India: PM Narendra Modi receives warm welcome as he heads Papua New Guinea for FIPIC summit

India, New Delhi: The Prime Minister of India,  Narendra Modi was warmly received in Papua New Guinea as he arrived at the third summit of the Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC).

The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, James Marape, extended a special welcome by touching PM Modi’s feet as a sign of respect when he arrived in the Pacific Island nation.

It is noteworthy that Papua New Guinea typically does not organize ceremonial welcomes for leaders visiting after sunset. However, an exception was made for Prime Minister Modi, who became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit the country and arrived after 10 pm local time.

PM Modi expressed his gratitude and tweeted, “I have arrived in Papua New Guinea. I am grateful to PM James Marape for coming to the airport to welcome me. This gesture is significant to me, and I will always cherish it. I eagerly anticipate enhancing India’s relations with this great nation during my visit.”

After exchanging warm embraces, PM Marape touched PM Modi’s feet, after which they shared another hug. Together, they then proceeded towards the gathering of other dignitaries who had assembled to welcome Prime Minister Modi.

Sasindran Muthuvel, the Governor of West New Britain Province in Papua New Guinea, who was part of the reception team for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, stated that PM James Marape touched PM Modi’s feet as a gesture of profound respect.

As the spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Arindam Bagchi noted, Prime Minister Modi received an elaborate welcome that included a 19-gun salute, guard of honour, and ceremonial greetings, in addition to the extraordinary gesture of PM Marape receiving him at the airport.

India and Papua New Guinea share solid bilateral ties. In 2021, India provided Papua New Guinea with its first significant shipment of COVID-19 vaccines, which proved vital in addressing the country’s healthcare crisis and the delays in its vaccination programme, which relied on supplies from the global COVAX vaccine-sharing scheme.

Prime Minister Modi arrived in Papua New Guinea from Japan, where he attended the G7 summit and held bilateral meetings with several world leaders.

The third summit of the Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation (FIPIC) will be co-hosted by Narendra Modi and James Marape on Monday. Bilateral discussions are scheduled between PM Modi and PM Marape, and a meeting with Bob Dadae, the Governor General of Papua New Guinea.

The discussions on Monday will primarily focus on climate change and development. The previous FIPIC summit took place eight years ago and was hosted by India.

“I am grateful that all 14 Pacific Island Countries (PIC) have accepted the invitation to attend this important summit (FIPIC),” stated Prime Minister Modi. The FIPIC Summit will be attended by leaders from 14 countries and was initiated during PM Modi’s visit to Fiji in 2014.

The Pacific Islands Cooperation comprises Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, the Republic of Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

Zurab Kvaratskhelia

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