Kalam on goodwill trip to Myanmar, Mauritius

The President will leave for Myanmar and Mauritius on a six-day goodwill tour to strengthen India's ties with the two nations.

india Updated: Mar 07, 2006 18:51 IST

President APJ Abdul Kalam leaves on Wednesday for a six-day trip to Myanmar and Mauritius with the entire gamut of bilateral ties -- strengthening economic, business, education and cultural bonds -- on the agenda.

Kalam's trip to Myanmar -- close on the heels of his East Asian sojourn to Singapore, South Korea and the Philippines -- is a first for more than one reason.

It is the first time that he is going to a neighbouring country and also marks the first time that any Indian president has visited Myanmar.

The three-day trip, as part of his efforts to further India's Look East policy, comes on the invitation of Senior General Than Shwe.

Shwe is the chairman of the ruling State Peace and Development Council, who had visited India in October 2004.

Describing it as a significant visit with an enormous amount of "substantive content", Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran said an agreement between the two sides for evacuation of natural gas to India would be tied up.

India has been keen to tap Myanmar's gas reserves and this could be routed through a pipeline to the northeast or any other option including converting it into liquefied natural gas (LNG) and shipping it to India.

Other agreements are also on the anvil.

India, which has assisted Myanmar in setting up a data processing centre for remote sensing applications, will set up of ground station for receiving IRS (Indian remote sensing satellite) data that has varied uses, Saran said.

Besides, a Nalanda initiative to encourage more Myanmarese students to come to the country is on the cards as is a TCIL (Telecommunications Consultants of India Ltd) project to put up optic fibre cables.

In transportation, the execution of the Kaladan multi-modal project, using river transportation and the highway to southern Mizoram, is on the cards.

Other than Than Shwe, Kalam will also meet Myanmar's petroleum and foreign ministers as well as interact with university and school students.

He will address business leaders and the chambers of commerce.

During his visit, the president will pay his respects at the historic Shwe Dagon Pagoda and at the shrine of India's last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar.

He will also visit Mandalay, Myanmar's second largest city after Yangon, and take a trip to the school of traditional medicine there.

In Mauritius, the president is the chief guest at the republic day anniversary function of the Indian Ocean island nation on March 12.

Kalam will meet his counterpart Anerood Jugnauth and hold separate delegation level talks with Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam during his three-day trip to the country that has close links with India.

"Mauritius is very important for India from the economic and trade point of view," the foreign secretary told reporters, adding that the visit was not just a ceremonial one.

While Indian immigrants comprise 68 per cent of the present Mauritian population of 1.2 million, diplomatic links with the country were deepened with the country becoming one of the first to voice support for India's permanent membership to an expanded UN Security Council.

A highlight of the trip will be an address to members of the National Assembly and dignitaries of Mauritius.

Besides, he will pay tribute to father of Mauritius, Shiv Sagar Ramgoolam, at his memorial and visit the Apravasi Ghat where the first Indian indentured labour got off when they docked at the island in 1834.

He will visit the Rajiv Gandhi Science Centre and Cyber Tower, Mauritius' IT hub that has several Indian companies.

While the former was inaugurated by Congress chief, the latter was launched by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Here, too, the president will get to do what he likes best - interact with students.

A MoU on the Pan African network -- Kalam's idea to connect African countries through e-connectivity first floated at the Pan African Parliament in Johannesburg in 2004 -- is likely to be signed.

First Published: Mar 07, 2006 12:34 IST