Amid nuclear standoff, Pranab leaves for Egypt Tuesday

June 30th, 2008 - 6:10 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 30 (IANS) With the government readying for a parting of ways with the Left over the India-US nuclear deal, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee leaves for a two-day visit to Egypt Tuesday to hold wide ranging talks. Mukherjee will hold talks with his counterpart Ahmed Abul Gheit on global issues like the WTO negotiations, the UN reforms and the peace process in the Middle East as well as discuss a broad range of bilateral, regional and global issues, including the intensification of bilateral economic ties and cooperation.

Mukherjee’s talks with Gheit will also set the stage for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s trip to India later this year.

With political uncertainty intensifying, Mukherjee, the UPA’s chief mediator with the Left, has decided to make a brief trip to Cairo. He will return to the Indian capital Thursday.

The government is likely to take a crucial decision by the end of this week on whether to go ahead with the nuclear deal or put it on backburner due to political compulsions.

Mukherjee’s visit to Cairo comes at a time when top Indian companies like Essar, Reliance and the Tata group are readying for big investments in Egypt in sectors ranging from oil and gas to plastic and fertilisers.

Egypt’s strategic location that makes it a gateway to the 20-country Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), the 27-nation European Union and the Arab Free Trade Area has been a major magnet for globally ambitious Indian companies.

Bilateral trade between India and Egypt touched $2.2 billion in 2006, which is close to China’s nearly $3 billion trade with Egypt. The two countries are eyeing an ambitious target of achieving $10 billion bilateral trade by 2010.

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