Papua New Guinea wants to create the equivalent of Britain’s Gurkha regiment as it struggles to strengthen its armed forces at a time of increasing tension in the region between China and the United States.

British defence officials are in discussions with PNG about closer co-operation, including joint participation in UN peacekeeping missions and steps to enable its citizens to join the UK armed forces.

The commander of the PNG Defence Force, Major-General Mark Goina, has set out a bold vision of a local version of the Gurkhas, the famously tough Nepalese soldiers known for their expertise in jungle warfare.

“As commander, I’d like to see members of our defence force follow the path the Gurkhas have taken,” he said.

Meanwhile, a new Maritime College will be built at the Lombrum Naval Base in Manus.

Site project manager Martin Ross told The National that as part of the Lombrum joint initiative, a Maritime College will be built at the Papua New Guinea Defence Force (PNGDF) base.

“So we will be building the new Maritime College here, and we are on schedule and are hoping to have this completed by 2024,” he said.

According to the PNGDF, the Lombrum Joint Initiative will not only support the redevelopment of Lombrum Naval Base, but also boost the capability of the PNGDF to protect the country’s borders and maritime resources through a broad programme of mentoring and tailored training.

“The new college or training centre, once completed, will be running courses for and training members of the PNGDF maritime element personnel,” he said.

“Those who wish to study at this maritime college, will come through the normal PNGDF recruitment process.

“We are hoping that this project is completed by 2024 so we can start recruitment by 2025.”

The Lombrum Joint Initiative is owned by, and for the benefit of, the PNGDF to respond to the country’s security needs and priorities.

The scope of the Lombrum infrastructure project was developed and agreed in consultation with the PNGDF and was designed to benefit the community by creating jobs for the local people.