PORT MORESBY: President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday arrived in Port Moresby, capital of Papua New Guinea on a two day state visit_ _ first ever state visit by an Indian President_ _ to strengthen cooperation with the Islands in Pacific, a key component of India's Act East Policy.
With 7.1 million population and 462.840 sq kms of area, the PNG is the largest Pacific Island nation, both in terms of population and area. Over 3,000 Indians, mostly businessmen and professionals work here in different areas, including IT and IT-enabled services, education, technical personnel in mining.
The island nation, according to local officials here, is looking for strengthening cooperation in defense, agriculture and health care sectors. On its part, India has offered to extend all possible help to Papua New Guinea.
Speaking at a banquet hosted by PNG Governor General Sir Michael Ogio, President Mukherjee said India has much to offer to PNG that is blessed with fertile soil, lands rich in natural resources and abundant marine wealth. ``Our public and private sector are keen to join you in exploring your gas and oil reserves, establishing downstream industries and developing infrastructure that you require in different sectors.''
Said he; ``we consider our cooperation with the Islands of the Pacific to be a key component of our Act East Policy.''
Earlier speaking to mediapersons on-board his special aircraft_ _ hours before it landed at the Jackson International Airport at Port Moresby_ _ the President described trade relations between the two countries as good. ``Purpose of my visit is to further enhance and strengthen the bilateral relations,'' he said.
Bilateral trade amounts to USD 209 million. Of that, USD 157 million imports and USD 52.19 million exports. Indian companies are looking at various projects coming up in PNG, consequent to discovery of natural gas and growth in commerce and trade, especially in Indian processed food is likely to increase as PNG market expands.
Earlier in the day, soon after his arrival along with a delegation consisting of Union Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Sanjeev Kumar Balyan, Members of Parliament and senior officers from External Affairs Ministry, the President held bilateral talks with PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill and other leaders, including Governor, West Britain Sasindran Muthuvel and Leader of the Opposition Don Polye.
On Friday, India and PNG are expected to sign memorandum of understanding (MoU) for cooperation in health, agriculture and skill development. India has agreed to provide anti-retro viral products for HIV/AIDS patients. He will also address students at University of Papua New Guinea (UPNG) and meet members of Indian community here in PNG.
Officials Trained In India: As part of its efforts to build strategic relations with the Island nation, India is offering training to the PNG armed forces officials at the National Defense Academy and other prestigious institutions in India. ``We have been working closely with armed forces in PNG and helping them in capacity building and maritime security,'' Captain Chetan Chandegave, Defence Adviser at High Commission of India, Canberra told Express on Thursday.