Modi in Papua New Guinea for talks amid China’s Pacific growth
Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Papua New Guinea on Sunday for discussions with Pacific island leaders, marking the first visit by an Indian premier as New Delhi aims to counterbalance China’s expanding presence in the region. Modi landed in the capital Port Moresby where he will co-host the Summit of the Forum for India’s Pacific Islands Cooperation on Monday with Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape and other Pacific island leaders.
Beijing has invested vast sums of money into the Pacific, causing concern among New Delhi officials who regard the region as its backyard. China and India’s relations have worsened since 2020, following clashes along their shared border. The talks on Monday are expected to focus primarily on climate change and development.
Upon his arrival, Modi was greeted with a gun salute, traditional dancers, and a welcome from Marape. This visit follows Modi’s attendance at the G7 summit in Japan, where he joined leaders from the United States, Japan, and Australia for a gathering of the Quad members, which seeks to counter China’s increasing assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific.
G7 leaders, along with Modi and other invitees, cautioned China on Saturday regarding its “militarisation activities” in the Asia-Pacific area but expressed a desire for “constructive and stable relations” with Beijing. In their final communique from Hiroshima, the G7 nations outlined a range of concerns about China’s economic and military actions.
New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins arrived in Papua New Guinea earlier on Sunday for the Pacific summit. However, Australian leader Anthony Albanese will be absent from the meeting after US President Joe Biden cut short his diplomatic tour due to US debt crisis talks.
According to experts, New Delhi is increasing its engagement with the Pacific islands due to their strategic location and concerns that China could fill voids left by other powers. Mihai Sora, Pacific Islands research fellow at Australia’s Lowy Institute, said, “Along with India’s increasingly prominent role in the Quad, it’s coming out on the international stage as an Indo-Pacific power. It wants to be seen as such.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Papua New Guinea in 2018. In response to a security pact to be signed between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is replacing Biden for a parallel summit in Papua New Guinea with Marape and Pacific leaders on Monday, and the island nation, China stated on Friday that countries should not engage in “geopolitical games” in the South Pacific.
“China has no objection to normal exchanges and cooperation between relevant parties and Pacific Island countries,” said Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin at a daily briefing. “We also oppose any introduction of any geopolitical games into the Pacific Island country region.”
Following his meeting with Marape, Modi will travel to Australia on Tuesday for discussions with Albanese, completing his three-nation tour.
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