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PM in Beijing, Asia-Europe meet begins today

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived in Beijing today for the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) that begins Friday.
By Jyoti Malhotra | Hindustan Times, Beijing
UPDATED ON OCT 24, 2008 12:44 AM IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived here on Thursday for the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) that begins Friday. It is the first time that India has been invited to the summit in which the global financial crisis will be discussed.

Although the ASEM agenda is to promote economic interaction and social development between Asia and Europe, the economic downturn has sparked fears that Asia cannot be saved from this trans-national epidemic.

As a result, Friday’s meeting between the Prime Minister and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani, a staple for media in both countries, is likely to be overshadowed by the fears over global economy.

The Prime Minister articulated the concern, saying he “sincerely hoped that this meeting of minds between Europe and Asia will produce a solution to many global problems, including the financial crisis.”

Problem is, as a member of board the PM’s delegation said on condition of anonymity, nobody has a clue how the developing and the developed worlds can find common cause to stave off falling growth.

The summit comes at a time when there is talk of the PM getting ready to travel to the US on November 15 for a meeting called by US President George W Bush. The Indian official confirmed that the PM and his Japanese counterpart Taro Aso discussed Bush’s invitation to the G-20, a forum which includes the rich G-8 countries as well nations like China, India and Brazil.

Though French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s has said the developing world must be made “part of the solution” to the crisis, the Indian official pointed out that a joint action plan was yet to be formulated.

It is hoped that the ASEM will be better placed. All signs are that even China may not escape unscathed.

As for the G-20 meeting called by Bush, which will also be attended by the US president-elect, US National Security Adviser Steve Hadley called his Indian counterpart MK Narayanan to invite the PM about a week ago. While the government seems inclined, officials said no final decision has been taken so far.

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