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Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit an opportunity for Fiji: Fijian PM Frank Bainimarama

PTI 17 Nov 2014, 23:42:46 PM IST

Suva: On the eve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's arrival here, his Fijian counterpart Frank Bainimarama today said the visit, the first by an Indian Premier in 33 years, is an opportunity for his country to further strengthen its position as a regional leader.

Prime Minister Modi will arrive in Fiji tomorrow and hold have talks with Bainimarama.

Soon after Modi's visit, Chinese President Xi Jinping will also visit the Pacific nation.

"The opportunity for us not only to welcome these leaders to Fiji and host the leaders of our island neighbours - further strengthening our regional position - but to showcase Fiji," he said at the Heads of Missions Consultations here.

Noting that the visits are symbol of Fiji's new status in the global community, Bainimarama said, "There's undoubtedly a strategic component to these visits - India and China as emerging global powers wanting to also have more of a presence in the Pacific. But they are also coming because they regard Fiji as important.

"They acknowledge us as a regional leader - a pre-eminent island nation that is also playing a increasing role on the wider global stage and having carried out substantive constitutional, legal and political reforms that have been applauded, commended and accepted internationally," he said.

Bainimarama said Fiji and India have a long-standing close ties of friendship and "Prime Minister Modi recognises the great historical link and wants to help us develop our nation in a range of ways which we will discuss".

Later, Bainimarama said Fiji will accord a full traditional ceremony to Prime Minister Modi and asked the general public to be part of this historic event.

Fiji and India have 135 years of historical and friendly relations and a formal diplomatic relation was established in 1970, Fiji's Ministry of Information said.

Modi is the first Indian premier to visit the country after Indira Gandhi who had come here in 1981.

Out of the 849,000 population in Fiji, 37 per cent people are of Indian origin. Many Indians arrived in Fiji as indentured labour in the 19th century.