India’s engagement with the Pacific Island Nations holds geopolitical, geostrategic, and economic importance. Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Papua New Guinea during the 3rd FIPIC summit showcased the growing strategic significance of the region. However, the Pacific Island Nations also face various challenges, including geographical disadvantage, climate change impacts, socio-economic challenges, and security and governance-related issues. In response to these challenges, India has undertaken initiatives to foster cooperation and development assistance.
Significance of India’s engagement –
- Geopolitical Importance — The Pacific Island Nations serve as a strategic link connecting Asia with the Americas. This region has been of interest to countries like the US, Japan, China, and Russia. India considers the Pacific as part of its Indo-Pacific vision, promoting a free, open, and inclusive order.
- Geostrategic Importance — The Pacific Ocean has long been an area of geostrategic interest. India’s engagement in the region is crucial for its aspirations to become a global leader.
- Economic Cooperation — India aims to expand economic cooperation with the Pacific Island Nations. While the current trade volume is relatively low, these nations possess significant maritime resources, including fisheries, minerals, and energy reserves.
- Maritime Security — Ensuring maritime security in the Indo-Pacific is a shared interest between India and the Pacific Island Nations. Collaboration in this domain strengthens regional stability.
Challenges faced by Pacific Island Nations –
- Geographical Disadvantage — The scattered islands pose logistical challenges, while their small land area affects mass production. The remoteness of these islands from major markets creates difficulties in communication, human interaction, and transportation costs.
- Climate Change — The Pacific Island Nations are among the most vulnerable to climate change impacts. They face rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and the resultant socio-economic consequences. Natural disasters cost these nations a significant percentage of their GDP.
- Socio-economic Challenges — The small economies and limited formal sector employment in the Pacific make it difficult to meet growing employment demands. Years of mismanagement and poor policies have led to ecological and energy calamities in the region.
- Security and Governance-related Challenges — The vast coastlines and large exclusive economic zones (EEZ) require capacity building in coastal security and EEZ management. Maritime disputes in the region, particularly in the South China Sea and East China Sea, pose threats to the maritime security of these nations.
What are some of the initiatives by India?
- Forum for India-Pacific Island Cooperation (FIPIC) — FIPIC was launched as a platform for dialogue and cooperation with 14 Pacific Island countries. It facilitates discussions on various areas, including climate change, clean energy, digital connectivity, visa facilitation, space technology, and diplomatic training.
- Development Assistance — India has undertaken various development assistance initiatives, such as setting up a special fund for climate change adaptation and clean energy, establishing the Pan Pacific Islands e-network to improve digital connectivity, extending visa-on-arrival facilities, cooperation in space technology applications, and providing training to rural women from Pacific Island countries as solar engineers.
India’s engagement with the Pacific Island Nations holds strategic importance, considering the geopolitical, geostrategic, and economic dimensions. Despite the challenges faced by the Pacific Island Nations, India has taken proactive steps to enhance cooperation and development assistance. By fostering strong ties with these nations, India aims to contribute to their sustainable development and strengthen regional stability in the Indo-Pacific.
Source – The Indian Express
QUESTION – Discuss the significance of India’s engagement with the Pacific Island Nations, highlighting the key highlights of Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Papua New Guinea and the challenges faced by the Pacific Island Nations. Also, explain the initiatives taken by India to strengthen its cooperation with the Pacific Island Nations.