The mood went sombre as President Pranab Mukherjee, the supreme commander of Indian armed forces, arrived at the historic Bomana cemetery in Papua New Guinea (PNG) to pay his respects to the fallen World War-II soldiers, including from India.
80-year-old Mukherjee walked up to a pillar erected in memory of the troops killed during World War-II while fighting along with the British forces.
This was the second engagement of the Mukherjee, who arrived here yesterday on the first ever state visit from India to this largest island in the Pacific.
Immediately after meeting the Governor General of PNG Sir Michael Ogio, President drove to the war cemetery, located 20-km from here, to lay a wreath on the pillar.
As he placed the wreath, a Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) band sounded the “Last Post,” signifying the end of the troops’ journey in life. A minutes’ silence was observed in their memory after which Mukherjee went around the cemetery.
The cemetery contains 3,824 Commonwealth burials of the second World War out of which 699 of them unidentified. Around 250 of the unidentified soldiers are from undivided India who were fighting along with the British and allied forces.
Indian High Commissioner to PNG Nagendra Kumar Saxena has been extensively working on the role of Indians during the World War.
During the banquet hosted by the Ogio in honour of the President last night, the Governor General also said the linkages between the two countries go back to the second world war where Indian servicemen, some 615 brave sons who were part of the British Army and Allied Forces, fought and died in PNG.
“Their mortal remains lie buried in war cemeteries throughout the country,” he said.
The troops were fighting the Japanese forces who had landed at Lae and Salamaua in March 1942 with Port Moresby as their chief objective. PTI SKL NSA AKJ NSA