By ANA VURU
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who arrived in Suva earlier today for a day-long visit, will have a full schedule of meetings and events to attend, the first by an Indian premier to the country in 33 years, during which he will hold bilateral talks with his counterpart Voreqe Bainimarama.
Mr Modi arrived here from Melbourne on board on a special Indian Air Force plane on the last leg of his three-nation ten-day tour after a hectic four-city Australia visit.
He will be accorded full traditional ceremonies of welcome at Suva’s Albert Park from 9,30am before paying a courtesy call on Mr Bainimamara at 10.45am, during which they will hold talks and sign a few Memorandums of Understanding.
From there, he moves to Parliament House to address newly-elected parliamentarians at 11.30am. This is an address Opposition SODELPA MPs have said they will boycott.
Mr Modi then moves on to a meeting with Pacific leaders at 12.30pm at the Grand Pacific Hotel before he hosts lunch for the leaders there.
At 5pm he will visit the Fiji National University’s Nasinu campus before being hosted to a banquet by his Fijian counterpart at 6.30pm.
Mr Modi leaves his hotel for Nausori Airport later in the evening, where he flies out to Nadi at 9pm accompanied by Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola.
Earlier last week he had visited Myanmar to attend the East Asia and the ASEAN summits.
Referring to his visit to Fiji, before leaving India, Mr Modi said it will be his privilege to visit this country soon after the return of democracy in September this year.
“We also owe them a debt of gratitude for hosting our scientists on the island in support of our Mars Mission. I am excited about visiting Fiji as also with the opportunity I will have of meeting leaders and representatives of 12 Pacific Island nations,” he had said.
The last Indian Prime Minister to visit the Pacific island nation was Indira Gandhi 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.
On the eve of Prime Minister Modi’s arrival here, his Fijian counterpart Bainimarama yesterday said the visit is an opportunity for his country to further strengthen its position as a regional leader.
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.”
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”.
Fiji and India have 135 years of historical and friendly relations and a formal diplomatic relation was established in 1970.
Modi is due to return home on Thursday morning.