PM Modi's message to China: A friend in need is a friend indeed, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told leaders of 14 Pacific Island nations on Monday invoking the old proverb and said those considered trustworthy were "not standing by our sides in times of need", in what is being seen as an oblique reference to China.
In his address to the leaders at a summit in Port Moresby, Modi said India stood by the Pacific Island nations in the challenging time and conveyed to them that they can consider New Delhi as a "reliable" development partner as it respects their priorities and its approach for cooperation is based on human values.
The prime minister, who arrived in Papua New Guinea on Sunday on the second leg of his three-nation tour, also underlined the importance of a free and open Indo-Pacific for the Pacific Island nations and said India respects the sovereignty and integrity of all countries.
Modi assures island nation to rely on India without hesitation
In his remarks at the FIPIC (Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation) summit, Modi assured the island nations that India is ready to share its capabilities and experiences with them "without any hesitation" and "we are with you in every way."
The prime minister's comments in the capital city of Papua New Guinea came amid China's aggressive behaviour in the region as well as its efforts to expand its influence in the Pacific island nations.
"Those whom we considered trustworthy, it turned out that they were not standing by our side in times of need. During these challenging times, an old saying has proven true: 'A Friend in need is a friend indeed'," he said while talking about the adverse impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and other global challenges.
"I am glad that India stood with its Pacific island friends during this challenging time. Whether it was vaccines or essential medicines, wheat or sugar; India, in line with its capabilities, has been assisting all partner countries," he said.
In his address, he said the world has gone through a difficult period of the Covid-19 pandemic and many other challenges and their impact has been felt mostly by the countries of the Global South.
"Climate change, natural disasters, hunger, poverty, and various health-related challenges were already prevalent. Now, new issues are emerging. Barriers are arising in the supply chains of food, fuel, fertilizer, and pharmaceuticals," he said.
Free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific
The prime minister also reaffirmed India's strong support for a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific. "We share your belief in multilateralism. We support a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific. We respect the sovereignty and integrity of all countries," he said.
Modi said the "voice of the Global South" should also resonate strongly in the UN Security Council. "For this, reform of the international institutions -- should be our shared priority." "I had discussions with Australia, the US and Japan in Hiroshima as part of the Quad. This dialogue has a special focus on the Indo-Pacific region. In the Quad meeting, we have taken a decision to establish the Radio Access Network (RAN) in Palau," he said.
"In a plurilateral format, we will enhance partnership with Pacific Island countries," Modi said. Modi conveyed to the Pacific Island nations that India is ready to share its capabilities and experiences with them "without any hesitation". "Whether it's digital technology or space technology; whether it's health security or food security; whether it's climate change or environmental conservation; we are with you in every way," he said.
(With inputs from agency)