Saturday, 15 November 2014

China and India in Fiji

In a bizarre extension to Himalayan border disputes fought out on glaciers and in rain forests, India and China are launching a battle of the summits in Fiji next week.

Both Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping will leave the Brisbane G20 summit next week and head to Fiji.

They will then host separate summits with 13 Pacific nations, each hoping to outflank the other in a complex piece of geopolitical drama.

Openly at stake will be the United Nation's votes of the South Pacific nations, regarded as one of the world's biggest voting blocs.

Strangely India is hoping to weaken the stand taken by Pacific countries over global warming.

Fearing rising sea levels, Pacific states are pressing countries like India to severely cut carbon emissions. Indian political sources think they can weaken the Pacific's united stand.  

In Delhi, the Hindustan Times today quotes Modi political sources saying that the Indian led summit in Fiji “comes in the backdrop of reports of growing Chinese influence in the South Pacific”.  

It says officials say India is still a minor player in the South Pacific “but Modi's outreach will not go unnoticed in Beijing”.

They certainly will not miss it; the battle is already on for the best hotel rooms as Xi shows up in Fiji for his second state visit.

Xi has one big advantage in that Beijing steadfastly remained uncritical of Fiji's military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama as he ruled by decree from 2006 up until last month.

Bainimarama has made no secret of his approval of the "new friend" and derisively noted that New Zealand and Australia would not support him.

The Hindustan Times' political sources said Modi will be the first Indian leader to have such a broad interaction with Pacific leaders.

It points to the historical ties in Fiji with 313,000 Indians, or 37 percent of the total population, living in Fiji.

They also point to India's long purchasing of phosphate from Nauru and involvement in mineral rich Papua New Guinea.

Xi will be visiting New Zealand after the G20 but Modi will not.

In 1981, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi visited Fiji.  

India and China have a number of border conflicts, including one across the so-called McMahon Line (after British raj civil servant Henry McMahon) over ownership of Tibet and the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

It prompted the Sino-Indian War in 1962.

That war also involved ownership of one of the highest but most obscure places on Earth, Aksai Chin. Both sides claim it and tensions occasional flare up.

The Asia game continues regionally. China sent a submarine to neighbouring Sri Lanka and India sent oil exploration ships into the South China Seas.

The South Pacific, long used to being part of greater power struggles, is new territory for the fight.



  1. Opens up space, and presents an huge opportunity for some creative diplomacy if Fiji, and, say, the Melanesian Spearhead group are smart.
    Oz and NZ have, once more, been caught flatfooted and offside, asleep at the wheel.

  2. Tony Hughes agrees. See

  3. "Tony Hughes...said the confrontational style of Australia and New Zealand had intruded on the Pacific Islands Forum."

    Yes, it seems like Bainimarama took lessons from them and has been busy applying the lessons learned both locally and regionally ever since.

  4. "The Hindustan Times...points to the historical ties in Fiji with 313,000 Indians." The, now mistaken, belief that there are 313,000 Indians in Fiji is understandable given that the comment comes from an Indian newspaper unused to the social complexities that have been decreed.

    What is of great interest to me is how the Indian PM is welcomed on Wednesday. Obviously there will be the usual diplomatic protocol but I'm fascinated to see the make up of the crowd at Albert Park and to find out if Fijians (the 'Indian' ones) turn out en masse to welcome him as has been the spectacle in the US and Australia. It could give insight into how many view themselves - as part of an Indian diaspora, or as Fijians welcoming an overseas head of state.

  5. oh dear, calling them 'indians' are we? How little has changed, really.


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