Climate change on talks agenda at Pacific Islands - India summit

Climate change will be high on the agenda of talks at the second Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC) on August 21 in Jaipur, being attended by all the 14 nations.

With many of the island nations that dot the Pacific Ocean east of Australia, threatened by rising sea levels, climate change and sustainable development is a common concern.

The 14 nations are: Cook Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, Nauru, Kiribati, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Samoa, Niue, Palau, Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Fiji and Papua New Guinea.

Climate change will be a high priority subject at the talks with the 14 nations, Anil Wadhwa, secretary (East) in the ministry of external affairs said at a briefing here.

He said the talks will dwell on what can be done to mitigate the effects of climate change, ahead of the Paris conference in December this year.Many of the islands, especially low-lying Kiribati and also Tuvalu, are threatened by submergence.

Wadhwa said the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) will hold a talk at the summit on what the nations can do as mitigation and also on training programmes. The talks will also veer on what can be done to reduce the carbon footprint, he added.

India is providing development assistance in the form of making use of solar energy by reducing dependence on kerosene for lighting. The 14 Pacific Islands leaders arriving for the summit include three presidents, one vice president, six prime ministers, one deputy prime minister, two ministers and a special envoy representing their governments, he said.

Wadhwa said one of the main objectives of the summit would be to boost trade, which is "far below potential" at $300 million. Both sides would also seek to promote cooperation in the field of fisheries, oil and gas, marine resources, coconut and coir - where India has expertise, he said.

Cooperation in the field of space and technology, especially in weather forecasting and on natural disasters, would also be part of the talks, Wadhwa said.

Of the 14 nations, all except Cook Islands and Niue are UN members, and 10 out of them have stated their support for India's bid for permanent seat at the UNSC.

According to the itinerary, the Pacific Island nation leaders arrive in New Delhi on August 18 and 19. On August 19, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will meet them and host a welcome dinner. On August 20, a ceremonial welcome will be held in the morning for the leaders at Rashtrapati Bhavan, during which they will meet President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Vice President Hamid Ansari and also Sushma Swaraj.

The leaders will then proceed to Agra to view the Taj Mahal. Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma will be at Agra to welcome the dignitaries and take them around.

In the afternoon, they will attend a CII meeting on possibilities of enhancing trade during which Coal Minister Piyush Goyal will be present.

On August 21, the day of the summit, the leaders will proceed to Jaipur. They will do a spot of sight-seeing at the Amer Palace Fort, 11 km from Jaipur.

Later, they will attend an interactive session being organized by the Indian Council for World Affairs, and attend a lunch, during which Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh will be present. The summit is to be held in the evening, to be followed by a banquet.

The leaders return to Delhi on August 22 noon and depart for their respective countries, Wadhwa announced.

Modi, during the first summit held on November 19 in Suva, Fiji, had proposed a slew of measures, including visa on arrival for all and an e-network to connect the islands to provide telemedicine and tele education. He had also announced setting up of a Special Adaptation Fund of US$1 million to provide technical assistance and training for capacity building to the Pacific Island nations.

 He had also announced a hike in the Grant-in-Aid to Pacific Island Countries from US$125,000 to US$200,000 annually to each for community projects selected by them.