Prez returns home after six-day tour to NZ, PNG

New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee today returned home after wrapping up his six-day official tour of Papua New Guinea and New Zealand where he met top leaders of the two countries and inked a few important deals as part of India’s ‘Act East’ policy.

Concluding the three-day visit to New Zealand as part of the second leg of his two-nation tour, Mukherjee talked about cooperation in agriculture, dairy, food processing, education and skill development as well as high technology between the two countries.

During the course of the visit, India and New Zealand also signed a deal that opens the door for direct flights between the two countries with an aim to boost tourism and trade sectors.

Mukherjee’s trip was the first high-level visit from India to New Zealand since Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s tour to the island nation in 1986.

Prominent among whom he met included New Zealand Governor General Sir Jerry Mateparae and Prime Minister John Key.

Earlier, as part of his two-day maiden state visit to Papua New Guinea (PNG), the President had sought freedom of navigation saying sea lanes of communications should be devoid of tension and rivalry.

The two nations, as part of measures to strengthen bilateral ties and ensuring energy security, signed a few agreements even as India offered a USD 100 million line of credit for development of infrastructure in PNG and agreed to jointly develop new avenues of cooperation to explore and develop the Pacific nation’s vast oil and gas resources.

India also offered the country its technology, financial wherewithal, skilled manpower and institutional support to harness the mineral-rich country’s abundant natural resources and establish mutually beneficial economic and commercial ventures.

The President also met his PNG counterpart Sir Michael Ogio.