India may build solar infra in Pacific island nations amid Chinese push

New Delhi: India is considering expanding its solar STAR-C initiative, run by the International Solar Alliance, to a number of Pacific Island countries, according to persons aware of the matter.

The program aims to boost solar energy ecosystems in the poorest countries. In the Pacific, it currently runs in Tonga. Following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s participation in a summit with Pacific Island countries, India is looking to expand its diplomatic footprint in a region that has seen increased outreach by China.

India’s efforts will primarily be focused on economic development, connectivity and climate change. The expansion of the STAR-C initiative will form a key part of that outreach.

“The overall objective (of the STAR-C initiative) is to create a strong network of institutional capacities within ISA Member States to enhance quality infrastructure (QI) for the uptake of solar energy product and service markets, particularly in least developed countries (LDCs). ) and small island developing states (SIDS),” according to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), which runs the initiative alongside the ISA. Funding for the project is also provided by France.

The program aims to boost capacity in developing countries by building solar workforce, standardizing products, setting up infrastructure and bringing greater awareness among policy makers.

In its initial stages, the focus was on the Economic Community of West African States, the Pacific Island Forum (PIF) and the East African Community.

The expansion of the STAR-C initiative will come on the back of an increased outreach to Pacific Island nations from New Delhi. Modi flew to Papua New Guinea for the Forum on Pacific Islands Cooperation Summit in May. Modi announced a 12-step action plan for the islands which included solar power projects.

India has also emphasized the importance of working with Pacific Island countries on climate change and renewable energy in recent years.

These island countries have been courted by the US and China in recent years as geopolitical competition in the Pacific between the two powers has heated up. China has signed a security deal with the Solomon Islands and moved to conclude a sweeping pact with 10 regional nations last year, although that bid ended in failure.

This has spurred the region’s traditional heavyweights like Australia to place a greater economic and political focus on the islands. The Quad grouping of the US, Japan, Australia and India has also made this a priority.

“We recommit to work in partnership with Pacific Island countries to achieve shared aspirations and address shared challenges,” the leaders of the four Quad nations said in May.

“In these efforts, Quad Leaders will listen to and be guided at every step by Pacific priorities, including climate action, ocean health, resilient infrastructure, maritime security and financial integrity,” they added.

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Updated: 20 Jul 2023, 11:28 PM IST

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