With the national budget presented in parliament on Monday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be heading for the Italian mountain town of L'Aquila Tuesday to join discussions with leaders of the world's most powerful and industrialised nations at their annual G-8 summit. The town was devastated by an earthquake just three months ago.
Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, amid concerns that the G-8 was irrelevant in the context of the much broader G-20, said here on Monday that India saw the G-8 and G-5 as "useful forums" to find global solutions to global problems with the help of the international community.
India is one of the five emerging economies or G-5, comprising China, India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa which have been specially invited for the G-8 summit meeting (July 8-10). While the G-8 will have 'outreach' meetings with the G-5, the emerging G-5 countries will have a standalone meeting also.
The prime minister, who leaves for Italy's capital Rome Tuesday afternoon, will also have bilateral meetings with heads of G-8 countries and other leaders arriving for the summit.
"I am sure they (US President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh) will meet," Menon said.
"For us, it is a useful occasion where some of the top leaders get to discuss global issues like the financial crisis, climate change and others. This is not a negotiating forum but gives us a chance to discuss things at the highest levels," Menon said.
Though not part of the G-8, India will be participating in its outreach meetings.
L'Aquila, which was founded in the 13th century and has Renaissance history linked to it, was devastated on April 6 this year by an earthquake of 6.3 magnitude on the Richter scale which left over 300 killed, 1,500 injured and over 60,000 homeless.
The Italian government decided on L'Aquila - about 100 km from Rome - as an unlikely venue for an international summit to enable the rebuilding of the town of just 70,000 people at top speed and channel in billions of euros in funding.
The summit was earlier scheduled to be held at an idyllic island off the coast of Sardinia but was shifted to L'Aquila by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berloscuni as a demonstration of global solidarity with the earthquake victims.
The summit is being hosted by Italy as it has the presidency of the G-8 this time.
The summit will focus on international issues, including climate change and its concerns leading to the Copenhagen conference later this year, the global economic slowdown for which the G-20 meeting of the world's most developed and emerging economies was held in London April this year, future sources of growth in world economy, development policies, the changes in Iran, the Af-Pak crisis and North Korean threat.
A lot of bilateral meetings are held on the sidelines of such summits. Manmohan Singh will meet with US President Barack Obama, for whom this will be the first G8 summit meeting. Both leaders had met for the first time on the sidelines of the G-20 meeting in London.
He will also meet Chinese President Hu Jintao for the second time in a month, the two having met at Yekaterinburg in Russia on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit.
The G-8, founded in 1975, comprises the world's most industrialized and wealthy states - the US, Britain, Canada, Japan, Italy, Germany, France and Russia.
This time, the G-5 countries will come out with a statement on global issues after their meeting with the G-8. "For the first time, the G-8 declaration will include concerns of the G-5," Menon said.
Manmohan Singh will return to New Delhi July 10.