Press Information Bureau
Government of India
President's Secretariat
02-May-2016 10:22 IST
Media Statement by the President of India upon the conclusion of his state visit to Papua New Guinea and New Zealand en route from Auckland to New Delhi

Following is the full text of the statement to media by the President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee upon the conclusion of his State visit to Papua New Guinea and New Zealand (from April 28 to May 02, 2016). The statement was made on board the aircraft during the President’s return to New Delhi from Auckland, New Zealand today (May 02, 2016):

“I have just concluded successful State visits to Papua New Guinea and New Zealand from April 28 to May 2, 2016. My delegation included Dr. Sanjeev Kumar Balyan, Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare. Three Members of Parliament representing major political parties, namely Shri Pratap Singh Bajwa, MP, Rajya Sabha, Dr. K. Hari Babu, MP, Lok Sabha and Shri Ram Swaroop Sharma, MP, Lok Sabha and senior officials of Rashtrapati Bhawan and MEA were also part of my delegation.

My State Visits to Papua New Guinea and New Zealand were the first ever visits by an Indian President. They sought to take forward the Government’s ‘Act East’ policy. My visits to these two countries reflect the importance that India places on significantly enhancing our relationships with the Asia-Pacific region which is an extension of our immediate neighbourhood.

Our relations with Papua New Guinea have always been warm and friendly. This was the first high level visit by any political leader from India to Papua New Guinea since its independence in 1975. I was touched by the warmth of the welcome I received from the leadership of Papua New Guinea as well as the common people who greeted me wherever I went.

I had useful meetings with the entire leadership of Papua New Guinea including Governor General Grand Chief Sir Michael Ogio, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill and his Cabinet colleagues. I also interacted with Leader of the Opposition Mr. Don Polye and Mr. Sasindran Muthuvel, Governor of West New Britain province, who is of Indian Origin.

I conveyed in my meetings India’s willingness to contribute to capacity building in Papua New Guinea in the fields of agriculture, health, information technology and infrastructure development. I pointed out that India learned from our own colonial experience the critical need to develop its own capacity and not rely on others. As a result, we transformed ourselves from a country dependent on food aid from abroad to one of the largest producers of food grains in the world and a net food exporter. I conveyed that we would be happy to share our capabilities and expertise with Papua New Guinea which, despite considerable arable land and plentiful fresh water remains a net importer of food. This was warmly welcomed by the leadership of Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea is a country rich in minerals, petroleum and natural gas. During my discussions, Indian investment in upstream and downstream projects in the field of petroleum and natural gas were welcomed by the leadership of Papua New Guinea. I reiterated our offer for coastal surveillance radars, patrol craft and training for maritime coast guard authorities that had been made during FIPIC-2 Summit.

Three MOUs on Cooperation in the Health Sector, Agriculture and for setting up of a Center for Excellence in IT were signed by the Governments of the two countries. An agreement for US$ 100 million Line of Credit for infrastructure development in Papua New Guinea was also signed between EXIM Bank and its counterpart. I announced that Government of India would provide drugs and equipment for treatment of 20,000 HIV patients in Papua New Guinea for a period of one year.

Papua New Guinea reiterated its support for India’s Permanent Membership of the UN Security Council. It also expressed support for India’s Membership of APEC. The Government of Papua New Guinea, in a special gesture, announced Visa on Arrival for Indians travelling to Papua New Guinea. This will help boost tourism and business links between our two countries. Leaders of Papua New Guinea deeply appreciated the role played by the Indian community in the development of Papua New Guinea as well as our initiative in organizing two FIPIC Summits.

I addressed a meeting of the PNG Business Council and launched the PNG-India Chamber of Commerce. I also delivered a talk to the faculty and students of the University of Papua New Guinea and laid a wreath at the Bomana War Cemetery. Over 600 Indian soldiers who fought in the Second World War lie buried in Papua New Guinea. Their contribution for the freedom of Papua New Guinea was acknowledged by its leadership with gratitude.

My visit to New Zealand was also the first by any President of India. For me personally, this was a second visit. I led the Indian delegation to the 14thCommonwealth Heads of Government Summit in 1995 as External Affairs Minister in the Government led by Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao.

India has much in common with New Zealand including similarity of political systems, strong commitment to democracy and human values, the fact that we are open and rapidly growing economies, English language and passion for cricket among others. New Zealand is home to a large community of Indian origin who are well integrated into New Zealand society and who are contributing immensely to their adopted home. New Zealand has prioritised its relations with India and seeks to make India a core trade, economic and political partner.

I had substantive meetings with Governor General Jerry Mateparae and Prime Minister John Key. Both underlined the importance New Zealand placed on its relations with India and the commonality in world view that we share. They reiterated New Zealand's support for India's candidature for permanent membership of the expanded UN Security Council. We agreed on the need for urgent reform of the UN and other international organisations which do not reflect the world of today. We recognised the immense potential for taking our economic cooperation to a much higher level. Given New Zealand's strengths, I emphasised that she could be a partner in our programmes for skills development, Make in India, Digital India, Smart Cities etc. as well as in the fields of agriculture, food processing and in disaster management. We also discussed and appreciated our respective engagements with the Pacific Island countries – India in FIPIC and New Zealand through the Pacific Island Forum, in which we are a dialogue partner. I conveyed India’s willingness to work towards an early conclusion of an FTA keeping in mind the need to find a satisfactory resolution of our mutual concerns.

The leadership of New Zealand emphasised that they consider India a vital part of the Asia Pacific and would like to partner us in diverse fields. They were highly appreciative of India's Act East policy. I on my part lauded New Zealand's positive contribution as a current member of the UN Security Council.

During my visit, an Air Services Agreement was signed. This is a long awaited development which will address to an extent connectivity issues between the two countries. An MoU on an ICCR Chair of Indian Studies in the University of Victoria was also signed. The New Zealand Government announced a new scholarship scheme for Indian students, who constitute the fastest growing group of international students in the country. I addressed students and faculty of the Auckland University of Technology and invited academicians from the universities of New Zealand to participate in the next Festival of Innovation which will be held in March 2017 at Rashtrapati Bhawan. I also addressed business leaders and the Indian community in New Zealand during the visit. I invited New Zealand businesses to participate in India's growth story and avail of the significant opportunities presented by Government of India's flagship initiatives.

I met former Governor General of New Zealand and a Pravasi Bharatiya Samman awardee, Sir Anand Satyanand, and three Members of the New Zealand Parliament who are persons of Indian origin. It is to the credit of the community as well as the host nation that they have been so well integrated and have contributed substantially to the progress and prosperity of New Zealand.

In conclusion, my State Visit to these countries have provided new momentum to our foreign policy towards the Asia-Pacific region. We must continue to proactively reach out to our friends such as Papua New Guinea and New Zealand as well as others in the region. These countries may be geographically distant but the warmth and friendship they display is tremendous. There exists great potential for mutual benefit if we can nurture and strengthen these bonds through high level political visits, determined follow up of agreements reached and consistent efforts to promote economic, trade, cultural and people to people links. The Government will in the coming days take necessary steps in pursuit of this goal”.