should be aware of the categories of visas available,” they said.
Similar facility exists for citizens of several other countries including New Zealand.
Fiji’s Attorney General and Finance Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum with India’s External Affairs and Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in Delhi on January 19, 2015.