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India looks to Africa ahead of PM's visit

Manmohan Singh prepared to leave for France and UN with SC seat on agenda.

india Updated: Sep 10, 2005 13:03 IST

India on Friday expressed the hope that Africa would support its claim for a Security Council seat as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh prepared to leave for France and the United Nations on a weeklong trip with plenty of diplomatic import.

Singh will become the first Indian prime minister in seven years to visit France from Sept 11-13 and then fly to New York to attend the UN General Assembly, where New Delhi has pitched demands that it should get a permanent seat on the Security Council.

The prime minister will in New York hold crucial bilateral meetings, including with Presidents George W Bush of the US and Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, with Jammu and Kashmir sure to figure on the agenda.

Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran told reporters here on Friday that New Delhi expected Africa to end up backing the G4 resolution that seeks permanent seats on the UN Security Council for India, Brazil, Japan and Germany.

India has announced it was amenable to amend the resolution to include African countries on the list.

"Many African countries feel that way," Saran said. "It is an opportunity that should not be missed. It is our hope it is the best way forward. We remain optimistic."

Referring to the first leg of the prime minister's programme, Saran said: "This visit is very important as France has been one of our close partners in economic and security affairs."

Singh, who will be accompanied by External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh, will hold extensive discussions with French President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin. Chirac is expected to visit India early next year.

Saran said New Delhi and Paris enjoyed a strategic partnership on a wide range of issues, and France "has been far more amendable to India's interests than many others particularly in electronics".

In New York, Singh will be closely associated with Bush when the UN Democracy Fund is launched. He will also hold meetings with Bush, host dinner for Musharraf and meet other world leaders including Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Hu Jintao of China.

Singh will separately discussions bilateral and other ties with President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa.

Saran denied any major differences between New Delhi and Washington on Iran's nuclear programme.

"There is no ambiguity in India's position," he said. "India is against nuclear proliferation. No country is an exception to this. Iran and other countries should live up to the expectations (of the international community)."

Singh and Musharraf, Saran said, will "focus on issues of mutual concern", a clear indication that Jammu and Kashmir would be discussed.

Singh, he said, had invited Musharraf for dinner on Sep 14 at his New York hotel.