India boosts Pacific presence with Fiji defense pact
In a push to wield greater influence in the southern Pacific, India signed a defense agreement with the Republic of Fiji in May 2017 that calls for partnerships on a range of security areas, including maritime security and the development of military technology.
The defense pact also includes the sharing of military intelligence, medical services partnerships and agreements on humanitarian assistance during natural disasters.
“This arrangement in future capability is strategic as well as operational, with the intention to improve Fiji’s existing naval capabilities and to strengthen a systematic military program under the Fiji-India bilateral framework,” Fiji’s Inoke Kubuaboloa, minister for Defense and National Security, said in a news release.
The defense pact addresses research and development as well as institution building. “Our relationship with India is strong and enduring. We have a long history, and defense is a chapter in the bilateral cooperation the two countries already enjoy. We are committed to continue to collaborate on joint defense programs” across the Indo-Asia-Pacific, added the Fijian defense minister, pictured.
He signed the deal with his Indian counterpart, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, during visits to Mumbai and New Delhi. The ministers discussed maritime security, “and naval cooperation was identified as an area of promise,” India’s defense ministry said in a statement.
The defense agreement further solidifies Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s stated intentions of becoming a bigger geopolitical and military player in the southern Pacific. In late May 2017, India hosted a Pacific islands conference in the Fijian capital of Suva at which it promised to strengthen its partnerships with countries across the southern Pacific.
The conference attracted delegations from 14 Pacific island countries, according to the Hindustan Times newspaper. In addition to extending its naval presence in the Pacific, India has even loftier reasons to invest in Fiji.
The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is setting up a space research and satellite monitoring station in Fiji, a move that will bolster the emerging space power’s naval capabilities.
When India launched its Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft, also known as Mangalyaan, an 18-member team of scientists and engineers from ISRO traveled to Fiji to track the spacecraft, which arrived on Mars in September 2014.
The space station in Fiji will provide India with a way to track its own satellites over the Pacific. India currently relies on the United States and Australia to monitor its satellites over the ocean.