Prime Minister’s remarks at Second Summit of Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation
August 21, 2015
Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi and distinguished members of the Government of India,
Honourable Pacific Leaders.
I would like to express my delegation’s deep gratitude to you Prime Minister Modi and your Government for the very generous and thoughtful arrangements that enabled our participation and for the wonderful hospitality extended to us.
Let me say at the outset that I appreciate very much this second summit for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation you committed to at our first meeting last year in Suva. I certainly support your sentiments of the similar aspirations and common challenges both India and the Pacific Islands face and the importance of this opportunity to further define the roadmap for deepening our cooperation and international partnerships.
At the end of just this past July, I was privileged to speak at the UN Security Council Open Debate on the ‘Peace and Security Challenges facing Small Island Developing States’. The threats to our countries that include the spread of firearms, drugs, people smuggling, illegal and dangerous use of information technology, and IUU fishing to name some were all highlighted and requiring international partnership cooperation to successfully address.
Climate Change and its impacts as expected occupied the major part of the debate. The comments from my fellow Pacific leaders at the Debate including from the Premier of Niue and the most poignant reminder from the President of Kiribati of the existential threat to the very survival of his country due to Climate Change left no doubt of the security threat Climate Change represents for our Pacific countries. In my own remarks, I referred to the 3rd UN International Conference for Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) that Samoa was honoured to host on behalf of the Pacific in September last year, and in particular the collective voice of the Conference in its outcome statement, the SAMOA Pathway, calling for comprehensive and effective global responses to combat the threat of climate change and address its impacts. I also emphasised the important work of the Pacific Islands Forum including its Majuro Forum Climate Leadership Declaration two years ago urging all countries to act ambitiously and responsibly to stop climate change.
At a very important level, the contributions from all the Security Council members, the permanent five (5) included, indicated clearly wider acceptance that Climate Change is indeed a very real security issue for our island countries. To underscore the importance of the threat of climate change to the Pacific we are doing everything possible individually through the institution of our Pacific Islands Forum, within our various sub-regional groupings and regional organisations, as well as in the United Nations and other intergovernmental bodies such as the Commonwealth, to reinforce the message of our fervent hope for a comprehensive and enforceable new Climate Change Agreement to be reached at the upcoming COP21 in Paris at the end of the year.
For Samoa we most certainly look to working with India in the lead up to the COP21 and beyond on mitigation and adaptation measures to curb climate change and alleviate its adverse impacts to security and development.
If I may now turn to economic partnerships, I had referred last year during the summit meeting in Suva to the range of areas which we considered held potential for effective partnerships between India and Samoa. An important advantage of the timing of today’s second Summit, is that it provided sufficient time for us to re-evaluate where Samoa should put emphasis for the deployment of the assistance India is making available, and to be able in a relatively short time to inform directly the Indian Government leadership of the priorities through this second Summit.
For Samoa I would like to respectfully inform that given the resources made available from India we have reprioritised Samoa’s target area for engagement with India. We therefore respectfully request the sympathetic consideration of the Government of India to centre its assistance to Samoa on our Health Sector and in particular to provide opportunities for Samoa’s medical doctors to obtain post graduate work experience in India’s hospitals. The complementary and other key component of this programme, that we would further respectfully request, is for Indian medical doctors and medical instructors to periodically work and take sabbaticals in my country to additionally support our capacity building. It is our respectful view that such a programme of Samoan doctors training in India with Indian medical doctors and trainers coming periodically to Samoa to support capacity building will make the most impact in my country of India’s assistance at this point in time. I would imagine that the programme should also yield benefits for deepening India’s medical knowledge of small islands medical challenges and help instruct the devising of practical and sustainable solutions. We look forward to working with India in this priority area of Health services improvement for my country.
To end my remarks, I recall, Prime Minister Modi, that at our Suva meeting last year you had also very eloquently informed us of the health benefits of Yoga which I practise already its gentler forms. I would like to thank you for your initiative at the United Nations, which Samoa readily supported for an International Yoga Day on 21 June. The 21st of June this year however was on a Sunday, the day of religious worship in my country. Our Government therefore could not very well carry out any activity to mark Yoga Day on Sunday without attracting accusations that we were introducing a new religion to Samoa! Instead, with the understanding of India’s High Commission accredited to Samoa, we marked Yoga Day this year ahead of everyone else on Saturday, 20th June. I had since checked next year’s calendar and was happy and relieved that 21 June 2016 is a Tuesday!!
In closing and on a more serious note, Prime Minister Modi, I wish to inform that we are taking steps to raise Samoa’s diplomatic representation profile with India and will be seeking the agreement of your Government very soon to enable Samoa to accredit ambassadorial rank representation to India.
Thank you again Honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the generous arrangements to meet with you here in your great and amazing country.
Please accept my congratulations on your determined work to unlock India’s full potential and wish you every success in the leadership of your country.
Thank you. Soifua.