India, Brunei to sign four pacts next week

May 16th, 2008 - 5:47 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of ISRO

New Delhi, May 16 (IANS) India is set to expand its economic and energy ties with the oil-rich Southeast Asian country of Brunei by signing four agreements when Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, one of the world’s longest serving monarchs, comes here next week. India and Brunei will sign a bilateral investment and protection agreement (BIPA) and a pact on trade and economic cooperation during the sultan’s visit, officials of the external affairs ministry said Friday.

Two memorandums of understandings (MoUs) on greater cooperation in information and communication technology (ICT), and culture, arts, mass media and sports will also be signed.

Accompanied by a large delegation that includes senior ministers, the sultan comes here May 20 on a four-day visit.

He will also go to Bangalore, where he will visit the Indian Space and Research Organisation (ISRO) and some IT establishments.

This will be the first visit by the sultan to India in over a decade.

The sultan will hold talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on a wide range of bilateral issues, including the intensification of economic and energy ties.

He will call on President Pratibha Patil and meet Vice President Hamid Ansari, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani.

Expanding energy ties between India and Brunei will top the agenda for talks between the two sides.

Brunei has been asking India to reduce oil and gas import duties as part of the proposed India-Asean free trade agreement. “This issue will be discussed between the two sides,” the source said.

Brunei, a country of nearly 400,000 people that became independent in 1984, has vast reserves of oil and gas. This accounts for one of the highest living standards in the world.

Bilateral trade between India and Brunei has more than doubled to $200 million in the last five years. Oil and gas account for over 80 percent of India’s imports from Brunei.

A member of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), Brunei has actively backed the inclusion of India as a full dialogue partner in the regional grouping.

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