ASEM summit to debate global financial crisis

October 23rd, 2008 - 10:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghBeijing, Oct 23 (IANS) The global financial crisis and ways to reshape the international economic system will be uppermost on the agenda at the seventh Asia-Europe Summit (ASEM) beginning here Friday that India will attend for the first time. For India, its engagement with Asia and Europe is expected to get a further boost after its induction into the grouping.

In addition, this will also be the first multilateral meeting that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be attending after the inking of India’s historic civil nuclear pacts with the US and France.

Arriving in Beijing Thursday on the second leg of his five-day trip after signing a declaration on security cooperation and reviewing its strategic and economic ties with Japan, Manmohan Singh at the outset declared that the global tumult would figure prominently in the two-day meet.

“This is the first time I am attending this summit as prime minister of India and I sincerely hope that this meeting of minds between Europe and Asia will produce a solution to many global problems including the international financial crisis,” he said.

Indian foreign ministry officials pointed out that the summit was being held under special international circumstances. The three interwoven major challenges, including the turbulent international financial market, energy and climate change and food safety made the international situation even more “complicated”.

The possibility of Manmohan Singh attending the G-20 summit in Washington on Nov 15 to discuss the global economic turmoil makes the ASEM summit even more vital, foreign ministry sources said.

During his stay here, the prime minister is scheduled to have bilateral meetings with several heads of state including Mongolian President Nambaryn Enkhbayar, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, Italian Prime Minister Silvia Berlusconi and German chancellor Angela Merkel.

Heads of state and government of the 45-member ASEM will be welcomed by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, one of the truly grand modern structures in the capital, west of Tian’anmen Square. At least four closed plenary sessions have been planned during the summit.

Manmohan Singh is visiting China for the second time when his government has drawn closer to Japan and the US. He will be also holding bilateral talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao on the sidelines of the summit.

It was in the last ASEM Summit at Helsinki in 2006 that a decision was taken to induct India and Pakistan, among other countries, into the grouping.

Founded in 1996, ASEM’s members include China, Japan, South Korea, India, Mongolia, Pakistan, the 10 nations of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the ASEAN Secretariat, the 27 nations of the European Union and the European Commission.

“Fifty percent of India’s trade is with ASEM countries, so in that sense this meeting is important,” said a senior Indian foreign ministry functionary.

India, on its part, has been trying to get involved in pan-Asia networks and looking to shed its initial cautious approach. In this context, Manmohan Singh’s presence at the ASEM meeting is important.

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