INDIAN President Shri Pranab Mukherjee visited Papua New Guinea in late April, as part of a mission to further develop connections between the two nations.

In a joint statement released by the two leaders, Mr Mukherjee and PNG governor general Sir Michael Ogio said the visit had features wide ranging and constructive discussions, underlying close bilateral ties between the two nations.

Both leaders expressed confidence that there was great potential for increased cooperation between the two countries, with PNG keen for larger trade volumes with India.

“Both sides agreed to expedite the conclusion of a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (IPPA) to facilitate investments,” the statement said.

“Keeping in view India’s desire to achieve energy security, Papua New Guinea agreed to develop new avenues of cooperation with India in exploration and development of Papua New Guinea’s vast oil and gas resources through joint ventures and Indian public and private sector investment in new and existing projects.”

“Both leaders agreed to enhance bilateral relations in the economic, security, defence, education and health sectors,” the statement said.

As a means to do this, Papua New Guinea announced it would introduce a visa on arrival for Indian tourists, complementing India’s move to do the same for nationals of Pacific Islands countries in 2015.

A series of memoranda of understanding (MOUs) were signed during the course of the visit, including one on cooperation in the health sector and another for the establishment of a centre of excellence in information technology in Papua New Guinea.

Another MOU for cooperation on agricultural research was signed by the University of Technology, Lae, and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research.

India also pledged to provide a US$100 million credit line for development of infrastructure in PNG, while retroviral drugs and equipment for the treatment of 20,000 HIV patients in Papua New Guinea would also be provided for one year.

Mr Mukerjee also met PNG prime minister Peter O’Neill, discussing opportunities for cooperation in agricultural production, downstream hydrocarbon processing and healthcare and education exchange.

Mr O’Neill said PNG could learn a great deal from India in these fields, adding that its support was appreciated in defence cooperation and the technical and economic cooperation program.

“In food production India has moved from being import-dependent on food, to now being a net food exporter,” he said.

“We further discussed the potential for co-operation in downstream processing for our hydrocarbon sector as we move away from exporting only raw oil and gas.”

Mr O’Neill said India and PNG engage in a number of international forums and this continues to increase.

“Our two countries have a healthy dialogue in the Forum for India-Pacific Islands co-operation and we have offered to host the next meeting in Papua New Guinea,” he said.

“Papua New Guinea fully supports India’s bid for permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, and we have further pledged our support for India becoming a member of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).”