PORT MORESBY: Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Papua New Guinea Sunday for talks with Pacific island leaders, the first visit by an Indian premier as New Delhi seeks to counter China's growing footprint in the region, reports AFP.
Modi landed just after 10:00 pm local time (1200 GMT) in the capital Port Moresby, where he will co-host the Summit of the Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation on Monday with Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape and other Pacific island leaders. Beijing has been pouring vast sums into the Pacific, which has alarmed New Delhi officials who consider the region to be its backyard.
Monday's talks are set to focus largely on climate change and development. The last such summit was hosted by India eight years ago.
Modi was met by a gun salute, traditional dancers and was welcomed by Marape. New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins arrived in Papua New Guinea earlier Sunday.
Australian leader Anthony Albanese will be absent from the Pacific summit after US President Joe Biden cut short his diplomatic tour over US debt crisis talks.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken replaced Biden for a parallel summit in Papua New Guinea with Marape and Pacific leaders on Monday, where he is expected to sign a security pact with the island nation.
After meeting Marape, Modi will head to Australia on Tuesday for talks with Albanese to complete his three-nation tour.