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Rediff.com  » News » Fijian president first foreign leader to meet Prez Pranab

Fijian president first foreign leader to meet Prez Pranab

August 07, 2012 17:49 IST

President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday received the first foreign leader after assuming office in July -- Fiji's Head of State Ratu Epeli Nailatikau.

Mukherjee told Nailatikau there was need for an expansion of bilateral trade and investment between the two countries.

The Fijian President is on a private visit to India. He had stopped over in Delhi on his way back to Fiji after attending the London Olympics.

During the meeting, Mukherjee recollected close historical relations between the two countries as well as the presence of a large number of persons of Indian origin in Fiji, according to President's press secretary Venu Rajamony.

The Indian Cultural Centre in Suva, set up in August 1972, is India's oldest cultural centre abroad.

Referring to the assistance provided to Fiji by India in the agriculture and sugar sector, Mukherjee expressed happiness that India's development experience was being shared with Fiji through provision of training slots for their nationals and scholarships for students.

He also referred to assistance being provided in the health sector as well as cooperation in the defence field.

Fiji recently joined the Non-Alignment Movement, a step welcomed by Mukherjee, Rajamony said, adding that the President also thanked Fiji for its support for reform of the United Nations Security Council, as well as multilateral financial institutions.

Nailatikau conveyed his greetings to Mukherjee for being elected the President of India and said Fiji was the beneficiary of India's gracious assistance, especially in the field of agriculture.

"Fiji has much to learn from India. The cultural centre in Suva has added tradition and colour to the fabric of Fiji society," according to Nailatikau.

He also extended an invitation to Mukherjee to visit Fiji.

Relations between India and Fiji date back to 1879 when Indian labourers were brought to the Pacific Ocean island -- under the indenture system -- to work on sugarcane plantations.

At least 37 per cent of Fiji's 8,49,000 population are people of Indian origin.

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