A file photo of INS Satpura berthed in the Kings Warf in Fiji's capital city of Suva (Image courtesy: High Commission of India in Suva)
Indian Naval Ship (INS) Satpura’s “brief but impactful” goodwill visit to Fiji concluded on Sunday as it departed Suva for its further operational deployment in the Pacific Ocean.
It was after four years that an Indian Naval Ship had arrived at the shores of the South Pacific nation and the Republic of Fiji Navy (RFN) made every effort to make the occasion a special one.
As it berthed in the Fijian capital’s Kings Warf on September 1, the frontline warship of the Indian Navy’s Eastern Fleet based at Visakhapatnam was welcomed by the RFN band and officers from the Fiji Navy.
Vinaka Vakalevu @FijiNavy @Rfmf_media @FijianGovt for the very warm welcome to Indian Naval Ship, INS Satpura that arrived in Suva today, as part of its Goodwill visit to Fiji.
🇮🇳🤝🇫🇯 Friends forever. @HCI_Suva @iccr_suva @HCICanberra @MEAIndia @IndianDiplomacy pic.twitter.com/KMVSx75bEu
— P.S.Karthigeyan (@pskarthigeyan) September 1, 2022
Several high-level exchanges between the ship’s crew and the Fiji Navy were held during the three-day port call.
As part of the Narendra Modi government’s vision of SAGAR (Security And Growth for All in the Region), the Indian Navy has been proactively engaging with the countries in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) towards enhancing regional maritime security. This has been through bilateral and multilateral exercises, Coordinated Patrols, Joint EEZ Surveillance, and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations.
The Shivalik class multi-role frigate’s Commanding Officer Captain Saket Khanna, accompanied by the Indian Defence Attache to Fiji Captain Akhilesh Menon, paid a courtesy visit to Commander Marika Vosawale, the head of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) Naval division.
It was followed by a collaborative mangrove planting activity conducted by sailors from both the Fiji Navy and the INS Satpura. The community outreach programme saw the planting of a thousand mangrove saplings done in coordination with Fiji’s forestry department.
In addition to this, during its three-day visit, the INS Satpura also conducted free health and dental screening for the public at Albert Stadium and took part in a wreath-laying event at Fiji’s National War Memorial in Nasese.
Currently on one of the longest deployments by the Indian Navy in the 75th year of India’s Independence, INS Satpura was also opened to visitors during which a large number of locals visited the ship furthering the people-to-people connection between the two nations.
A yoga session conducted on the ship’s Helo deck also saw large participation from the local populace and personnel from Fiji Navy.
“The multi-role frigate’s presence in the country is focused on maintaining the relationship and diplomatic ties between the two countries,” said a statement from the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF).
The relations between the two countries have witnessed an upward swing in the recent past, especially after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Fiji in November 2014 when the first meeting of the Forum for India-Pacific Islands Co-operation (FIPIC-I) was also held.
Fijian Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama visited Jaipur in August 2015 and then again made a stopover in India the following year to meet PM Modi while on his way to a United Nations World Humanitarian Summit in Turkey. Fijian PM also participated in the Founding Conference of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) held at New Delhi in March 2018.
As Fiji was battling a deadly Covid wave in 2021, India prioritized the island country while providing Covid medicines to 150 countries and more than 100 million vaccines to about 100 nations during the pandemic.
In July this year, Saurabh Kumar, Secretary (East) at the Ministry of External Affairs, travelled to Suva for the fifth round of Foreign Office Consultations (FoC) between India and Fiji as both sides reaffirmed their strong commitment to further strengthen the bilateral friendship and the development partnership.
In April, while virtually attending the opening ceremony of Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeevani Hospital – one of its kind children’s heart hospital not just in Fiji but in the entire South Pacific region – PM Modi highlighted that the shared legacy of India-Fiji relations is based on the sense of service of humanity.
“There is a vast sea between our two countries, but our culture has kept us connected with each other. Our relationships are built on mutual respect, cooperation, and the strong mutual ties of our people. It is the good fortune of India that we have been getting the opportunity to play a role and contribute to the socio-economic development of Fiji,” the Prime Minister said in his speech.
Vinaka Vakalevu Viti! The @indiannavy ship #INSSatpura departed today from Port of Suva. Enjoy this beautiful video on the ship’s arrival at the beginning of the Goodwill visit courtesy @FijiNavy @RfmfMedia. @meaindia @DDIndialive @WIONews @ANI @FBC_News @SpokespersonMoD pic.twitter.com/O1pdOGkq2G
— India in Fiji (@HCI_Suva) September 2, 2022
Quite significantly, during its current deployment, the INS Satpura, continues to play a major role in countering the complex strategic challenges in the Indo-Pacific region along with the navies of friendly foreign countries.
In June, the indigenously designed and built 6000-tonne guided missile stealth frigate equipped to seek and destroy adversaries in air, surface and underwater – had participated in the world’s largest international maritime exercise – Rim of the Pacific 2022 (RIMPAC) – which took place around the Hawaiian Islands.
In May, while on a deployment to the South China Sea (SCS) and West Pacific, the warship also visited Manila from June 3-6 to enhance military cooperation with the Philippines Navy.
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