Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to visit the small island-nation of Fiji in his final phase of the ongoing tour abroad. He will become the first Indian prime minister to visit Fiji in the South Pacific Ocean in the last 31 years (after Indira Gandhi in 1983), just like he was the first incumbent to visit Australia in 28 years and second to visit Myanmar in 27 years. [Can't belief I am hosting Modi and Jinping inside 3 days: Fijian PM Bainimarama]
The country already gearing up to host the heads of state of the two biggest countries in Asia within a span of three days. But how important is Modi's visit to Fiji from India's perspective?
Fiji is home to a big population of Indian-origin
It is indeed significant for India to focus on Fiji, a country which has earned much praise in the world community for its transition towards democracy, undertaking constitutional and legal reforms and playing role of a significant regional player. Fiji has a high percentage of ethnic Indians and Modi and his Fijian counterpart Frank Bainimarama, an elected leader now, will look forward to harness the deep historical and cultural links between the two countries.
The fact that Bainimarama has taken the initiative to invite representatives from 13 other island-nations of the Pacific to meet PM Modi speaks abundantly about his willingness to cement relations with an old ally like India.
Modi always eager to engage with Indian disapora
For Modi, the prime minister has shown in whatever foreign trips he has undertaken in the last six months that he is eager to engage the Indian diaspora for her betterment. A number of countries in the Pacific Ocean have a large concentration of people of Indian origin and Modi will look foreard to tapping those human resources to spread India's soft power further as a counter to serious competitor like China in those areas.
India has not given much focus on Fiji all these years, which is unfortunate
Fiji is also significant for India for it helps the latter track the Mangalyaan, one of the biggest prides in India's space programme, from near its territory. Prime Minister Modi is set to thank the Fijians for the favour and make the bonds stronger.
Geo-strategic significance of Asia-Pacific
Fiji is also important for India in terms of geo-strategy. China has always been a eager naval power and to counter its spread in the maritime zones of Asia-Pacific. India is eager to make an impact in this race to influence the strategic theatre ahead of the Chinese. It has good relations with countries like Nauru, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand beside of course Australia, the biggest player of the region. The fact that this region is home to a big population of Indian origin makes India a more favourable ally to make its presence stronger there.
This is something that South Block hasn't thought on these lines all these years. This new trend in diplomacy is a positive sign. Is India's foreign policy turning mature and far-reaching?