Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pacific Island Nations

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pacific Island Nations

Forum for India Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: FIPIC

Mains level: Large Ocean Countries


Central Idea: The third summit of Forum for India Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC) was recently held at Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea. It was attended by PM Modi.

What is FIPIC?

  • The FIPIC is an intergovernmental forum that facilitates cooperation and dialogue between India and the Pacific island countries (PIC).
  • It was established by India in 2014 as a platform to enhance engagement and strengthen ties with the countries of the Pacific region.
  • FIPIC serves as a mechanism for mutual collaboration, addressing shared challenges, and promoting development cooperation between India and its Pacific island partners.

Members of FIPIC:

  • FIPIC consists of 14 member-countries.
  • They are- Fiji, Cook Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

History of FIPIC

  • The establishment of FIPIC reflects India’s commitment to deepening its engagement with the Pacific island nations.
  • The inaugural FIPIC summit was held in November 2014 in Suva, Fiji, where India and the Pacific island countries came together to discuss bilateral and multilateral cooperation.
  • The summit marked a significant milestone in India’s efforts to strengthen relations with the Pacific island states and promote inclusive development in the region.

Key highlights of the Summit

(1) Imbibing perception change

  • During the FIPIC-3 summit held in Port Moresby, PM Modi emphasized the importance of recognizing the small island nations of the Pacific Ocean as “large ocean states.”
  • PM reiterated India’s commitment to supporting the development goals of the Pacific island states.

(2) Advancing development goals

  • India expressed unwavering dedication to supporting Pacific island states in various ways.
  • Acknowledged challenges such as climate change, natural calamities, and disruptions in food and fuel supply chains.
  • India has been a reliable supplier of essential items, including vaccines, medicines, wheat, and sugar.

(3) Voices to lead Global South

  • Prime Minister James Marape of Papua New Guinea urged India to serve as an advocate for the Global South.
  • Requested India’s representation in key global forums like the G-7 and G-20.

Why does India need PIC?

  • Geopolitical Significance: Strengthening ties in Indo-Pacific to bolster regional influence, promote stability, and shape regional dynamics.
  • Maritime Trade Routes: Securing access to vital sea-lanes, ensuring smooth trade flow, and protecting maritime interests.
  • Resources: Expanding access to valuable resources such as minerals, hydrocarbons, and fisheries for economic growth and energy security.
  • Economic Opportunities: Exploring untapped markets, attracting investments, and fostering trade partnerships for mutual economic benefits.
  • Climate Change and Disaster Management: Collaborating on climate resilience strategies, sharing expertise in disaster management, and supporting sustainable development.
  • Diplomatic Relations: Establishing strategic alliances, enhancing multilateral cooperation, and strengthening India’s presence in the Pacific region.
  • Indian Diaspora: Supporting and engaging with the Indian diaspora, promoting cultural ties, and leveraging their contributions for bilateral cooperation and understanding.


  • The FIPIC-3 summit provided a platform for India and Pacific island nations to deepen cooperation and address shared challenges.
  • India’s commitment to supporting development goals and its role as a reliable supplier underscores its dedication to the Pacific island states.
  • India’s active engagement in global forums and advocacy for the Global South aims to amplify voices and advance interests.
  • The summit signifies a strengthened partnership, fostering mutual growth and shared progress.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pacific Island Nations

Pacific Island Countries (PICs): India’s Development Diplomacy


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Pacific Island countries

Mains level: Geostrategic significance of Pacific Island countries and India's development diplomacy


Central Idea

  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Papua New Guinea (PNG) has strategic importance as it marks the Third Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC), which India is co-hosting along with PNG in Port Moresby. India’s involvement with the region is crucial from a geostrategic perspective as it is viewed by the US as a means to counter China in the Indo-Pacific. In this context, India is gradually tuning itself towards the Pacific Island Countries (PICs) by building development partnerships on critical issues.


Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC)

  • The Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC) is a multilateral grouping that aims to enhance India’s relations with the Pacific Islands region. It was launched in November 2014 during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Fiji.
  • The FIPIC includes 14 Pacific Island countries, namely Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.
  • The forum serves as a platform for India to engage with the Pacific Island countries on issues such as climate change, renewable energy, disaster management, health, and education, among others.
  • The forum also provides an opportunity for India to strengthen its strategic presence in the Indo-Pacific region and counter China’s growing influence in the region.

Why should India focus on Pacific Island Countries (PICs)?

  • Strategic location: The PICs are strategically located in the South Pacific and inhabit almost one-sixth of the world’s population. These islands have occupied common spheres of influence and interest for major superpowers like the US, France, Japan, Australia, and the United Kingdom (UK).
  • Resource-rich region: The PICs are inherently resource-rich in natural minerals and hydrocarbons. They are known for massive biodiversity, diverse ocean life, and extensive mangroves.
  • Countering China: China’s foray into the region in the form of resource extraction, increasing naval presence in the South China Sea, and investments under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has unnerved the neighbourhood. India’s engagement with the Pacific nations is viewed by the US as a means to counter China in the Indo-Pacific.
  • Diplomatic importance: India’s engagement with the PICs is significant for diplomatic reasons, as it can increase India’s influence in the Indo-Pacific region. India’s foreign policy considerations are progressively being structured around the notion of diplomacy for development. This India Way of foreign policy fits well for the larger Global South.
  • Development partnerships: India can build development partnerships with PICs on critical issues including climate resilience, digital health, renewable energy, and disaster risk reduction.
  • Economic opportunities: The PICs offer economic opportunities for India, especially in the areas of green transition and climate change, technology transfer, capacity building, encouraging trade and commerce, etc.


Facts for prelims: PIC’s

Region Countries Resources Strategic Importance Physical Location
Melanesia Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu Minerals, timber, fish, gold, copper, oil, gas Natural resources, biodiversity, proximity to shipping lanes 1°N to 14°S, 124°E to 168°E
Micronesia Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau Fish, phosphate, coconut products Strategic military location, control of the Pacific Ocean, climate change impacts 1°N to 11°N, 130°E to 176°E
Polynesia American Samoa, Cook Islands, French Polynesia, Niue, Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Wallis and Futuna Fish, forestry, agriculture, tourism Tourism, cultural significance, strategic military location 14°S to 27°S, 123°W to 162°E

What is Development Diplomacy?

  • Development diplomacy is a foreign policy approach that emphasizes cooperation and partnership on development issues with other countries as a means of achieving shared goals and promoting mutual interests.
  • The focus is on building relationships with other nations based on shared values and common objectives, rather than on traditional notions of power and influence.
  • Development diplomacy recognizes the interdependence of nations in an increasingly globalized world, and seeks to create win-win partnerships that benefit all parties involved.

key initiatives taken by India under Development diplomacy in Papua New Guinea (PNG)

  • Line of Credit: India has offered a $100 million Line of Credit (LoC) to Papua New Guinea for infrastructure development.
  • Climate resilience: India has partnered with PNG for a project aimed at developing climate-resilient agriculture. Under this project, Indian experts are sharing their expertise on climate-resilient agriculture practices and technology transfer.
  • Healthcare: India has offered training for healthcare professionals in PNG, and has also provided medical equipment and supplies.
  • Education: India has offered scholarships to students from PNG to study in India, as well as providing vocational training for PNG youth.
  • Renewable energy: India has partnered with PNG to promote the use of renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power.
  • Capacity building: India has provided training for PNG government officials in areas such as public administration, governance, and disaster management.
  • Trade and commerce: India have sought to enhance trade and investment relations with PNG, including through the promotion of Indian businesses and the facilitation of PNG investment in India.


  • India’s involvement with the Pacific Island Countries (PICs) is crucial from a geostrategic perspective, as it is viewed by the US as a means to counter China in the Indo-Pacific. India’s unique approach to development cooperation fits well for the larger Global South, and it can be a possible pathway for advancing Southern-driven partnerships in the PICs. With the G20 Presidency giving India leverage as an important economy in world politics, the FIPIC can be viewed as a suitable opportunity for New Delhi to realign itself in the emerging world order.

Mains Question

Q. What do you understand by mean Development diplomacy? Why India should increase its focus on pacific island countries?

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Also read:

The Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in Indian Ocean region (IOR)


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pacific Island Nations

Places in news: Solomon Islands


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Solomon Islands

Mains level: Chinese expansion in Pacific


Solomon Islands PM has assured Australia that his nation will not allow a Chinese military presence in its territory.

Where is the Solomon Islands located?

  • The Solomon Islands is a sovereign country consisting of six major islands and over 900 smaller islands in Oceania, to the east of Papua New Guinea and northwest of Vanuatu.
  • Its capital, Honiara, is located on the largest island, Guadalcanal.
  • It is part of the ethnically Melanesian group of islands in the Pacific and lies between Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu.
  • The country takes its name from the Solomon Islands archipelago, which is a collection of Melanesian islands that also includes the North Solomon Islands (a part of Papua New Guinea).
  • It excludes outlying islands, such as the Santa Cruz Islands and Rennell and Bellona.

Quick recap of its past

  • The islands, which were initially controlled by the British Empire during the colonial era, went through the hands of Germany and Japan.
  • It then went back to the UK after the Americans took over the islands from the Japanese during World War II.
  • The islands became independent in 1978 to become a constitutional monarchy under the British Crown, with a parliamentary system of government.
  • Nevertheless, its inability to manage domestic ethnic conflicts led to close security relations with Australia, which is the traditional first responder to any crisis in the South Pacific.

How did China enter the picture?

  • Earlier this year, the Solomon Islands established a security agreement with China, saying it needed Beijing’s assistance with its domestic security situation.
  • But the announcement had rattled the west, esp. the US, Australia and others in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • The concerns were that the agreement could potentially lead to a Chinese military base on the island nation and a gain in power-projection capabilities.
  • At that time, following intense scrutiny, the Solomon Islands had denied that the agreement would allow China to establish a naval base.
  • The Island insisted that the agreement was only to assist the Solomon Islands with what he called “hard internal threats”.

What is the Solomon Islands’ stance?

  • The government has asked all partner countries with plans to conduct naval visits or patrols to put them on hold until a revised national mechanism is in place.
  • The revised national mechanism applied to all foreign vessels seeking access to the country’s ports.
  • The nation wanted to build up its own naval capacity.
  • It has some unfortunate experiences of foreign naval vessels entering its waters without any diplomatic clearance.

What is behind China’s growing influence in the region?

  • There is no dispute that China has been rapidly increasing its presence and influence in the region for over three decades, particularly in the South Pacific.
  • Certainly Beijing views the Pacific Island region as an important component of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
  • Specifically, it sees the region as a critical air freight hub in its so-called Air Silk Road, which connects Asia with Central and South America.

Concerns of the West

  • The United States and its regional allies, such as Australia and New Zealand, are concerned that the China-Solomon Islands security pact allows Chinese naval vessels to replenish there.
  • That could open the door to a Chinese naval base, which would significantly extend China’s military reach in the South Pacific.”
  • It is likely that this security agreement between China and the Solomon Islands has been driven by, what the CFR calls, Beijing’s “sense of vulnerability” in the region.

What is the rationale for the Solomon Islands’ increasing proximity to China?

  • The Solomon Islands had cultivated strong ties with Taiwan, which ended with the emergence of the current government in Honiara.
  • In 2019, the regime change switched Taiwan for China.
  • This was supposedly after Beijing offered half a billion US dollars in financial aid, roughly five times what Taiwan spent on the islands in the past two decades.
  • It has been alleged by the pro-Taiwan Opposition that the incumbent government has been bribed by China.

Why is China interested in the Solomon Islands?

  • Isolating Taiwan: The Solomon Islands was one among the six Pacific island states which had official bilateral relations with Taiwan.
  • Supporter in UN: The small Pacific island states act as potential vote banks for mobilising support for the great powers in international fora like the United Nations.
  • Larger EEZ: These states have disproportionately large maritime Exclusive Economic Zones when compared to their small sizes.
  • Natural resources: Solomon Islands, in particular, have significant reserves of timber and mineral resources, along with fisheries.
  • Countering US: But more importantly, they are strategically located for China to insert itself between America’s military bases in the Pacific islands and Australia.

What does this mean for the established geopolitical configuration in the region?

  • Diminishing western influence: The Pacific islands, in the post-World War II scenario, were exclusively under the spheres of influence of the Western powers, in particular, the US, UK, France and Australia and New Zealand.
  • Inserting into western hegemony: All of them have territorial possessions in the region, with the three nuclear powers among them having used the region as a nuclear weapons testing ground.
  • Shifting of dependencies: The smaller island nations of the region are heavily dependent on them, especially Australia as it is a resident power.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pacific Island Nations

Micronesia: the remote Pacific Islands


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Micronesia

Mains level: Not Much

The Federated States of Micronesia is one of the latest places on Earth to experience an outbreak of Covid-19, after two and a half years of successfully protecting itself from the virus.

Where is Micronesia?

  • FSM is located in the Western Pacific, in the Micronesia sub-region of Oceania.
  • It consists of four island states, Yap, Chuuk, Kosrae and Pohnpei (where the capital Palikir is located), all in the Caroline Islands.
  • Also known as the Carolines, it is a scattered archipelago of small islands that are divided between Micronesia and the Republic of Palau.
  • FSM is composed of 607 islands and islets with a total land area of 702 square km.

Its geography

  • While this area is rather small, the islands stretch across an estimated 2,900 sq. km of sea, giving the nation the 14th largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the world.
  • EEZs grant countries special right over marine resources up to 370 km from their coasts.
  • The Federated States of Micronesia shares its sea borders with other small island nations and territories in the Micronesia region like Guam, the Republic of Marshall Islands, Palau, Kiribati, and the Mariana Islands.
  • Its larger neighbouring states — separated by large swathes of the Pacific Ocean — including the Philippines in the west, Hawaii in the east, Papua New Guinea and Australia to the south, and Japan to the north.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pacific Island Nations

Partners in the Blue Pacific (PBP) Initiative


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Partners in the Blue Pacific (PBP) initiative

Mains level: Countering projects against Chinese predatory expansion

To reinforce its Indo-Pacific strategy, the US – along with Australia, New Zealand, UK and Japan – announced a new Partners in Blue Pacific (PBP) initiative.

What is Partners in the Blue Pacific (PBP) initiative?

  • The PBP is a five-nation “informal mechanism” to support Pacific islands and to boost diplomatic, economic ties in the region.
  • It speaks of enhancing “prosperity, resilience, and security” in the Pacific through closer cooperation.
  • It simply means that through the PBP, these counties — together and individually — will direct more resources here to counter China’s aggressive outreach.
  • The initiative members have also declared that they will “elevate Pacific regionalism”, and forge stronger ties with the Pacific Islands Forum.
  • The areas where PBP aims to enhance cooperation include “climate crisis, connectivity and transportation, maritime security and protection, health, prosperity, and education”.

How is China trying to transform its ties in the Pacific?

  • As China signed a security pact with Solomon Islands in April, the deal flagged serious concerns about the Chinese military getting a base in the southern Pacific.
  • This is very close to the US island territory of Guam, and right next to Australia and New Zealand.
  • The deal, which boosted Beijing’s quest to dominate crucial shipping lanes criss-crossing the region, rattled the US and its allies.
  • It also triggered urgent moves to counter China’s growing Pacific ambition amid a power vacuum fuelled by apparent lack of US attention.

What is being done by the US and its allies to counter China?

  • Before launching the PBP this month, the US and its partners started the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF).
  • Away from the Pacific, the G7 on Monday (June 27) announced a plan — Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) — to rival China’s BRI.
  • It promises to raise $600 billion to fund development projects in low and middle-income countries.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pacific Island Nations

Role of ESCAP in the Asia-Pacific


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: ESCAP

Mains level: Paper 2-Challenges facing Asia-Pacific region and scope for cooperation

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) is one of the five regional commissions under the jurisdiction of the United Nations Economic and Social Council. This article examines the common challenges that ESCAP region faces- such as danger of pollution to the marine ecosystem, lack of data about ocean, connectivity issue faces by small island nations etc. Scope for the collaboration between ESCAP nations is explored.

Strain on marine ecosystem and its implications

  • The Asia-Pacific seas provide food, livelihoods and a sense of identity, especially for coastal communities in the Pacific island states.
  • Escalating strains on the marine environment is threatening our growth and way of life.
  • In less than a century, climate change and unsustainable resource management have degraded ecosystems and diminished biodiversity.
  • Over-fishing has exponentially increased, leaving fish stocks and food systems vulnerable.
  • Marine plastic pollution originating from region’s rivers has contributed to most of the debris flooding the ocean.

Lack of data for SDG 14: Life below water

  • Insights from ‘Changing Sails: Accelerating Regional Actions for Sustainable Oceans in Asia and the Pacific’, the theme study of this year’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), focuses a lot on the need of data collection in the region.
  • At present, data are available for only two out of ten targets for the Sustainable Development Goal 14, ‘Life Below Water’.
  • Due to limitations in methodology and national statistical systems, information gaps have persisted at uneven levels across countries.

Challenges facing the region

1. Plastic Pollution

  • Asia and the Pacific produces nearly half of global plastic by volume, of which it consumes 38%.
  • Plastics represent a double burden for the ocean1) their production generates CO2 absorbed by the ocean, 2) as a final product enters the ocean as pollution.
  • Need of the hour is effective national policies and re-thinking production cycles i.e. promoting a circular economy approach.
  • Economic incentives and disincentives are necessary for the adoption of these policies as well as for minimizing resource use.

2. Decline in fish stocks

  • Region’s position as the world’s largest producer of fish has come at the cost of over-exploitation.
  • The percentage of stocks fished at unsustainable levels has increased threefold from 10% in 1974 to 33% in 2015.
  • Generating complete data on fish stocks, fighting illicit fishing activity and conserving marine areas must remain a priority.

3. Connectivity of island nations

  • While the most connected shipping economies are in Asia, the small island developing States of the Pacific experience much lower levels of connectivity.
  • This leaves them relatively isolated from the global economy.
  • Closing the maritime connectivity gap must be placed at the centre of regional transport cooperation efforts.
  • We must also work with the shipping community to navigate toward green shipping. Enforcing sustainable shipping policies is essential.

Areas of cooperation

  • Trans-boundary ocean management and linking ocean data in the region can be the starting step.
  • Harnessing ocean statistics through strong national statistical systems will serve as a compass guiding countries to monitor trends, devise timely responses and clear blind spots.
  • ESCAP by using Ocean Accounts Partnership can help to harmonise ocean data and provide a space for regular dialogue among nations.
  • Translating international agreements and standards into national action is the key here. Also ensuring capacity building among nations to do so.
  • ESCAP is working with member states to implement International Maritime Organization (IMO) requirements.

Consider the question-“What are the challenges facing the nations of Asia-Pacific amid growing levels of pollution and climate change. How cooperation among the countries of the region mitigate the risks? “


Our oceans keep our economy and our lives above the waves. We must use the years ahead to steer our collective fleets toward sustainable oceans.

Back2Basics: ESCAP- United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

  • India has been the founding member of ESCAP.
  • UNESCAP is the regional development arm of the United Nations in Asia and the Pacific, with a membership of 62 Governments, including 58 from the region.
  • Established in 1947 with its headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand.
  • UNESCAP serves as the highest intergovernmental regional platform to promote cooperation among member States for creating a more interconnected region working to achieve inclusive and sustainable economic and social development.
  • It carries out work in the areas of macroeconomic policy, poverty reduction and financing for development; trade and investment; transport; environment and sustainable development; information and communications technology and disaster risk reduction; social development; statistics, sub-regional activities for development; and energy.
  • UNESCAP also focuses on sub-regional activities to provide in-depth technical assistance to address specific key priorities, including poverty reduction and sustainable development, in the respective sub-regions.

IMO- International Maritime Organisation

  • The IMO was established following agreement at a UN conference held in Geneva in 1948.
  • And the IMO came into existence ten years later, meeting for the first time in 1959.
  • As a specialized agency of the United Nations, IMO is the global standard-setting authority for the safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping.
  • Its main role is to create a regulatory framework for the shipping industry that is fair and effective, universally adopted and universally implemented.
  • IMO measures cover all aspects of international shipping – including ship design, construction, equipment, manning, operation and disposal – to ensure that this vital sector for remains safe, environmentally sound, energy-efficient and secure.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Pacific Island Nations

Mapping: Islands in the Pacific


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Mapping: Islands in the Pacific

Mains level: Not Much

Approximately four months after COVID-19 was first detected, the South Pacific Islands have not yet reported any cases of the infectious disease.

Closely observe the map. Note important islands. UPSC may shift its traditional focus from middle east/central asia to this region. These days, Pacific and Indo-Pacific region carry a decent importance.

We can expect MCQs asking to arrange these islands in north-south / east-west direction.

Which South Pacific islands have recorded cases of COVID-19?

  • Fiji recorded its first case of COVID-19 on March 19.
  • Guam, a territory of the US in the South Pacific, witnessed an outbreak among the staff of the US navy.
  • New Caledonia also recorded its first COVID-19 cases in mid-March, with links to overseas travel.
  • The Solomon Islands, the Cook Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, the Marshall Islands, Palau and Nauru have no recorded cases of COVID-19.

What impact will COVID-19 have on Pacific island nations?

  • A widespread outbreak of COVID-19 will have a disastrous impact on these island nations.
  • Although these islands are popular with tourists, the outer islands and rural villages are home to indigenous populations.
  • Most of these areas have a very basic infrastructure for healthcare, with larger hospitals and medical centres located in bigger towns.
  • Even in everyday circumstances, these small medical centres struggle due to the lack of medical supplies.
  • The socio-cultural factors, like the prevalence of large families in this region, also make the individuals susceptible to community transmission.
  • There is also a lack of access to running water, making sanitation difficult.
  • Environmental factors like the seasonal tropical cyclone that swept through the region in April, led to the displacement of hundreds of people in the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Vanuatu and Tonga.

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What are Pacific Island Nations (PINs)?

  • These are 14 island countries in Pacific Ocean – Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu


  • These countries range in land area from the largest Papua New Guinea (461,700 sq km) to the smallest Nauru (21 sq km)
  • The size of their population ranges from Papua New Guinea (7.7 million) to Niue (1,500)
  • Development indicators also vary widely with per capita income ranging from USD 27,340 (Cook Islands) to USD 1020 (Papua New Guinea)

Why study about PINs?

  • On August 21, 2015 India hosted the second edition of Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC) summit in Jaipur
  • All the 14 nations of the group participated in the summit
  • So obviously, this becomes an important topic for exam and you cannot ignore this as an unimportant grouping

Importance of the Pacific area:

  • Though these countries are relatively small in land area and distant from India, many have large exclusive economic zones (EEZs), and offer promising possibilities for fruitful cooperation
  • The Pacific Ocean is the earth’s largest ocean covering 46% of water surface and 33% of the earth’s total surface, making it larger than the entire earth’s land area
  • It is bounded by 41 sovereign states plus Taiwan, and 22 non-independent territories
  • It is rich in marine resources and accounts for 71% of the world’s ocean fishery catch
  • The Pacific has for long been an area of geostrategic interest for countries such as the US, Japan, China, Russia, Australia, and Indonesia – large economies which lie on its boundary
  • Two developed Pacific Island countries – Australia and New Zealand – have tended to dominate regional cooperation forums such as the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF)

Issues with PINs:

  • They are dispersed and low populated countries
  • They have logistics problems to develop their economies
  • Less manufacturing activity
  • With climate change and global warming, these countries fear of being drowned or disappeared
  • Their natural resources are being depleted day-by-day – sugar, timber etc.
  • India used to import phosphates from the Nauru Island, which is now being depleted
  • Problems in sugar market due to global vagaries

External influences:

#1. Australia: These countries are highly influenced by Australia due to its close proximity – for example, Australia helping the development of natural gas of Papua New Guinea etc.

#2. China

  • China has significantly expanded its foothold in the region, from increasing business and trade ties to setting up diplomatic missions in each of these countries
  • More than 3,000 Chinese companies are already operating in these Island groups in various businesses.
  • China is now the largest bilateral donor in Fiji and the second largest in the Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, and Tonga
  • Last year, China provided around $2 billion credit to these nations collectively
    6 out of 14 Pacific Islands recognize Taiwan as a legitimate govt of China
  • Taiwan is already holding annual meet with these countries to engage them

#3. These island groups are forming partnerships with EU and other economic groupings

Where can India engage?

#1. UNSC: These 14 nations are supporting India’s attempts to become permanent member of UNSC

#2. Agriculture:

  • These are agriculture oriented economies
  • Major products- palm oil, sugar, and timber
  • We can do value addition to their products- copra, sugar, timber
  • They are diversifying in oil production and we are short on edible oil so this is a major area to work on
  • India can make use of the mahogany (timber) that is extensively grown in these islands, for getting raw materials for paper industry

#3. Minerals:

  • These islands have plenty of oil, gas, and minerals in their sea beds
  • For example, the Kiribati islands, they are spread over an area that is bigger than the Indian subcontinent and have rich sources of minerals
  • India can form joint ventures and explore these minerals

#4. Disaster Management: These islands are frequently affected by natural disasters like typhoons, earthquakes etc. India can help them in disaster management

#5. Services sector:

  • The other biggest potential area which India can leverage from these islands is the development of services sector – IT, tourism, healthcare and fisheries
  • We can explore tourism options to these isolated beautiful spots
  • Tourism also has an advantage from the fact that there are large number of ethnic Indians in these islands
  • Many of these countries send their nationals to India for education though programmes sponsored by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations

#6. Energy:

  • India is developing renewable energy and has set a target of 175 GW by 2022. It can help the Pacific Islands in this area and provide energy security
  • We can transplant our experience of A&N islands in establishing isolated energy grids in these countries
  • There has been lot of tree cutting for industrialisation and they are using more diesel for power. We can help them by providing assistance in renewable energy

#7. Democracy:

  • In the past, these pacific islands have faced a threat to democracy
  • For example- there was a coup in Fiji which overthrew the democratically elected government, there was a civil war in Papua New Guinea
  • In this context, India can serve as a stable and solid partner, as it is one of the largest democracies in the world, so that these islands can have an assured trade and investment relations.

#8. Ethnicity:

  • Unlike other proximate countries like Australia, India has intimate relations, going beyond exploration of natural resources, with these nations
  • Culturally they are linked to India. For example, Fiji has huge number of Indian ethnic population
  • We should leverage this advantage to engage & establish more intimate relations

#9. Climate Change: India should fight for their cause in the coming UN Climate Change meetings & should see to it that these islands get enough finances for disaster mitigation

#10. The Pacific Island groups have enthusiastically welcomed India’s offer in telemedicine, tele-education, space cooperation, fostering democracy and community activities

#11. These countries are in need of MSME and we have good experience in developing them


  • The Forum for India–Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC) was launched during PM’s visit to Fiji in November 2014


  • FIPIC includes 14 of the island countries – Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu


  • Though these countries are relatively small in land area and distant from India, many have large exclusive economic zones (EEZs), and offer promising possibilities for fruitful cooperation.
  • India’s focus has largely been on the Indian Ocean where it has sought to play a major role and protect its strategic and commercial interests
  • The FIPIC initiative marks a serious effort to expand India’s engagement in the Pacific region
  • At this moment, total annual trade of about $300 million between the Indian and Pacific Island countries, where exports are around $200 million and imports are around $100 million
  • This is a part of India’s extended Act East Policy


#1. Suva, Fiji:

  • One of the key outcome of the first summit in Suva, Fiji was that top leadership of both India and Pacific Islands decided to meet at a regular interval and an annual summit was instituted in this regard
  • Other areas- visa on arrival for their nationals, funds for small business, line of credit for a co-generation power plant for Fiji, and a special adaptation fund for technical assistance and capacity building for countering global warming

#2. Jaipur, India:

  • India announced to convene international conference on blue economy in New Delhi in 2016 and invited all the experts form the island nations
  • Set up Space Application Center, in partnership with ISRO, in any of the 14 countries and friendly port calls by the Indian Navy
  • Pacific leaders have expressed their concerns over climate change and its effect on their respective counties. India also assured them to voice their concerns and appropriate measures at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) in Paris
  • In return all the 14 visiting head of state/government reiterated their support to India’s bid for a permanent memberships at the reformed United Nations Security Council
  • India offered to help the Pacific Islands with their hydrography and coastal surveillance, by engaging the Indian Navy. It would help them have a better understanding of their maritime zone and strengthen security of their EEZs
  • India also announced FIPIC Trade Office at Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) to promote Trade & Investment opportunities between India & Pacific Island Countries

Way ahead:

  • China is already on there and giving large credit, so does it mean India can not build good relations with these nations? No
  • We need to build on our advantages- health tourism, building democratic institutions which they need a lot
  • India’s strong relations with Fiji, which has considerable influence in the region, is a strong point which could help counter the growing Chinese influence
  • Relations with Fiji had improved in India’s favour in the past decade and not only those of Indian origin but also Fijians were friendly towards Indians, which worked to Indian advantage
  • Most of the economies in the region are based on agriculture, fisheries and small-scale industries and India’s capacity in these sectors is even better than Europe and China

Published with inputs from Swapnil
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