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PM leaves for NAM Summit

india Updated: Sep 10, 2006 13:29 IST
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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh leaves on Sunday afternoon on his first trip to South America with a visit to Brazil as well as Cuba and a possible meeting with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in Havana.

After an overnight halt at Frankfurt, Singh will reach Brasilia on Monday to begin a two-day visit - the first by an Indian prime minister to that country in 38 years. The last Indian prime minister to have visited Brazil was Indira Gandhi in 1968.

Six government-to-government agreements - spanning agriculture, science and technology and aviation - and an equal number of business agreements are expected to be signed after bilateral talks between Manmohan Singh and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The Brazilian leader has made closer ties with India a major plank of his pro-active foreign policy.

A 52-member strong Indian business delegation, comprising the chief executives of top companies, will also be travelling to Brazil to interact with counterparts from Brazil and South Africa ahead of the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) political summit on Wednesday.

Delegation sources said the businessmen will look for opportunities and areas of convergence in pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, infrastructure, energy, banking, agriculture, auto and aircraft industry, IT and financial services. This is the first major joint foray by Indian businessmen in South America.

Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath will also be present at the official meetings. Also in the delegation is National Security Adviser MK Narayanan, Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma and Foreign Secretary-designate Shiv Shankar Menon.

The IBSA will also see the presence of South African President Thabo Mbeki for the first summit of IBSA, a trilateral initiative launched by the three rising powers of the three continents in 2003 as a focused forum of cooperation and joint action on international affairs.

Manmohan Singh will travel on Sep 14 to Havana to attend the 14th summit on Sept 15-16 of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) - a 116-nation forum that is the largest grouping of developing nations representing two-thirds of the membership of the United Nations and more that half the planet's people.

India wants NAM - which many consider an anachronism in today's globalised and unipolar world - to reinvent and "revitalise itself" and concentrate on issues "that unite, rather than divide us".

"NAM should focus on a contemporary and progressive agenda dealing with key issues of common concern to all its members such as multilateralism, combating terrorism, reform of the UN system, democratisation of international institutions, etc," said Sharma, before leaving ahead of the delegation for Brasilia.

"India remains strongly committed to a collective effort to revitalise NAM," which, he said, freedom of judgement and action and giving voice to concerns and aspirations of the developing countries.

Havana will also provide the setting for a crucial meeting between Manmohan Singh and Musharraf, who is also attending the NAM Summit. Singh is expected to state in the strongest diplomatic language possible about India's concerns on cross-border terrorism and how it will be well nigh impossible to continue the peace process if India continues to be a victim of targeted terrorism by militants stationed on Pakistani soil.

The prime minister returns on Sept 18 from Havana with an overnight halt at Frankfurt.

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