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A Grand Welcome, Gun Salute & A Rare FIPIC Summit Ahead: PM Modi Lands In Papua New Guinea

PM Modi landed in Papua New Guinea on Sunday as the nation bestowed a ceremonial welcome on him, with PM James Marape personally receiving him at the airport.

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| Written By
Anmol Singla
PM Modi in Papua New Guinea

Image: Twitter/narendramodi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed in Papua New Guinea on Sunday (May 21) as the country pulled all the stops in what is an Indian PM's first visit to the island nation. PM Modi was received by Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape as the former received a grand ceremonial welcome at the airport. 

PM Modi landed in Port Moresby from Japan where he attended the G7 summit & a QUAD meeting while also holding bilateral meetings with several world leaders. This is the second leg of his three-nation tour comprises Japan, Papua New Guinea and Australia.

Papua New Guinea, notably, broke its protocol of not ceremonially welcoming any leader after sunset. PM Modi was welcomed with a 19-gun salute from the Papua New Guinea forces at the airport.

In a surprising move, PM James Marape of the host country sought the blessings of PM Modi by touching the leader's feet. PM Modi responded by tapping the Papua New Guinea leader on the back in a respectful gesture, followed by an embrace.

"Reached Papua New Guinea. I am thankful to PM James Marape for coming to the airport and welcoming me. This is a very special gesture which I will always remember. I look forward to boosting India's ties with this great nation during my visit," PM Modi tweeted.

The national anthem of the Indian subcontinent was played by an orchestra as both PMs stood at attention. PM Modi was also accorded the Guard of Honour at Port Moresby.

Later, a traditional dance portraying the culture of the island nation was conducted in the presence of PM Modi. 

"A grand beginning of an important visit! PM @narendramodi arrives in Port Moresby on what is the first-ever visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Papua New Guinea. Accorded a 19-gun salute, guard of honour & ceremonial welcome. As a special gesture, PM James Marape received PM Modi at the airport," Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi tweeted.

The Indian prime minister also received a rousing welcome from members of the Indian community after departing from the airport. 

According to the MEA website, there are about 3000 Indians in Papua New Guinea, out of which about 2000 are working on projects in the LNG (liquefied natural gas) sector. Others include chartered accountants, university professors, school teachers, doctors, IT and finance professionals, etc. Some Indians are working at Government departments at the middle level and at the embassy. 

14 leaders to attend a crucial FIPIC summit

PM Modi and PNG PM Marape are set to co-host the third summit of the Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC) on Monday (May 22). This summit becomes particularly significant as it unfolds in a period where China is actively striving to strengthen its military and diplomatic presence in the region. 

"I am grateful that all 14 Pacific Island Countries (PIC) have accepted the invitation to attend this important summit (FIPIC)," PM Modi had said earlier. 

The inception of FIPIC took place during PM Modi's visit to Fiji in 2014. The forthcoming FIPIC Summit will witness the participation of leaders from 14 countries, which is a remarkable occurrence considering the infrequency with which they typically gather due to challenges related to connectivity and other factors.

The Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC) comprises the following member countries: Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, the Republic of Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu. These nations participate in FIPIC to foster cooperation and strengthen ties with India in the Pacific region.

In addition to hosting the FIPIC Summit, PM Modi is scheduled to engage in bilateral discussions with PM Marape. Furthermore, he will have a meeting with Bob Dadae, the Governor General of Papua New Guinea. 

According to a Facebook post of the 'PNG Office of the Prime Minister', PNG PM Marape has said some of the possible deliverables between India & Papua New Guinea over the next day include: 

  • A Memorandum-of-Understanding (MOU) on Cooperation in Micro Small to Medium Enterprises (MSMES) between India and PNG;
  • Reciprocal visa-on -arrival arrangements (PNG is benefiting from that at international airports in India);
  • Visa exemption agreement for diplomatic and official passport holders;
  • Cultural exchange programme (CEP);
  • MOU between election commissions of India and PNG;
  • MOU between State-owned Indian broadcaster Prasar Bharati and National Broadcasting Corporation PNG;
  • MOU on foreign office consultation;
  • MOU on Information and Communication Technology cooperation; and
  • Various proposals on assistance to be given by India to PNG.

The post also mentioned the non-implemented MOUs, which are:

  • MOU on US$100 million line of credit from Exim Bank of India signed in April 2016 for the construction of Madang-Baiyer road and Kimbe-Hoskins Road;
  • MOU on cooperation in the fields of health care and medical science signed in April 2016; and
  • MOU on the US$150 million Line of Credit signed in September 2019 at the FIPIC Summit.

Additionally, PM Modi will have a meeting with New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins, further strengthening the bilateral relations between India and New Zealand.

Papua New Guinea gets Blinken instead of Biden

Following US President Joe Biden cutting short his trip which was similar to that of PM Modi, the Biden administration is sending US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Biden's stead. The US White House said that Biden's trip was cut short "due to the need to return to Washington for meetings with Congressional leaders to ensure that Congress takes action by the deadline to avert default."

Consequently, Australian PM Anthony Albanese cancelled the upcoming QUAD summit due to be held in Sydney this year which led to the four leaders from Japan, Australia, USA and India meeting during the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan. 

Blinken said that he would travel to Port Moresby on May 21-22 where he will meet with Pacific Islands Forum leaders on behalf of Biden. Blinken will also convey US' invitation to Pacific Islands leaders to visit Washington, D.C. later this year for the second US summit with the Pacific Islands Forum.

The US secretary of state is also stated to meet with PM Marape and sign a bilateral defence cooperation agreement and a bilateral maritime security agreement.

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