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India sends aid to Fiji amid Chinese activism in the Pacific

India Fiji

India is sending relief materials to cyclone-hit Fiji today. According to the Ministry of External Affairs, one consignment reached on January 2 while the second will reach by January 6. The relief materials sent by India include shelter and hygiene kits to provide help to communities devastated by cyclone Yasa on December 17-18, 2020.

An official statement by the MEA said: "Despite challenges posed by the pandemic, over 6 tons of relief supplies were put together in a short span of time by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and were airlifted to Fiji with the help of Air India and Fiji Airways via Sydney, Australia. This was possible thanks to the effective cooperation among multiple agencies in three countries to deliver the relief material to Fiji in record time." It is significant to note that India has taken the help of Australia in delivering humanitarian aid to Fiji. Australia is part of the Quad – the four-country grouping that includes India, USA, Japan and Australia with deep interests in the Indo-Pacific region with a view to sizing down Chinese activities in the region.

The MEA statement added: "Disaster Risk Reduction and Management is an important pillar of India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans’ Initiative (IPOI) announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in November 2019. India remains committed to extend full support to Fiji’s efforts to restore livelihoods of the affected communities and to build resilient infrastructure." In December itself India had also sent similar supplies to flood-affected Vietnam through Indian Navy ship INS Kiltan, which had visited Ho Chi Minh City on 24 December 2020.

A press release by the Indian Navy said: “This Mission is part of India’s Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) assistance to Friendly Foreign Countries during the ongoing pandemic. The ship will deliver 15 Tons of HADR Stores for the flood-affected people of Central Vietnam.” Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited Fiji in November 2014 – the first such visit by an Indian Prime Minister is over three decades. He had met his counterpart Frank Bainimarama, addressed the parliament and spoken with the leaders of 12 Pacific island nations. India is among the Quad countries, which also include Japan, Australia and the US that are taking a keen interest in the islands of the Pacific Ocean region.

China’s Huawei Marine is bidding to build a $72.6 million undersea cable linking Micronesia, Kiribati and Nauru, Reuters reported. The move has alarmed Washington and its allies. If Huawei, whose connections with the Communist Party of China are widely suspected, manages to get the contract, it could seriously compromise US security. Now, both China and the Quad countries are in a race to control undersea cables in the region which are required to improve the weak telecommunications infrastructure in the Pacific islands. These are, therefore, important from a security standpoint due to the massive volume of data that flows through these cables.

Three countries of the Indo-Pacific Quad – Japan, the US and Australia – have mounted a robust response to China’s sub-sea activism. The trio will finance the connection of a submarine internet cable to the Pacific island nation of Palau, Nikkei said in a separate report. With this background, India's humanitarian aid to Fiji is more than aid. It is also at attempt to ensure a stronger foothold in the region to ward off Chinese influence..