Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fiji Blog 2 April 16, 2014


My second day in Fiji began with an interview with Jyothi Pratibha Devi of the ‘Fiji Sun’, a leading Fiji newspaper next only to ‘Fiji Times’. A graduate of the Hindu College in Delhi, Jyothi appeared well aware of Fiji-India relations and the events of 1987 to 1989, though she was only two years old at that time.

Jyothi asked me questions about the circumstances of my departure and how I felt then and how I felt now on my arrival here. The basic point I made was that I left essentially because of a technical reason. It was untenable for a High Commissioner to continue when his country did not recognize the Government of the host country. What was surprising was that I was able to stay for two years in that dubious situation. This was possible because of the mutuality of interests of Fiji and India to remain engaged, given India’s interest in the people of Indian origin here. When I was invited to leave, it came as no surprise.

About the changes in the last 25 years, I said that things were moving in the right direction and the elections in September this year might usher in a new era of multiculturalism and Fiji would once again be “the world as it should be.” On Indian assistance to Fiji, I said that India would respond to Fiji’s needs to the extent possible, within its own capabilities. The relationship, I said, was robust. India had always desired peace and prosperity for all the people of Fiji.

Asked whether I would come again, I said that I wished the distance was shorter and the airfares were cheaper. There was no other constraint about visiting Fiji.

Pradeep and Damend accompanied me to Suva on the old picturesque Queen Road, spotted with resorts of various kinds on the seaside. Many more resorts have come up, but no tall buildings have been built. We stopped for a pizza at the Warwick Resort, which was the Hyatt Regency Resort 25 years ago.

I could hardly recognize Suva, the capital, when I drove in. The skyline has changed with the construction of many tall buildings. YP Reddy’s Tanoa Plaza stands at the centre of the city and I could see the port once again as we could see it from the top of the India House.

The Fiji Times correspondent was waiting for me when we arrived at the hotel. The interview was on the same lines as the Sun interview. The only added question he asked was whether I would like to meet the coup leader of 1987, Sitiveni Rabuka. I said I had nothing against meeting him, as I had no ill will. India’s wish was only to see Fiji flourish as a multicultural nation with equal rights for all its citizens, I said.

A nostalgic visit to the India House in Suva, which was our home for more than three years, took place today. The India House is the same as before, except that it has been remodeled. The children of the High Commissioner are using the tennis court I built as a basketball court for the present. Several old friends, the two Indian Ministers in the Cabinet and the Foreign Secretary attended the dinner by the High Commissioner. The conversation was essentially about the forthcoming elections and the future of Fiji.

Sitiveni Rabuka, the coup leader of 1987 invited me to play golf with him tomorrow. I accepted, but we could not find a mutually convenient time. He might drop by for coffee, he said. The press here is much excited by our meeting after 25 years, but the ice is broken since both of us agreed to meet.

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