Indian Narendra Modi arrived in Papua New Guinea on Sunday for the Pacific Islands Summit, the first visit by a Prime Minister of that country to the region where Delhi is seeking to counter China's influence.
Modi landed just after 10 p.m. local time (1200 GMT) in the capital Port Moresby, where he will co-host the Forum for India-Pacific Islands Cooperation summit on Monday with his counterpart from Papua New Guinea James Marape and other Pacific Island leaders.
China has considerably increased its investments in the region, causing concern in New Delhi, which also intends to expand its role in this part of the world.
Relations between the two Asian giants were strained in 2020 after incidents on their common border.
Monday's summit will focus on development and climate change, after a last meeting in India eight years ago.
New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins also arrived on Sunday to attend the summit.
On the other hand, his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese will be absent, as will US President Joe Biden, who canceled his trip due to the US debt crisis. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will replace him. He should sign a security agreement with Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby.
Mr Modi is then due to travel to Australia on Tuesday for talks with Mr Albanese.
The Indian Prime Minister's visit comes after Mr Modi joined the leaders of the United States, Japan and Australia on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Japan for a meeting of members of the Quad, which aims to contain the China's growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
G7 leaders, along with Mr Modi and other summit guests, on Saturday warned China against its "militarization activities" in the Asia-Pacific region, while saying the bloc also wants "relations constructive and stable" with Beijing.
Experts say New Delhi is stepping up its engagement with the Pacific islands because of their strategic location and fears that China will fill in the gaps left by other powers.
"Along with its increasingly important role within the Quad, India presents itself on the international scene as an Indo-Pacific power. It wants to be seen as such," researcher Mihai Sora told AFP. on the Pacific Islands at the Lowy Institute of Australia.
21/05/2023 19:06:20 - Port Moresby (AFP) - © 2023 AFP