SPEECH: PRIME MINISTER JOSAIA VOREQE BAINIMARAMA AT THE TRADITIONAL WELCOME CEREMONY FOR THE PRIME MINISTER OF THE REPUBLIC OF INDIA, HIS EXCELLENCY NARENDRA MODI

Ni sa bula vinaka – Good morning and Namaste.

Today opens a new and exciting chapter in Fiji’s young history as we warmly welcome the Honourable Prime Minister of the Republic of India, Shri Narendra Modi to our shores.
It is a new chapter because this is the visit of the Leader of the world’s largest democracy to Fiji—a nation that just instituted the first true democracy in its history. We are now a nation in which all people count equally, and so today it is not just the Government that welcomes the Prime Minster of India, it is the people. We are joined today by people from the village of Sorokaba in Ba, who gave the traditional iTaukei welcome, a ceremony that is centuries old—a gift from Fiji’s heart to visitors to our shore.

We Fijians have always considered visitors to be special. Our forebears understood that visitors had to make a dangerous journey across the waters of the Pacific in order to reach our shores. That made them special, and the Fijian tradition of hospitality continues today.

The world was a much different place in 1981, when Fiji welcomed India’s third Prime Minister, Ms Indira Gandhi, to our shores. Fijian Politics was different then.

Technology has brought people closer. People have taken advantage of growing economies and advances in transportation to leave their own countries—sometimes permanently, but sometimes temporarily, for education, or for work, or for tourism. But all of that has led to greater understanding and a greater sharing of wisdom and science.

These same phenomena have changed the way nations behave. New powers are emerging, India among them, and small countries that were once isolated—like Fiji—find that we can play an important role in the world.

Fiji is most directly concerned with events in our region and the welfare of our neighbours, with whom we co-operate closely. Leaders from our region are with us this morning, and I am confident that your conversations with them later today will be enlightening and productive for all sides.

Honourable Prime Minister Modi,
I am sure that Fiji has much to learn from India. And I am equally sure that Fiji has much to offer. Immediately after this ceremony, you and I will sign memoranda of understanding that will broaden and deepen the already robust people-to-people relationship that we enjoy. These agreements herald a new era of sharing and co-operation. They deepen a relationship that is already strong.

Fiji is proud to have been a part of India’s space program by assisting with the monitoring of your historic Mars Orbiter Mission last year. That was a very proud moment for both countries, but it was not an isolated event. Our nations are bound together by deep people-to-people relationships. Our businesses, our universities and our learned professions are all very connected.
And, of course, there are more than 300,000 Fijians who trace their ancestry to India, or British India as it was then. Some have been here for several generations, and others are more recent arrivals. But they all contribute as Fijians their energy, their talent, and their sweat to building a better life and contributing to our beautiful country.

Honourable Prime Minister Modi,

As newly elected Leaders, we have an opportunity and a responsibility to show what two nations can accomplish if they have abundant good-will and always serve the needs of their people. That one is a nation of more than one billion people and the other is a nation of barely a million is not important. As elected Leaders, we reflect the basic goodness of our people. As long as we continue to do that, there is nothing we can’t accomplish together.

Vinaka vakalevu – Thank you and Dhanyavaad.