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Interview of President to Post Courier Newspaper of Papua New Guinea

April 28, 2016

1. According to Pacific Island commentators, India's relationship with the Pacific Islands region remains largely focused on Fiji, your visit is therefore more than welcome to the largest Pacific Island country. Could we see this as a start to a stronger relationship between Papua New Guinea and India and perhaps also, recognition of Papua New Guinea being an emerging leader in the region?

Absolutely, my visit is aimed at making a new beginning and establishing a much stronger relationship with Papua New Guinea. India's relations with Fiji have been traditionally close. The large Indian community in Fiji has no doubt been an important factor in our close relationship with Fiji. But this does not in any manner detract from the importance we attach to Papua New Guinea and other Pacific Island countries.

Papua New Guinea is the largest in geographical area and in the size of its population among all the Pacific Island Countries. India has the largest volume of bilateral trade with Papua New Guinea - our bilateral trade amounts to US$ 209.48 million – (Imports US$ 157.29 million; Exports: US$ 52.19 million). India recognizes Papua New Guinea as an important country in the region. My visit to Papua New Guinea is a precursor, I hope, of intensified economic, development and security cooperation to realize the great potential that lies untapped in our bilateral relations. The institutionalization of the FIPIC Summit process is a clear indication that India is intends to seriously engage with this entire region.

2. The Pacific region as whole have been recipients of a largesse from India's PM as well as China's President - What would you describe as India's primary interests in the Pacific region as a whole and in Papua New Guinea in particular?

The underlying narrative of India's engagement with the developing world is non-exploitative and developmental. Having endured colonial exploitation, India is acutely conscious of the fact that bilateral relationships have to be based on mutual benefit. India therefore believes in capacity building and assistance based on priorities determined by the recipient country. We have an ancient saying ‘Vasudeva Kutumbakam’ or ‘The whole world is my family’. This is the philosophy that permeates our relations with all foreign countries. India sees to the Pacific Island countries as an increasingly important group of nations that voice the aspirations of the developing world in a variety of fora. We recognize that Papua New Guinea by virtue of its location, size, population and abundant resources, has a key role to play in this region.

3. How can the Government of India support efforts to realize the development aspirations of Papua New Guineans?

India has requisite expertise and appropriate technology to help Papua New Guinea fulfil its vision of development and attain its goals. We are committed to extend all possible help, expertise and technology to the people of Papua New Guinea, including be it in the fields of agriculture, health, human resource development, education, development of infrastructure and transport.

4. Can the government of India assist Papua New Guinea to recruit experienced and qualified teachers to educate young Papua New Guinean students?

India recognizes that education is the foundation on which economic and technological prosperity of nations will be built, in the 21st century. There are at present a number of educationists from India working in different institutions in Papua New Guinea ranging from Church-schools in the interior regions of Papua New Guinea to its well established Universities. A delegation from Southern Highlands recently visited India to interact with the Indian Ministry of Human Resource and Development and to recruit 200 teachers from India. This is a welcome development. We hope there will be many more such visits from Papua New Guinea. India stands ready to help Papua New Guinea in every which way possible.

5. How can India assist Papua New Guinea learn in the areas of:

Health and Pharmaceuticals:

India and Papua New Guinea are on the verge of finalizing a Memorandum of Understanding focusing on cooperation in the sectors of Health and Pharmaceuticals. The MoU envisages training of Papua New Guinea doctors and nurses in India and deputation of Indian physicians, nurses and trainers to Papua New Guinea. It also envisages Indian assistance in enlargement and development of Government Hospitals in Papua New Guinea. It is proposed in the MoU that India would support Papua New Guinea establish a Pharmaceutical Production Unit which would meet the demands of crucial life-saving medicines. India has also agreed to provide anti-retro viral products for HIV/AIDS patients and ancillary equipment that will help monitor HIV etc.

Agriculture Extension services;

I understand that the highly alluvial soil of Papua New Guinea is very productive. Papua New Guinea with its rivers, springs, lakes and rainfall as well as favourable weather is highly suitable for intensive agriculture. Despite these positive factors, Papua New Guinea is however a net importer of food items.

India is willing to assist Papua New Guinea with trainers, research scientists, high-yield variety seeds and in many other ways so that its farmers can achieve high agriculture yield. There is huge potential in this area for cooperation. Papua New Guinea’s subsistence level farming can be transformed into commercial farming, ensuring food security, benefiting cultivators as well as earning foreign exchange. India is more than happy to support Papua New Guinea in this regard.

Skills development?

A nation only develops through trained manpower and entrepreneurship. India has an extensive network of institutions imparting skills to its huge and young workforce. It has also embarked on a massive scheme to upgrade the skills of our youth. We would be happy to share our experience and support Papua New Guinea in this area.

6. Given the fertility of Papua New Guinea's environment, would India consider looking at Papua New Guinea for more imports of agricultural commodities like cocoa?

Given its large and growing population, as well as rapidly increasing purchasing power, India's appetite for many agriculture product is increasing. There is great potential for export to India of palm oil and pulses. Cocoa could be also a product that is exported to India.

7. How do you view the future of security cooperation between Papua New Guinea and India, given China's strong military presence in the region?

All Sea-lanes of communications should be free of tension and rivalry. Maritime security, terrorism and piracy are major concerns to whole world today and also for India and Papua New Guinea. During the FIPIC-2 Summit in Jaipur, India offered a Costal Surveillance Radar System to the Pacific Island Countries, including Papua New Guinea. It has also offered to provide Coast Guard vessels. The waters and Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of Pacific Island Countries have seen a surge of illegal activities such as smuggling, illegal fishing, human trafficking, drug trafficking etc which impact on the economy and political security of the Pacific Island Countries. We are ready to cooperate with Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Island Countries in helping them secure their Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and also helping in disaster warning and disaster mitigation. We are ready to share satellite images developed by Indian satellites for early warning system and to help map the natural resources of each country using our satellite system. India does not see itself as in competition with any country in this regard.

8. India has shown some interest in LNG from Papua New Guinea is this an area India is likely to pursue?

India is a net importer of hydrocarbons. As India's economy grows, we will need more imports of hydrocarbons to meet our increasing energy demand. As an environmentally responsible country, India realizes the benefits of using Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) over other fossil fuels. Apart from the discoveries of natural gas that have already been made, we understand there exists further untapped potential. We hope to work actively with the Government of Papua New Guinea in developing LNG and other resources.

9. Papua New Guinea is a young country, compared to India's history. You have had many learned and inspirational leaders, and in the words of one of those Great Leaders, Mahatma Gandhi, 'you must be the change you wish to see in the world'. Mr President, Is the key to greatness and success, only limited to your level of hard work and perseverance?

I am very happy that you quote the famous words of Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation. Hard work and perseverance are certainly critical for the success of any individual or society. Equally important are the right political, economic and social values. India believes in the rule of law; human rights and freedoms for all its people; democracy which ensures full participation by its people in governance; equality of status and opportunity; and inclusive growth wherein the benefits of development reach each and every citizen of our country. We believe adherence to these values is the key to success.


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