Big-boy India woos tiny tot

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 5.09.12
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New Delhi, Sept. 4: The search for a bigger global profile and more votes at international organisations has taken the world’s second most populated country to the fourth least populated one.

India has established diplomatic relations with Niue, a small island located 2,400km northeast of New Zealand.

Niue houses 1,500 people who live in 260sqkm and boasts one of the largest upraised coral atolls in the world.

The island has of late stoked interest among the world’s two most populous countries — India and China — by virtue of gaining voting rights in international bodies such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

External affairs ministry officials said Niue is also a member of UNESCO, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and regional bodies such as the Pacific Island Forum and the Pacific Community. India has been nursing ambitions of becoming a bigger player in the UN Security Council and other regional bodies.

India is the sixth country in the world to establish diplomatic relations with Niue. Junior foreign minister E. Ahamed and Niue Prime Minister Toke Talagi had signed a treaty on Cook Islands on August 30.

But here, too, Beijing had outrun New Delhi by nearly five years. China had established diplomatic relations with Niue in 2007. Chinese companies have also invested in Niue to help promote tourism.

A website that promotes tourism in Niue says “the island’s isolation and coral make-up creates an exciting rugged coastline and reef which provides intimate swimming coves as opposed to the typical long stretches of sandy beaches so predominant elsewhere in Polynesia”.

Other countries that have diplomatic relations with Niue are Australia, Nauru, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. Niue has little known natural resources — suggestions of rich uranium deposits turned out to be untrue.

“India has been closely engaged in assisting in the development aspirations of the island countries of the Pacific. India’s participation as a dialogue partner of the Pacific Island Forum (a regional grouping of Pacific Island countries) since 2002 has deepened our co-operative relations with all countries in the region,” said a foreign ministry official.