Modi in PNG to co-host FIPIC III
Prime Minister Narendra Modi travelled to Papua New Guinea to co-host the third meeting of the Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation with his counterpart, James Marape. Modi met with fourteen leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) as part of his country’s “Act East” policy. However, concerns were raised that an invitation was not extended to the full membership of the PIF, notably French Polynesia and New Caledonia. It points to a lack of Pacific expertise in the Indian policy community more broadly.
India’s increasing engagement in the region is premised on the concept of “South-South” cooperation and India has much to offer in terms of renewable energy, educational opportunities, and health support. With the growing prominence of the QUAD in the region, India is also positioned as “like-minded” by traditional partners such as Australia and the USA.
Progress on renewal of Compact funding agreements
Two of the three Compact states are ready to sign renewals of their funding agreements with the US government. Presidential envoy Joseph Yun confirmed that President Surangel Whipps Jr would sign the agreement between the US and Palau in Port Moresby this week. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will sign for the US administration. The agreement with the Federated States of Micronesia will be signed in Pohnpei, in the coming week.
This marks considerable progress in what had become a moribund process. However, an agreement with Marshall Islands has yet to materialise. Yun has said that he thinks the two sides have made progress and that he hopes that the deal will be concluded in the “coming weeks”. Previously, Marshall Islands officials have said that they are only prepared to negotiate if further compensation for damage resulting from nuclear testing is part of the package.
Other Pacific News:
In Vanuatu, a motion of no confidence in Prime Minister Ishmael Kalsakau was withdrawn before it could be debated. Leader of the Opposition, Hon Bob Loughman, said that some of the MPs who were signatories to the motion had changed their minds.
In Australia, the government budget included almost AU$2 billion of funding for engagement in the Pacific islands region. The bulk of this will go to the Department of Defence. There is also funding to expand and improve the Australian labour mobility schemes.
In Solomon Islands, businesses and communities are having to cope with limited digital communications after an undersea cable was damaged by a ship dropping anchor on it. The ship has been detained by Solomon Islands authorities.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken travelled to Papua New Guinea in place of President Biden. He and Prime Minister James Marape signed two security agreements. The signing took place against a backdrop of civil society criticism and protests by students. American Samoa has raised the issue of increased involvement with the Pacific Islands Forum once more. The American territory has been a Forum observer since 2011. It is now seeking to upgrade to Associate Member.