“Fiji and India share deep and enduring ties”

On his nation’s 50th year of independence H.E. Mr. Yogesh Punja, High Commissioner of Fiji to India, spoke to India Empire magazine’s Editor and Publisher Sayantan Chakravarty on issues ranging from bilateral ties to the Indian diaspora, from diplomatic grouping in the southern Pacific to tourism opportunities ...

Kindly throw some light on bilateral trade and commerce. There has been a setback globally during the pandemic, but how are things being brought back on track?

While the number of border-contained COVID-19 cases remains low in Fiji and where international tourism is a cornerstone of the economy, the implications of the crisis are massive. The government has announced the road to recovery with various economic stimulus and incentives to re-engineer the economy and avoid job losses, establishment of Pacific Travel Bubble between Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Island Nations in light of COVID-19 and special red carpet between individuals to ascertain the investment opportunities in tourism sector in Fiji.

As a road to COVID-19 recovery, Fiji has major tax reductions and reforms, giving consciences loans to business and enterprises to stimulate economic activities, stop economic fallout from going permanent and the government has filled the void of falling investment and consumption with a strategic and sustainable government stimulus. In doing so, government aims to build and, get Fiji working again, sometimes in new ways, and bring Fiji’s economy back across a broad front. Fiji is now focusing on other sectors such as agriculture using modern techniques and technology. Emphasis is now placed into product diversification and explores new markets for Fijian made products internationally.

In September 2019, Indian Foreign Minister Dr S Jaishankar engaged with Hon. Inia Seruiratu (who was holding the portfolio of Fiji’s Foreign Minister at the time) in New York on the margins of the UNGA. PM Modi also interacted with leaders of the Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS). Kindly elaborate on these key meetings.

The meeting deliberated on wide range of issues concerning Pacific Island Countries, including sharing of development experiences for attainment of SDGs, enhancing cooperation in renewable energy, joining the newly launched Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, capacity building, implementation of projects under the India-UN Development Partnership Fund, LED Bulbs, Diplomatic Training and a roadmap for future India-PSIDS cooperation.