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Thai prime minister on India visit next week

A bilateral agreement on non-conventional energy and another on cultural exchanges are among the pacts slated to be signed.

delhi Updated: Jun 22, 2007 15:45 IST

A bilateral agreement on non-conventional energy and another on cultural exchanges are among the pacts slated to be signed on June 26 when Thai Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont arrives here on a two-day visit with a 30-member business delegation.

Surayud, a former army chief, is also likely to push for early conclusion to a free trade agreement between India and Thailand, which is home to some 100,000-strong Indian diaspora.

Thai embassy officials here said Suryayud will also visit Varanasi on June 27 and travel to the Sarnath temple, one of the holiest pilgrim sites for Buddhists where Gautama Buddha gave his first sermon after attaining enlightenment.

The prime minister, who arrives here late evening on June 25 from Bangkok, will be given a ceremonial welcome at the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan the next morning following which he addresses a business summit.

The India-Thai Business Summit is being co-organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci), the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham).

The emphasis of the summit will be on pushing bilateral trade, which stood at $2.86 billion last fiscal and has been projected by Ficci to touch $7 billion by 2010.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Surayud will also lead their respective sides at the official level talks at Hyderabad House in the evening and witness the signing of some bilateral pacts including those on energy and culture, officials said.

Besides President APJ Abdul Kalam and Manmohan Singh, he is also scheduled to engage with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Commerce Minister Kamal Nath and Minister of State for Non-Conventional Energy Vilas Muttemwar.

The Thai leader's engagement with Mukherjee comes soon India's week-long Look East diplomatic initiative that also took the Indian minister to Indonesia and Singapore. Surayud leaves for Bangkok on June 27 evening.

A former commander-in-chief of the Thai Army, Surayud became prime minister on October 1 last year after toppling his predecessor Thaksin Shinawatra in a coup on September 19.

Time magazine had hailed him as one of its "Asian heroes" and praised him "as the most important Thai military figure of the modern era" who played a major role in changing the military's public image as a modern professional unit.