By ANA VURU
Visits by two powerful foreign leaders this week are a boost to Fiji’s international standing, say two Fijian diplomats.
The comments by Fijian Ambassador to the United States, Winston Thompson, and Ambassador to Indonesia Ratu Tui Cavuilati come as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi ended a 15-hour visit to Suva and the Fijian Government prepares to host Chinese President Xi Jinping for three days, beginning Friday.
“They are good for Fiji, we had the former President of Indonesia here in June and now we have PM Modi and the President of China so it’s good for Fiji’s image and good for our relationship particularly,” said Ratu Tui.
“I don’t know about trade … I think in the long term certainly it could be an impact, but we hope that the visit of the Chinese President and the Indian Prime Minister will send a signal that Fiji is a country that should be taken more seriously,” Mr Thompson said.
“We look forward to much more open system as we are shown to be visited by the two leaders.”
The comments come in the wake of reports that Mr Xi will meet leaders of eight Pacific Island countries on his first official state visit to Fiji this week.
The multilateral meeting is expected to strengthen China’s relations with the region.
However, Pacific island countries with Taiwan links are not attending.
Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang says while Taiwan’s friends in the region have not been invited, this does not mean that China ignores them.
Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu have diplomatic links to Taiwan.
President Xi is expected to offer a broad aid package and deliver a speech on China’s policy towards Pacific island countries.
China says a series of documents and deals will be signed during the visit, covering areas such as finance, education, training and infrastructure construction.
President Xi’s Fiji visit follows his attendance at the G20 meeting in Brisbane Australia and a state visit to New Zealand.
Fiji’s Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs Amena Yauvoli does not see the visit as a threat to its other allies.
“I would take it as great confidence in Fiji’s ability to punch above its weight despite its size and we take it as a sign of confidence the Chinese government has in Fiji’s ability to recognize our important bilateral relationship, which is more then 30 years now,” Yauvoli added.
President Xi arrives in the country on Friday on a three-day visit.
Bilateral arrangements between Fiji and China are still being finalised for signing between the Chinese President and Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama.