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Papua New Guinea 'Aspires' to Expand Defense Ties With India Amid US-China Tensions

© SputnikPaulias Korni, Papua New Guinea's High Commissioner to India
Paulias Korni, Papua New Guinea's High Commissioner to India - Sputnik India, 1920, 10.05.2023
Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marabe said last month that India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit the island in May. It will be an Indian leader's maiden visit.
High Commissioner of Papua New Guinea to India Paulias Korni has said that his country “aspires” to expand its defense cooperation with New Delhi during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “historic visit” to Port Moresby on May 22.
“India is a military power in its own right. We aspire to gain some experience from India in the field of defense,” Korni told Sputnik in an exclusive interview.
Prime Minister Modi is set to co-chair the Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC) Summit in Port Moresby.
The diplomat noted that there was a strong case for India to expand its engagement with the country, in view of New Delhi’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) and the Act East Policy.
He said that there is a “lot to learn” from India, particularly in the context of “prioritizing the development needs” of one’s own country in the face of geopolitical tensions.
Indian Navy's warships INS Delhi & INS Satpura arrive in Singapore for Inaugural ASEAN India Maritime Exercise (AIME) - Sputnik India, 1920, 03.05.2023
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The envoy underscored that Papua New Guinea, the biggest of the Pacific Island Countries (PICs), follows a policy of “being friends to all and enemies to none."

The country, which lies to the north of Australia, has found itself in a geopolitical tug of war as Beijing make inroads in the South Pacific region of late. Traditionally, the US and Australia have been the pre-eminent powers in the region. But the tables have started to turn since Beijing signed a security cooperation agreement with the Solomon Islands.

US President Joe Biden will also be in Port Moresby on May 33, the first visit by a sitting US president to the country.

However, Beijing was Papua New Guinea's largest trading partner in 2021.
Korni said that developing ties with China and other major powers was “in the interest” of Papua New Guinea and other Pacific nations. He said that Port Moresby’s ties with all the other countries were based on “mutual trust and respect."
“We are interested in advancing our own development agenda, including the building of roads and power infrastructure, developing technological capabilities and lifting the overall standard of living of our population. For that, we need to develop a meaningful, cordial and deep relationship with all the major powers,” stated Korni.
“We don’t have a policy of selective engagement… We want business-like relationships with all our partners,” he added.
The FIPIC Summit that Modi and Marabe will co-chair will involve the heads of the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
According to a statement from the Australian Prime Minister's Office, Modi will also attend the Quad Leaders' Summit in Canberra on May 24. The summit will also figure the leaders of the US, Australia and Japan.

India’s Help in Combating Climate Change

The high commissioner called India a “leader” in the field of tackling climate change, adding that his country needed Delhi's help in building mitigation and resilience strategies in tackling the menace.
“Our country is prone to earthquakes, cyclones and volcanic eruptions. Then, the threat of rising sea levels is also very much real. We have been forced to relocate people in low-lying areas (in the Bougainville Islands) due to rising sea level,” he explained.
Korni underlined that Papua New Guinea had the third-largest relative forest cover of any country in the world.
“Our carbon sink is one of the biggest in the world. We need adequate compensation from the rich countries which have been primarily responsible for causing climate change,” the envoy said.
The Pacific nations have labeled climate change as their greatest threat, while India has prioritized climate change on its agenda during its ongoing presidency of the G20, alongside the concerns of the Global South.

‘Historic Relationship’ with India

Korni said that India and Papua New Guinea shared a “historic and a unique relationship”, since both of them went through the same colonization experience and have been developing countries with similar concerns. Both nations are part of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
He said that both countries have many similarities being “robust democracies” with "greater cooperation" between their relative electora commissions also on the table.
The high commissioner went to explain that Papua New Guinea could also benefit from advancing bilateral cooperation in information technology, rocket science and industrial innovation, among other fields.
The last high-level visit from India to Papua New Guinea was that of ex-President Pranab Mukherjee in 2016. New Delhi announced a $100 million credit line for infrastructural development during the visit.
Bilateral trade between India and Papua New Guinea stood at $427 million in 2021-22, as per official figures.
India’s major exports included textiles, merchandise, machinery and equipment, food items and pharmaceuticals, while it imported nickel, pearls, copper and copper ores, wood, and cocoa from the Pacific nation.