Ansari visiting Central Asia to build ties

April 2nd, 2008 - 9:40 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, April 2 (IANS) Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari embarks Friday on a weeklong official visit to Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan to strengthen India’s long-standing ties with the two oil-rich Central Asian republics. This will be the first visit abroad by Ansari, a former career diplomat, after he took office last year.

“The visit is reflective of the importance India attaches to the region, with which our ties are multi-faceted,” external affairs ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna told reporters Wednesday.

Ansari’s delegation-level discussions with the leaders of the two countries “will cover a slate of bilateral, regional and mutual issues on the world stage”, the spokesman added.

Asked if energy-related issues would figure during the talks, Sarna replied: “During the president or vice president’s visit, such issues are not discussed.”

A high-level delegation including Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed and MPs Vijay Kumar Pujari and Viplab Thakur will accompany Ansari.

In Turkmenistan, Ansari will hold talks with President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, who will host a banquet in the vice president’s honour.

Ansari, a former Indian ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia, will also visit Mary, Turkmenistan’s fourth-largest city, and a large industrial centre for natural gas and cotton industries, the nation’s two major export industries.

Ansari will be the most senior Indian leader to visit Turkmenistan in a decade. The trip will give India a sense of the currents of change sweeping the country following elections last year.

The country had retreated into isolation for two long decades under former ruler Saparmurat Niyazov, who had declared himself ‘president for life’.

In Kazakhstan, the vice president will meet Prime Minister Karim Massimov and hold restricted delegation-level talks with the chairman of the Senate, K. Tokayev.

A number of speaking engagements have been lined up for Ansari, including to the Kazakhstan University, which will confer an honorary doctorate on him. He will also address the Senate.

“The address to the senate is a unique honour accorded to the vice president,” spokesman Sarna said.

India’s diplomatic thrust in Central Asia got a boost after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Uzbekistan two years ago. India has set up a military base at Ayni in Tajikistan.

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