India a world power, hope for strong ties: Marshall Islands president to WION

WION Marshall Islands Oct 06, 2018, 04.22 PM(IST) Written By: Sidhant Sibal

Hilda Heine Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

She was the first person in the Marshall Islands to earn a doctorate degree and also founded Women United Together Marshall Islands, a woman rights group. 

Hilda Heine, Marshall Islands first women president, spoke to WION and shared her views on India-Pacific ties, PM Modi, climate-change and her interest in Bollywood. 

She is the first woman president of any Micronesian country, and only the fourth woman to serve as head of government for any independent Pacific nation following Jenny Shipley and Helen Clark of New Zealand and Julia Gillard of Australia.

On ties with India, Heine told WION that the two countries have a developing partnership and hopes for stronger ties, calling India a world power. 

She further lauded the solar alliance partnership saying that India will be able to assist them. Heine hopes to develop a yoga curriculum with India's help.

Marshall Island hailed prime minister Narendra Modi's "Ayushman Bharat" which aims to provide a service to create a healthy, capable and content new India. 

Heine said that India's plan on healthcare initiative is exciting which she looks forward to. 

She also said that Marshall Islands is encouraging partnership with Pacific island countries.

Heine addressed the ongoing climate issues saying that they plan on launching strategies in the Paris agreement and further discouraged countries which have stepped out. She further called for India's support in the agreement. 

Marshall Islands is playing an important role in the issues of climate change and nuclear non-proliferation.

Talking about gender equality and women leadership Heine said that 50% of the world population is constituted by women who need to be better represented. 

Her biggest challenge is to empower women all across Pacific Island countries. She was the first person in the Marshall Islands to earn a doctorate degree and also founded Women United Together Marshall Islands, a woman rights group. 

She urged for multilateralism, adding that Marshall Islands may be small but exerts a moral leadership. "Bigger countries should understand that small countries have a role," Heine told WION. 

The president also said that big countries like China are interested in an establishment in the Pacific and further require a rule of law. She said that one must understand the intentions of the countries. 

Heine told WION that Marshall Islands have been presented by Indo-Pacific strategy by US, Japan and Australia, adding that most island countries are on board. 

From 1946 to 1958, Marshall Islands was the site where the US conducted 67 nuclear tests. 

US tested the world's first hydrogen bomb, code-named "Mike", at the Enewetak atoll in the Marshall islands in 1952. 

Nuclear testing began in 1946 on bikini atoll. Several tests later, authorities were forced to give up. The 15-megaton castle bravo test in 1958 led to a significant fallout in the region. 

Today, Marshall Islands is the most vocal opponent of nuclear tests. With its focus on non-proliferation and global peace, Marshall Islands is touted to play a significant role in the indo-pacific region. 

Lastly, Heine shared her interest in Bollywood. "I have seen Bollywood movies. Your culture is very vibrant, rich and diverse. I invite Bollywood to come to Pacific," she said.

Watch the full interview on WION on Saturday at 2100 IST and Sunday at 2000 IST.