Fiji-India Bilateral Relations
Relations between Fiji and India date back to 1879 when Indian indentured laborers were sent to Fiji to work on sugarcane plantations and play a crucial role in the country’s development. Today, approximately 40% of Fiji Citizens are Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs).
India’s presence in Fiji commenced even before Fiji attained independence on 10 October, 1970. India had a Commissioner stationed in Fiji to look after the interests of the indentured migrants.
Even in the early stages, the importance of relations between Fiji and India was underscored with the High Level visits by Fiji’s then Prime Minister and late President, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara’s visit to India in 1971 which was reciprocated by India’s Prime Minister, the late Smt. Indira Gandhi, who visited Fiji in 1981. India was also a crucial ally for Fiji in its independence struggle and the two countries have been side-by-side in championing developing country issues. Fiji has greatly valued India’s leadership and guidance in foras such as G77 & NAM and more recently the WTO, where with India’s help; concerns of the developing countries were brought to the mainstream.
In 2002, as part of India’s ‘Look East’ policy and further to India’s dialogue partnership of the ASEAN, India successfully applied to become a dialogue partner of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), with the support of the Fiji Government. The dialogue partnership of PIF provides India and the Pacific Region a structured mechanism of interaction on issues of mutual importance.
In an increasingly inter-connected global environment, coupled with the rise of India as a global (economic and political) player, the broadening and deepening of bilateral relations is advantageous to Fiji, both in terms of Fiji’s international profile (engagement and partnership with a powerful global player) and Fiji’s economic prosperity and development aspirations. If Fiji can lay the foundations of a strong relationship with India, it will be in a favorable position to reap the benefits of India’s present and projected phenomenal growth.