Free trade deal with India, security in Pacific on Chris Hipkins' mind as he heads to world leaders meeting in Papua New Guinea

A free trade deal with India and security in the Pacific were top of Chris Hipkins' mind as he flew out to a meeting of world leaders in Papua New Guinea.

The Prime Minister flew out of New Zealand on Sunday afternoon.

While US President Joe Biden may have bailed on the Pacific Island Leaders Summit, Hipkins still has a mega meeting with India's Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.

There's pressure on Hipkins to improve New Zealand's relationship with India - which is now the most populated country on the planet - and also to make moves towards securing a trade deal.

But there's another deal that's causing concern and that's the United States' security pact with Papua New Guinea. 

In Biden's place will be the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, and he's expected to sign that trade pact this weekend. It is meant to act as a counterweight towards China but will give the United States unfettered access to Papua New Guinea's military bases.

That is raising concerns about the increasing militarisation of the Pacific.

"These are autonomous countries, and so they'll make their own decisions," Hipkins told reporters on Sunday. 

"New Zealand's message to the Pacific, as it always has been, is that we like to think of ourselves as a trusted partner for Pacific countries. We're not interested in the militarisation of the Pacific.

"We are interested in working with the Pacific on issues where we have mutual interest, issues around climate change. We're not going to be attaching military strings to that support."

This will be a whirlwind trip for Hipkins - he is on the ground for about 24 hours.