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‘India not competing with China in the Pacific’

April 29, 2016 12:13 am | Updated 12:13 am IST - PORT MORESBY (PAPUA NEW GUINEA):

President Pranab Mukherjee with Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill.

President Pranab Mukherjee with Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O'Neill.

The first ever state visit by an Indian head of state to Papua New Guinea began on Thursday with remarks by President Pranab Mukherjee brushing aside a suggestion that India was in competition with China in the Pacific region. He also voiced the hope that his visit will be a precursor to intensified economic and security cooperation with the Pacific island nation.

In an interview to the Post Courier , a newspaper here, he said “India doesn’t see itself in competition with any other country in this regard”, after talking of maritime security, terrorism and piracy being major concerns to India and Papua New Guinea. He also said India was ready to cooperate with Pacific Island countries in protecting their Exclusive Economic Zones.

Mr. Mukherjee had a busy day with bilateral talks with Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, and later spoke at a banquet hosted by the Governor-General, Sir Michael Ogio. Although building trade relations was high on the agenda, the larger message was that India is eager to deepen its engagement with all Pacific Island countries.

In a speech at a banquet hosted by the Governor-General, Mr. Mukherjee made a pointed reference to Papua New Guinea’s natural resources and said there were many opportunities waiting to be seized as both countries had prioritised sustainable use of ocean and marine resources. He also underscored that the untapped potential of India’s ties with Pacific nations was not limited to Papua New Guiena.

On Friday, India and Papua New Guinea are due to sign an MoU on cooperation in health and pharmaceuticals. Under the agreement, doctors and nurses from the island nation will be trained in India, and Indian physicians, nurses and trainers would be deputed to Papua New Guinea. India will also pledge support to establish a pharmaceutical production unit here to meet the demand for life-saving medicines.

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