PM to visit Japan and China to boost ties (Lead)

October 20th, 2008 - 8:20 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 20 (IANS) Spurred by the fruition of the nuclear deal with the US, 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 the global economic meltdown and co-operation on political and security issues apart from declaring a host of economic agenda including an in-principle agreement of India-Japan comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA).

This is Prime Minister Singh’s second bilateral visit to Japan having visited the country first in Dec 2006.

“The strategic and global partnership between India and Japan provides both the vision for chartering the future course of relations and also a detailed action plan,” said foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon.

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.

Both leaders will also take stock of a few core sector projects such as dedicated freight corridor (DFC) of Indian Railways, and accord priority to a pact on security issues.

“Given the obvious complementarities that exist between the two Asian economies Japan’s interest in India is increasing due to a variety of reasons. India is the single largest recipient of Official Development Assistance and trade volumes are expected to reach $20 billion in 2010 from the present $15 billion,” said Menon.

Mukesh Ambani, chairman & managing director of Reliance Industries who is head of the Indo-Japan business forum will hold talks with corporates to explore more business opportunities and forge a stronger bond between the two nations.

Both Manmohan Singh and Taro Aso are also expected to discuss global warming where Japan may like India to endorse its proposal to have a framework by 2013.

Menon also pointed out that India was grateful to Japan, which has a well-developed civil nuclear industry, to have backed India in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and theNuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

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.

“Fifty per cent of India’s trade is with ASEM countries, so in that sense this meeting is important,” said secretary (east), N. Ravi.

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, food security 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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