India sees its engagement with Pacific region as extension of its 'Look East Policy'

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Cairns (Australia), Aug 7 (ANI): Visiting Indian External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna on Friday said that India sees its engagement with the Pacific region as an extension of its Look East Policy to boost engagement with South East Asian neighborhood, the ASEAN.

Speaking at Post-Forum Dialogue of Pacific Island Forum here, Krishna said: "We are confident that the "Look North" policy of the Pacific countries and the "Look East" policy of India will dovetail to create new synergies as Pacific Island countries are rich in natural resources and there is vast potential for cooperation in diverse spheres."

He said that South East Asia and the Pacific have been significant components of India's foreign policy priorities.

"Today, we are witnessing a rapid expansion of our engagement with Australia, New Zealand and the smaller Pacific Island States," he said.

"Currently, India has trade links mainly with Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, but the bilateral interaction with the region has the potential to pick up. India is amongst Australia's top ten trading partners, while Australia is amongst the top ten investors in India," he added.

He said, India has had a modest presence through some training programmes and small projects in some countries of Pacific Islands Forum (PIF).

"Almost 30 small island States are now covered under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme, which covers a wide variety of projects, including deputation of Indian experts, training of nationals of partner island States in premier Indian institutions and short-term study visits to India for their senior officials and decision-makers," he said.

Speaking on India's assistance to all Pacific Island countries, he said: "We are committed to extending assistance and training opportunities to all Pacific Island Countries. Currently, we extend assistance in capacity building and undergraduate / postgraduate scholarships to all fourteen Pacific Island States."

The Minister further said that India has always stood for the cause of the developing countries at multinational forums such as the UN and the WTO and has been at the forefront of South-South cooperation.

He also unveiled several initiatives for eligible Pacific Island countries for implementation over the coming year.

They are - grant-in-aid of US$125,000/- each for the 14 eligible Pacific Island Countries for the supply of equipment and materials for social and economic programmes and for sustainable development projects; organisation of a "Workshop on Capacity Building for Strengthening India-Pacific Island Countries Cooperation" for officials of Pacific Island Countries.

Besides, this year, he said, India is offering additional assistance to PIF countries in the IT sector.

"Under this, Government of India will offer assistance for setting up HiWEL ('Hole-in-the-Wall' Education Ltd.) Learning Stations in all the PIF countries and IT Centre of Excellence in Fiji and Papua New Guinea (PNG)," The Minister said. (ANI)

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