Excellency Speaker Dr. Jiko Luveni, Excellency Prime Minister Bainimarama, Members of the Parliament of the Republic of Fiji,
Nisan Bula and Namaste
Two months ago, Fijians voted in extraordinary numbers to elect their Parliament. Six months ago, Indians participated in the largest election in human history.
Today, I stand here, grateful for this special gift – the honour to be among you, to speak to this new Parliament, in celebration of democracy and to reaffirm our friendship.
India is a nation of more than a billion; Fiji a nation of a million.We are located in different oceans. But, what unites today is our democracy, the diversity of our societies, our creed that all human beings are equal, and our commitment to the liberty, dignity and rights of every individual. What also links today is that we have women as Speakers of our two Parliaments!
You have done better than us. One in every seven members in this Parliament is a woman; in India, it is just one in nine. So, I hope we can match you the next time; and, I hope we can both do better in future.
People in Fiji have different histories, ethnicities, languages and religions. But, they stand together as one nation of Fijians, with one voice, one vision and one aspiration. In both nations, we have vested power in our people. Your Constitution begins with “We, the people of Fiji”, Ours begins with the same simple words, “We the people of India” And, what a Constitution you have framed! It is a Constitution that only not only guarantees freedoms and rights the citizens, but also to ensure their basic needs and empower them. From the right to life, liberty, dignity, equality and freedom of religion, To the right to education, information, work, health, food and water To the rights of children and the disabled. This is a Constitution that reflects the will of an enlightened nation.
The journey to this milestone had its struggles and setbacks, but the road you have chosen has won you admiration around the world and the support of the people here.
Fiji is a shining example of small nations that can successfully pursue great ambitions, Because what makes a nation successful is not its size or its population, but its vision and its values.
Today, Fiji is a nation that has used its economic resources well. You have been a strong voice on behalf of the Pacific Islands and a hub of this region. You led the G 77 with vision and statesmanship. Your soldiers have served with outstanding professionalism in UN Peacekeeping Missions in some of the world`s most dangerous spots. And, you are playing an influential role in shaping the global dialogue on climate change.
There are many in India, who wish Vijay Singh wore the Indian colours on the golf course!
For India, Fiji will always have a special place. The tide of history brought many from India to your shores. It has forged our ties of culture and kinship. But, our relationship today stands on a much broader of our shared values and our common interests as developing countries. And, now, together we were partners in making history.
You graciously hosted Indian scientists in Fiji for tracking our Mars Mission, Mangalyaan. It was the only mission in the world to succeed in the first attempt.
I convey today the gratitude of the people and the scientists of India. This simple yet profound act of cooperation reflects the boundless possibilities in our relationship, if we choose to seek them.
Our trade and investment ties have been modest. Our relationship in science, education and culture could be stronger. Yet, there are examples of our partnership that should inspire us – our cooperation in upgrading your sugar mills or the public-private partnership in the area of healthcare.
As we have collaborated in running hospitals here, we can also extend our cooperation in pharmaceuticals and traditional medicines.
As Fiji adjusts to the changing global markets, India is prepared to be your partner – In making your existing industry stronger and finding new opportunities for your youth. For countries like ours, village and small and medium scale industries are the source of enterprise and employment.
Today, I am pleased to announce a grant of 5 million U.S. dollars to strengthen and modernize Fiji`s village, small and medium industries. We will also provide a Line of Credit of 70 million dollars for a co-generation power plant at Rarav Sugar Mill. And, another Line of Credit of 5 million dollars for upgrading the sugar industry in Fiji.
Agriculture supports a majority of the population in India and Fiji. I offer our expertise and assistance in increasing productivity in the agriculture sector. As the largest producer of milk in the world, India can help develop your dairy industry, which can also contribute to your exports. In areas like fisheries, textiles and garments, and gems and jewellery, we can expand trade.
In this digital age, every nation can be part of the global information technology industry. And, it is a dream that youth around the world share. It is an industry that depends on ideas and skills. It offers a great path to prosperity. And, it has a light carbon footprint.
We were pleased to set up a centre of excellence in information technology here in Fiji. We are is prepared to work with you to build a Digitial Fiji and to equip your youth to integrate Fiji into the global IT network.
We will also deepen our cooperation in education and training and we will double the number of our scholarships.
Today, I propose that we work together to harness the potential of Space technology for governance, economic development, conservation, climate change and natural disasters.
We could work to make Fiji the hub for our regional collaboration in Space, just as India has done with ASEAN.
There are times when we think of each other as distant lands, separated by oceans and seven time zones.
But, think of the days when travel was difficult. That did not deter brave people from travelling over the seas in search of a new life. Distance, to me, is irrelevant in a world of fiber optic cables and satellite links. We are only as far away as the click of a mouse or the call button of a phone. In any case, a direct flight today can take you from Fiji to most places in India. And, I say this more to my people than to you.
Fijians have been steady in visiting India. We in India have not paid enough attention to this beautiful land of warm people and immense potential. This must change. We must make travel easier between our two countries. For this reason, I have taken a small step in extending visa on arrival to Fijians in India, as you have done for Indians. And, if you want to attract more Indians to enjoy the magnificence of your islands and the warmth of your hospitality, you should invite Bollywood to shoot their films in Fiji.
Honourable Members of Parliament,
We have spoken of vast opportunities, but we also share many common challenges. For you, climate change is not a matter of debate, but a basic question of existence.
India, too, is a nation of a long coastline and more than 1000 islands, a nation that is nurtured by monsoon rain and the Himalayan glaciers.
We, too, are facing the searing impact of climate change. And, we spend more than 6% of our GDP in adapting to its consequences. Now, each of us must shoulder our own responsibilities. We cannot side aside and take no action. Technology has made it possible.We don`t have to seek old pathways to prosperity.
In India, we have a comprehensive national plan and strategy to both mitigate and adapt to climate change. And, I have a deep personal commitment to it. And, we look forward to working with Fiji in areas such wind and solar energy. But, it is also equally important that the global community accepts its responsibility and implements its commitment. It should not become one in which the strong shift the burden on the others; or impose the responsibilities of their excesses on the choices that others make. It should not be an issue of economic advantage or trade competitive of one over the other.
The world had agreed on a beautiful balance of collective action – common but differentiated responsibilities. That should form the basis of continued action. This also means that the developed countries must fulfil their commitments for funding and technology transfer.
India has stood shoulder to shoulder with Fiji and the Small Islands Developing States is seeking a fair and urgent response from the international community for a sustainable future.
We also have shared stakes in a peaceful, cooperative and prosperous Asia and Pacific regions. Stretching from the Indian Ocean through continental Asia into Pacific, this is a region of enormous dynamism and opportunities, but also a region with many challenges.
Fiji is a leader in the region and a strong voice in the developing world. Together, we can also work for a future in the region, in which there is an equal place for all nations – big and small, developed and developing – and a climate of peace and tranquility.
I thank Prime Minister and Fiji for their leadership in hosting my meeting with the Pacific leaders later today.
Let us join hands to create an ocean of opportunity that stretches from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.
Sometimes our relations have been adrift.
Sometimes our relations have been adrift.
Let us chart a new course. Let us start a new era – When it does not take another 33 years for an Indian Prime Minister to visit Fiji. When Fijians and Indians work with each other from the comfort of familiarity and the ease that comes with the habit of regular partnership.
When we draw strength from the ties of history and the bonds of emotions; seek new purpose in our many shared interests; and seize our new opportunities.
Thank you Vinaka (Thank you). Dhanyawad.