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Economic ties on mind, Argentine president reaches India on Tuesday

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner arrives in India on Tuesday for a five-day state visit with an agenda to increase economic cooperation.

business Updated: Oct 12, 2009 16:04 IST

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner arrives in India on Tuesday for a five-day state visit with an agenda to increase economic cooperation.

The visit had been scheduled for earlier this year, but was postponed as Prime Manmohan Singh had to recuperate from his heart surgery.

The trip will mark 15 years since the last visit by a head of state of Argentina - then president Carlos Menem's trip to India in 1994. A reciprocal visit by former Indian prime minister PV Narasimha Rao took place in 1994.

Accompanied by the Argentine foreign minister and a business delegation, Kirchner will hold discussions with Singh Oct 14. A number of Indian leaders including Vice President Hamid Ansari, External Affairs Minister SM Krishna, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Leader of Opposition LK Advani will be calling on her.

President Pratibha Patil will hold a state banquet in her honour on Wednesday evening. Kirchner will leave for further engagements in Agra and Mumbai on Thursday.

"A number of agreements for cooperation are expected to be signed during the visit and will cover wide-ranging areas such as sports, science and technology, industrial research, hydrocarbons, trade promotion and business visas," said a statement released by the ministry of external affairs.

Signifying a robust economic relationship, bilateral trade volume has increased by 87 per cent in five years from $694 million in 2003 to $1.3 billion in 2008.

Argentina has been a major source of agricultural products, especially edible oils like soya and sunflower oil. The balance of trade is in favour of Argentina, with imports at $836 million, being nearly double of exports from India at $492 million in 2008.

With India being a large scale importer of oilseeds and pulses, Argentina will continue to be a major source, especially due to its higher agricultural productivity, which is almost three times that of India.

Acquisition of large swathes of agricultural land has also been explored by some Indian groups, like Solvents Extractors Association of India and State Trading Corporation.

Indian companies have already made investments in information technology, pharmaceuticals, agro-chemicals and mining sectors in Argentina to the tune of $119 million.

On the energy front, ONGC Videsh is likely to sign an agreement with its Argentine counterpart Enarsa. Indian private company Reliance is already part of a consortium that includes Argentine private firm Pluspetrol and has won a concession in Peru for oil and gas exploration.

India is also in talks to sign an agreement in civil nuclear energy with Argentina, but it is not known if it will be signed during Kirchner's visit.