Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday underlined India's commitment to strengthening the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and its desire to strengthen strategic partnership with Paris in all areas, including civil nuclear cooperation and defence.
Manmohan Singh heads to Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt to attend the 15th NAM summit on Tuesday after a short trip to Paris where he will be the the chief guest at the July 14 National Day celebrations.
Alluding to "a close and wide-ranging strategic partnership" between India and France, Manmohan Singh said: "We would like to build upon our partnership in the areas of trade and investment, high technology, space, nuclear energy, defence, education, culture, tourism and scientific research and development."
In a statement before he left on the five-day overseas visit on Monday, Manmohan Singh underscored the relevance of non-alignment in the post Cold War era and said India will play its part in strengthening the NAM.
"Non-alignment has been the bedrock of India's foreign policy since it was enunciated by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Non-alignment remains an article of faith for us," Manmohan Singh said.
"In the post-Cold War era, when the world is no longer divided into two military blocs, the Non-Aligned Movement has a renewed role to play in the emerging world order," he said.
"The diversity and universality of the Non-Aligned Movement offers NAM a unique opportunity to address the challenges of today."
The prime minister said "India will play its part in helping NAM to regain its moral high ground to address issues which are of direct concern and relevance to developing countries such as sustainable development, climate change, food security, energy security, terrorism and reform of the architecture of international governance."
The highlight of Manmohan Singh's trip will be his meeting Wednesday with his Pakistani counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani on the sidelines of the NAM summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
The meeting, which will be preceded by talks between foreign secretaries of the two countries, will be watched closely as it could set the stage for the resumption of composite dialogue between the two neighbours.
Besides meeting the Pakistan prime minister, Manmohan Singh will hold meetings with other leaders including those of Bangladesh, Egypt, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.
India has made it clear many a time that its pursuit of an independent foreign policy and commitment to NAM goes along with New Delhi's policy of strengthening relations with all major powers.
The two-day trip to Paris is largely ceremonial, but will provide an occasion for Manmohan Singh to hold discussions with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on a wide range of bilateral and regional issues.