Expanding India’s Pacific outreach, President Pranab Mukherjee will visit Papua New Guinea (PNG) and New Zealand, in his first-ever state visit to the two countries. The two-nation visit, beginning with Papua New Guinea on April 28, will focus on several agreements being signed in the fields of education, health, connectivity, economic cooperation, agriculture and dairy farming.
Elaborating on Mr Mukherjee’s visit, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said that this will be the first ever visit to the two countries by the President. Mr Mukherjee will be accompanied by Minister of Food Processing Industries Harsimrat Kaur Badal and a delegation of members of Parliament.
“Several agreements are expected to be signed during the visit in the fields of economic cooperation, education and connectivity,” Mr Swarup said. Papua New Guinea is the largest of Pacific island country, both in terms of land area and population. It is rich in natural resources. Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill had visited India for the 2nd Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC) summit in August 2015.
“A number of areas of cooperation between India and Papua New Guinea are in the process of finalisation in the fields such as health, infrastructure development, capacity building etc.,” Mr Swarup said.
Importance of New Zealand
While Australia tends to be the major focus in the region, its subdued neighbour New Zealand is equally important for India. Mr Mukherjee’s visit to New Zealand will commence from April 30. India and New Zealand have traditionally shared close relations. New Zealand is famous for its tourism and agriculture. The bilateral trade stood at $1.13 billion. The two countries have been negotiating for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) since April 2010. The 10th round of negotiations took place in New Delhi from February 16-18, 2015.
“Both sides see prospects for cooperation in agriculture, dairy, food processing, education and skill development as well as high technology. The Indian diaspora of 1,75,000 helps to further cement our ties,” Mr Swarup said. New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key had visited India in 2011 while the Governor General of New Zealand visited the country in 2008, 2009 and 2011.
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