President Pranab Mukherjee visited island nations of Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. It is the first ever state visit of head of the state for Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. As a result the visit is viewed with greater anticipation. The article deals with issues and prospects with both the nations.
Papua New Guinea is the largest country among the Pacific Island countries. It is a country rich in oil and gas and in minerals like nickel, cobalt, and gold. The visit by the president is part of India’s engagement with the Pacific Island countries. The first FIPIC summit, the Forum for Indian Pacific Island Country Summit was held in Fiji and this was followed last year by second Summit was held in New Delhi and Jaipur. The visit is a progression of that engagement.
About 2500 Indians are present in this island nation who are doctors, educators, and other professionals. Papua New Guinea is looking towards India for many of his development needs, such as in the health sector, capacity building in IT, agriculture, and infrastructure development. A line of credit is being finalized for infrastructure projects to be done by India in Papua New Guinea.
In the second leg of his tour the president is visiting New Zealand. New Zealand has traditionally been a friendly country to India. It supports India’s aspirations for permanent membership of the UN Security Council. It is home to a very large number of Persons of Indian Origin and Indian citizens. The Indians constitutes largest group of skilled migrants in New Zealand. Also there are large numbers of Indian students studying in New Zealand. Bollywood and Indian films have been a factor which has brought New Zealand and India together just as much as Cricket has always been a common link between the two countries.
The Pacific region is a natural extension of our immediate neighbourhood which is Southeast Asia. And with our Look-East policy, having evolved into an Act-East policy, the Pacific region has gained in even greater salience in both our strategic thinking as well as our economic engagement. The fact that both these countries have vibrant economies is an important factor and both of them have significant Indian diaspora which cements the relationship.
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