Suva (Fiji): Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Wednesday that Fiji could serve as a hub for stronger Indian engagement with the Pacific Islands and acknowledged that Indo-Fiji relations have "at times been adrift; and that our cooperation should be much stronger than it is".
Modi, the first Indian prime minister to visit Fiji in 33 years, also announced visa on arrival for Fijians.
In his statement after talks with Fijian Prime Minister Bainimarama, Modi said he saw his visit as an opportunity to renew an old relationship and lay the foundation for a strong partnership in the future.
Modi said he had had "very productive talks" with his Fijian counterpart and complimented him for seeking to build an inclusive Fijian nation, which guarantees rights, and provides a life of opportunity and dignity, to all its citizens.
Both sides have agreed to consult more closely on international issues of mutual interest, including international trade, climate change, United Nations Peacekeeping and UN reforms, he said.
He said India and Fiji will expand their defence and security cooperation, including assistance in defence training and capacity building.
Both sides have agreed to identify opportunities to expand trade and investments and also closely engage in areas like information technology and Space applications.
"India will remain a committed development partner for Fiji," he said and thanked him for support on India's new assistance projects in Fiji, including a Parliament Library and a fund of $5 million to promote small business and village enterprises in Fiji.
"We will do more in other areas such as tourism and cultural exchanges. I am happy to announce visa on arrival for Fijians," he said.
Modi said India is prepared to increase cooperation in renewable energy, especially solar and wind energy, and in building capacity to adapt to climate change.
India is also prepared to share experience and expertise in disaster management and response.
He also thanked Fiji for hosting Indian scientists for tracking India's Mars Mission earlier this year. He said he was confident that the visit would mark the start of a new era of India-Fiji relations.