FIPIC (Forum for India Pacific Islands Cooperation)

Context: PM Modi during the recent FIPIC summit communicated that Small island nations of the Pacific Ocean are in fact “large ocean states”, highlighting the importance of the 14 members of the Forum for India Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC). He also spoke in favour of free and open Indo-Pacific region and focused on India’s commitment to assist the development goals of the member-countries.

Mr. Modi also highlighted the close cooperation by explaining Climate change, natural calamities, poverty and famine already existed but now new challenges are emerging as supply chains of food, fuel fertilizer and pharma are facing hurdles. Those we thought were reliable, we came to know they were not standing with us. In this time of difficulty, the old saying that a friend in need is a friend indeed has been proved. From vaccines to medicines, wheat and sugar, India has supplied the countries that needed the items

  • He was also conferred the Grand Companion of the Order of Logohu (GCL), the highest civilian award of Papua New Guinea.
  • PM Modi further unveiled a comprehensive 12-step initiative aimed at advancing India’s collaborations with the countries in the Pacific region which included FIPIC SME Development Project, Solar project for Government buildings, Provide desalination units for drinking water, Supply sea ambulances, Set up dialysis units, Set up of 24×7 emergency helpline, Set up of Jan Aushadi Kendras, Set up Yoga centres
  • At the same time members of the FIPIC highlighted that they are victims of global power play and they want India to advocate for them and sit in those meetings,”. They also urged India to serve as the voice of the Global South in the G-7 and the G-20.
  • The recent visit of PM Modi to Papua New Guinea highlights the growing strategic significance of the Pacific Island nations, which have also received attention from China, with the country having signed a security agreement last year with the Solomon Islands.

India and the Pacific Island Nations

  • Historically, India’s interaction with the region goes back to the colonial era, in the early 19th century when Indian workers were taken to the region, to work as indentured plantation labourers, most of whom settled there, particularly in Fiji and PNG.  However in the post-colonial era until recently the region did not find much significance in India’s foreign policy. 
  • In the recent times the changing geopolitical scenario and strategic and economic compulsions have driven India to refresh and redesign its Pacific policy.
  • India’s involvement with these 14 nations aligns with its Act East Policy, and the country has primarily fostered its relationships with them through developmental aid as part of South-South Cooperation.
  • The PICs with their resource rich Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) can be attractive sources of natural and mineral resources like LNG and hydrocarbons to fuel India’s growing economy and can also provide new markets for its products. Some of the PICs have EEZs that are larger than the landmass and EEZ of India taken together.
  • Further India with its rising naval capabilities begins to look beyond the east of Malacca, the PIC’s would become inevitably significant in India’s broader maritime strategy. 
  • However, India’s interaction with the PICs still largely revolves around its engagement with Fiji and PNG, mainly driven by the presence of sizeable Indian Diaspora
  • Nearly 40 percent of Fiji’s population is of Indian origin and about 3000 Indians live in PNG.
  • In terms of institutional engagements, India participates in the Pacific Island Forum (PIF) as one of the key dialogue partners of the Forum.
  • The most important development in facilitating India’s interaction with the PICs in recent years has been the formation of FIPIC.
  • In 2019 PM Modi announced US$12 million grant (US$ 1 million to each PSIDS) towards the implementation of high impact developmental project in the area of their choice
  • There was also announcement made for a concessional Line of Credit of US$150 million which can be availed by these countries for undertaking solar, renewable energy and climate-related projects based on their requirements.
  • An ‘India-Pacific Islands Sustainable Development Conference’, was also organized in Fiji 2017. The conference focused on discussing the issues including the blue economy, adaptation-mitigation practices for climate change, disaster preparedness and health
  • In 2017, India launched Climate Early Warning Systems in seven PICs. India has regularly provided assistance in these counties to deal with consequences of frequent cyclones like the relief and rehabilitation grant was provided when Tropical Cyclone Hola hit Vanuatu in 2018.
  • India has also offered a Line of Credit set up a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant and the distribution centre in the Pacific Island region for access to affordable drug and has 
  • Further, India has provided financial assistance for the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) sector in these countries, helping many small scale entrepreneurs to develop their own business.
  • At this moment, total annual trade of about $300 million between the Indian and Pacific Island countries, whereas exports are around $200 million and imports are around $100 million.

Recent Developments in the region:

Located between the US, China and Australia, the Pacific island countries hold strategic importance for security and defence. The US has long maintained influence and a military presence in the Pacific region. Over the last decade, China has focused on strengthening its ties in Pacific through increased aid development, diplomacy and security cooperation.

  • The area gained prominence when in 2022, Solomon Islands signed a security pact sparking international concern over the possibility of Beijing building its first military base in the region.
  • China has also signed off on a variety of smaller bilateral agreements during the same tour. To counter the move, newly appointed Australian Foreign Minister, immediately travelled to Fiji, Samoa and Tonga to shore up Australian diplomatic interests in Oceania
  • ISOLATION OF TAIWAN: Strategist are of the opinion that China would use the island countries to further isolate Taiwan from the diplomatic support it receives from the region. 
  • Several countries in Oceania (The Marshall Islands, Nauru, Palau, and Tuvalu) recognize Taiwan as a sovereign country. Chinese outreach and development manoeuvrings could therefore help them reduce regional support for Taiwanese independence. 
  • As a testimony to this Honiara has recently cut ties with Taiwan and followed Beijing’s line on the “One China” policy. The “Inter-governmental Framework Agreement on Security Cooperation” between Beijing-Honiara is a culmination of these efforts.
  • ISOLATION OF AUSTRALIA: Increased Chinese influence in the region could lead to more overseas military bases being built, and could lead to Australia, a vital Pacific ally for the United States, to be isolated, cutting them from supply lines from overseas.
  • THE ZERO SUM GAME IN PACIFIC: China’s engagement with South Pacific is about increasing its influence and about diminishing American and Australian influence. It’s a zero-sum game. Australia has a security cooperation agreement with Honiara and is a preferred security provider. Australia went from being a “key security provider” to becoming “one of the options” to seek out.
  • GREAT GAME IN PACIFIC: The US’ posture and initiatives in Indo-Pacific are also worrying China. US’ Indo-Pacific strategy outlines that it is keen to focus on “every corner of the region including the Pacific Islands. Further the formation of Quad and US’ Indo-Pacific strategy have worried China, so this game of influence will further intensify.
  • REGIONAL ECONOMICS: The Pacific region is also an important route to transport products and natural resources. Further the exports from Australia (as Australia supplies critical minerals like that of iron ore, coal, and raw cotton and exports to important allies like Australia and other countries like New Zealand pass through this sea area. 
  • CLIMATE HAZARDS: Many Pacific Island nations are worried of the impact of climate change and rising sea levels, which pose an immediate existential threat. In fact, the Fijian Defence Minister, in the recent Shangri-La Dialogues that the greatest threat to the region is not a conflict between China and the U.S., but rather the geopolitical effects of climate change.


As two geopolitical superpowers start to compete for political dominance in the region, the region as a whole now risks being dragged into conflicts, being used as pawns in broader global ambitions, and at the worst, could see themselves as the site of an armed conflict.

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