PM leaves for Japan, China on Tuesday

October 20th, 2008 - 3:45 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 20 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh leaves on a two-nation tour Tuesday that will take him first to Japan on a bilateral visit and then China to attend the seventh Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit.During his trip to Japan, Manmohan Singh will hold talks with the country’s new Prime Minister Taro Aso on political and economic ties, including a free trade deal, with an aim to expand bilateral strategic relations.

The two sides may not be able to sign the Free Trade Area (FTA) pact, known in Japan as Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) as talks have been bogged down largely on how much to reduce tariffs and what goals to set on investment, said a foreign ministry official.

India and Japan will sign a joint statement and another pact on security issues.

The document on security issues will cover enhanced bilateral interaction between the armed forces of the two countries.

Japan, which has a well-developed civil nuclear industry, backed India in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), though reluctantly, due to strong domestic sensitivities on the issue

Singh will also meet Emperor Akihito during his three-day visit.

In the second leg of his five-day visit, Prime Minister Singh will be attending the ASEM summit in Beijing Oct 24-25, which is the first time that India has been invited into this grouping.

This will also be the first multilateral meeting that Manmohan Singh will be attending after the inking of India’s historic nuclear pacts with the US and France.

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

Founded in 1996, ASEM’s invitees 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.

The summit will focus on expanding dialogue and cooperation between Asia and Europe on a wide range of global issues ranging from terrorism and security issues to multilateral trade, climate change and nuclear non-proliferation.

Manmohan Singh will also be holding bilateral talks with China’s President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao on the sidelines of the ASEM summit, official sources said.

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