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India tops EU investment agenda

india Updated: Oct 31, 2006 20:46 IST

A spate of very high level visits by leaders from several European Union nations, including Belgium, Norway, Britain and Hungary, has placed India firmly in the international spotlight, with the economy and trade and investment the focus of most visits.

The EU is India's largest bloc trading partner.

Aiming to enhance bilateral ties in diverse fields, Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt will begin a six-day visit to India from Thursday, the highlight of which is a landmark Social Security Agreement, that will particularly benefit Indians living in Belgium.

According to Belgian Ambassador Patrick De Beyter, the "unique" agreement will be fruitful for Indians in Belgium, as they will receive benefits like pension.

During his first ever visit to India, Verhofstadt will hold talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on a wide range of issues, particularly covering Indo-US civil nuclear deal, terrorism and trade and investment. There will also be an agreement on space.

Accompanied by a high level delegation, including Deputy Prime Minister Didier Reynders and Foreign Minister Karl De Gucht and a large number of business CEOs, Verhofstadt will also travel to Bangalore, Mumbai and Chennai.

Economy will be the main focus of the visit, De Beyter said, speaking of the "significant" trip. Verhofstadt will meet Indian business leaders as part of an effort to attract investments from this country.

Belgium is the third preferred destination for FDI outflow from India (valued at around one billion euros) after the United States and Britain.

Bilateral trade between India and Belgium is currently €7.6 billion, and is growing at over 20 per cent per annum.

At a briefing on Tuesday, the spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs Navtej Sarna also spoke of visits by the Norwegian Crown Prince, Haakon, who is scheduled to meet the President, Vice President and Prime Minister on Wednesday. Norway, like Belgium and Britain, is a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Less than a month after the Indian Prime Minister's visit to UK, during which India and Britain decided to take specific cooperative measures in the fight against terrorism, British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett will arrive here on Thursday to discuss follow-up measures.

During her week-long tour, that will also take her to Mumbai and Bangalore, Beckett will hold talks with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and is expected to meet the Prime Minister.

Specific anti-terror measures to be discussed, Sarna said, will relate to curbing terrorist attacks on large metros (cities).

During Singh's visit, India and Britain decided to enhance cooperation between security agencies through sharing of intelligence and evolving mechanisms to protect their vulnerable sites like mass transit systems.

The Hungarian Foreign Minister, Kinga Goncz, is also visiting India. During talks with Mukherjee, he will seek enhanced economic cooperation, particularly in the Information Technology and pharmaceuticals sectors, particularly related to generic drugs.

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