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President Mukherjee to go on six-day visit to PNE, New Zealand this week


New Delhi: Taking forward the ‘Look East’ policy of the government, President Pranab Mukherjee will embark on a six-day trip to Papua New Guinea (PNG) and New Zealand this week, his first state visit to the two countries.

Terming the visit as ‘Act East’, a natural extension of the government’s ‘Look East’ policy, the President’s Press Secretary Venu Rajamony told reporters it would play a significant role in strengthening India’s economic relations with Pacific nations like PNG.

The visit is likely to give a push to Indian pharmaceutical companies to set up businesses in the pacific nation after the local government withdrew a ban in January this year.

The PNG is looking towards India for enhanced cooperation in the health sector and capacity building in Information Technology, Joint Secretary (South) in External Affairs Ministry Jaideep Majumdar said.

PNG, which is the largest Pacific Island nation, both in terms of population and area, has large natural resources of oil, gas and minerals. The discussions regarding cooperation in these areas will be taken forward after the conclusion of President’s visit, he said.

During the second conference of Pacific nations held in India last year, New Delhi had offered radars for coastal surveillance and patrolling craft for maritime security to the PNG, he said. President Mukherjee will be arriving in PNG on April 28 after which he will witness signing of agreements in the fields of health, economic cooperation and Information Technology besides addressing the students and business community.

The President will be accompanied by Minister of State for Agriculture Sanjeev Baliyan and a three-member delegation of MPs. About the President’s visit to New Zealand, which starts from April 30, he said India traditionally shared close relations with that country. The Indian diaspora of 1,75,000 helps to further cement our ties, he said.

The two sides will look at prospects for cooperation in agriculture, dairy, food processing, education and skill development as well as high technology. New Zealand Prime Minister John Key had visited India in 2011 and its Governor General in 2008, 2009 and 2011. The last high-level visit from India was by the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1986.

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