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Uruguayan General named chief of UN Observer Mission in India and Pakistan

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed Major-General Raul Gloodtdofsky Fernandez of Uruguay as the Chief Military Observr and head of the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP).


Maj.-Gen. Gloodtdofsky, 58, will succeed Maj.-Gen. Kim Moon Hwa of South Korea, a UN press release said here on Friday.


Mr. Ban expressed his gratitude to Maj.-Gen. Kim, who completed his assignment on 27 November, for his exemplary and highly professional service in UNMOGIP over the past two years, it said.


The UN Secretary-General said Maj.-Gen. Gloodtdofsky brings extensive and wide-ranging experience, including significant command expertise and prior service in UN peacekeeping to his new position. He joined the Uruguayan army in 1972 and is currently a division commander.


Between September 2006 and November 2007, Maj.-Gen. Gloodtdofsky served as Deputy Force Commander of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti and, in 1991, as a Military Observer in UNMOGIP. He was also the Military Adviser of the Permanent Mission of Uruguay to the UN from 2001 to 2003.


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Russian President Medvedev to visit India from Dec 20-22: Kremlin

File photo of Russian President Dmitry A. Medvedev.
File photo of Russian President Dmitry A. Medvedev.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev will pay an official visit to India from December 20 to 22 for his his annual summit with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Kremlin press service reported today.

Russian Ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin told Itar-Tass, "The visit is expected to be unprecedentedly exhaustive and rich in results. The two sides are planning to sign more than 15 agreements on the results of the talks and on the sidelines of official ceremonies."

"The documents cover a wide range of Russian-Indian relations:

from peaceful nuclear power engineering to ties in the areas of

education and culture," Mr Kadakin said.

"The talks will focus on the strengthening of innovation cooperation where India has vast experience that might be useful for Russia’s programmes," he said.

Mr Kadakin called for closer cooperation between the two countries in

such areas as telecommunications, software, nanotechnology, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals as well as the creation of technology parks.

"It will serve as a basis for mutually beneficial cooperation

with India, our long and reliable friend, for years to come," he

stressed.

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Russia to supply 80 Mi-17V-5 choppers to India early 2011


India will receive the first batch of 80 Russian Mi-17V-5 military transport helicopters and spare parts from March next.


The delivery of the choppers, estimated to exceed $ 1.345 billion, is expected to be completed in 2015, Voice of Russia said.


The contract with Rosoboronexport state arms exporter was signed in December 2008.


India is planning to use the Russian helicopters to airlift troops and hardware, in search and rescue operations to evacuate the wounded and also for combat purposes.


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20 killed in fire in garment factory in Bangladesh


At least 20 workers, including four women, were killed and dozens suffered burn wounds in a devastating fire at a garment factory in Ashulia near the capital this afternoon.


Home Minister Sahara Khatun confirmed the death of 20 people in the fire at an impromptu press briefing at Ashulia this evening.


A five-member inquiry committee headed by Additional Secretary to the Home Ministry Iqbal Ahmed Chowdhury was formed, which would submit its findings within seven days.


The fire originated on the 10th floor of the 11-storeyed factory building at about 1315 hours local time. The cause of the fire could not be immediately ascertained.


Seventeen units of fire fighters rushed to spot and controlled the blaze after three hours.


Director General of Fire Brigade Brig Gen Abu Nayeem Mohammad Shahidullah said the fire broke out on the 10th floor of the building where finished products were stored.


The factory is owned by Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) President A K Azad.


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Top US diplomat Richard Holbrooke passes away

US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard C. Holbrooke
US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard C. Holbrooke

Richard C Holbrooke, the high-profile United States diplomat who as Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan coordinated his country's inter-agency effort to advance its strategic goals in one of the most volatile parts of the world, died in a hospital here on Monday evening.

"Ambassador Richard C Holbrooke passed away this evening, surrounded by his wife, his sons David and Anthony, his step-children Elizabeth and Chris Jennings, his daughter-in-law Sarah, and the rest of their family," a State Department statement said.

Mr Holbrooke, 69, was admitted to the George Washington University hospital here on Friday after taking ill suddenly in the State Department. On Saturday, doctors performed a marathon surgery to repair a tear in his aorta but he remained in critical condition. On Sunday, he underwent an additional procedure to improve his blood circulation.

US President Barack Obama had spoken to Mr Holbrooke's wife on Saturday. He described Mr Holbrooke as a towering figure in American foreign policy and a critical member of his Afghanistan and Pakistan team.

Among others, Mrs Holbrooke had received calls from Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari while he was in hospital.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US had lost one of its fiercest champions and most dedicated public servants who had represented his country in far-flung war zones and high-level peace talks with brilliance and unmatched determination.

"He was one of a kind -- a true statesman -- and that makes his passing all the more painful," she said in a statement.

"From his early days in Vietnam to his historic role bringing peace to the Balkans to his last mission in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard helped shape our history, manage our perilous present, and secure our future. He was the consummate diplomat, able to stare down dictators and stand up for America's interests and values even under the most difficult circumstances. He served at every level of the Foreign Service and beyond, helping mentor generations of talented officers and future ambassadors. Few people have ever left a larger mark on the State Department or our country. From Southeast Asia to post-Cold War Europe and around the globe, people have a better chance of a peaceful future because of Richard’s lifetime of service," Ms Clinton said.

"True to form, Richard was a fighter to the end. His doctors marveled at his strength and his willpower, but to his friends, that was just Richard being Richard," she added.

Mr Holbroooke was appointed as Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan on January 26, 2009.

Before that, he served as the US Ambassador to the United Nations, where he was also a member of President Bill Clinton's cabinet (1999-2001). As Assistant Secretary of State for Europe (1994-1996), he was the chief architect of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the war in Bosnia. He later served as President Clinton’s Special Envoy to Bosnia and Kosovo and Special Envoy to Cyprus on a pro-bono basis while a private citizen. From 1993-1994, he was the US. Ambassador to Germany.

During the Carter Administration (1977-1981), he served as the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, and was in charge of U.S. relations with China at the time Sino-American relations were normalized in December of 1978.

Mr Holbrooke had joined the US Foreign Service in 1962 and served in Vietnam in his early years and worked on Vietnam issues in the White House during President Lyndon Johnson's tenrure (1966-68).

He also served as Managing Editor of "Foreign Policy" (1972-77) and also pursued a career as an investment banker, holding senior positions at two Wall Street firms, Credit Suisse First Boston (Vice-Chairman) and Lehman Brothers (Managing Director).

He has written two books: "To End a War", a memoir of the Dayton negotiations, and co-author of "Counsel to President", Clark Clifford's memoirs. He also wrote a monthly column for the Washington Post for some time.

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2G logjam: PM says worried about future of Parliamentary system

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday broke his silence on the impasse caused by the Opposition's demand for a JPC probe into the alleged 2G spectrum allocation scam, saying it is "very sad that Parliament is not working" and that he is worried about the future of the Parliamentary system.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur being received at the Tegel Military Airport, in Berlin on December 11, 2010.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur being received at the Tegel Military Airport, in Berlin on December 11, 2010.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today broke his silence on the impasse caused by the Opposition's persistent demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the alleged 2G spectrum allocation scam, saying it is "very sad that Parliament is not working" and that he is worried about the future of the Parliamentary system.

Parliament has been deadlocked since the start of its Winter Session last month over the Opposition's unrelenting pressure on the Government on the issue and the ruling United Progressive Alliance's refusal to buckle under it, saying it is politically motivated.

In an informal chat with reporters on board his special Air India flight from Brussels to Berlin, the Prime Minister hoped reason would prevail on the Opposition in the matter. The session of Parliament is scheduled to last till December 13.

Asked when he would break his silence on the Parliament impasse over the Opposition's demand for a JPC probe into the 2G scam and other corruption cases, he said, ''In due course.''

After a long pause, he said: ''It's very sad that Parliament is not working. We have tried to repeatedly tell the Opposition that there is an existing mechanism which can do what a JPC can do.''

He was referring to Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) that is already examining the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) on the alleged irregularities in the 2G spectrum allocations.

In reply to a question as to what would happen if the logjam continued in the Budget Session, he said: ''I am worried about te future of the Parliamentary system and I hope reason shall prevail.''

On the Opposition creating a lot of noise that he left the country when so much is happening, the Prime Minister quipped: ''These engagements are prefixed. If we can't keep them, who will take us seriously?.....(pause)...In any case nothing much is happening (back home).''

The Prime Minister took the mediapersons accompanying him by surprise when he suddenly entered their section even as journalists had just started having their breakfast.

Accompanied only by his Media Adviser Harish Khare, Dr Singh walked through aisle greeting journalists with Mr Khare asking the mediapersons to remain seated. But when the Prime Minister was passing through the second aisle, some journalists left their breakfast midway and started asking questions and he replied while standing.

Dr Singh reached Berlin, for a summit meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel later in the day, amid rains and snowfall.

What began as a light drizzle since early this morning at Brussels, which he left at around 0930 hrs local time, had turned into sharp showers one-and-a-half hours later when he emerged from Air India's special flight at airport here.

The Prime Minister will be assisted in his talks with Ms Merkel by National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and other senior officials. He is due to leave for home late this evening.

NetIndian News Network adds from Delhi:

Dr Singh was in Brussels yesterday on the first leg of his three-day visit during which he attended the 11th India-European Summit and also held bilateral talks with Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meeting the Prime Minister of Belgium Yves Leterme, on the sidelines of India-EU Summit, in Brussels, Belgium on December 10, 2010.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meeting the Prime Minister of Belgium Yves Leterme, on the sidelines of India-EU Summit, in Brussels, Belgium on December 10, 2010.

Dr Singh was received on arrival at the Tegel Military Airport in Berlin by senior German and Indian officials.

The Prime Minister had, in a statement before leaving here on Friday, said that his discussions with Ms Merkel would, apart from bilateral issues, include a review of the major regional and global issues the world faced today.

"These include the situation in Afghanistan and climate change, as well as the state of the global economy and the role of the G-20 in the recovery process," he had said.

During his stay in Berlin, Dr Singh is also slated to meet German President Christian Wulff.

"Our engagement with Germany is strong and multi-faceted. I look forward to reviewing with Chancellor Merkel the developments in our bilateral cooperation in the areas of high technology, trade, investment, energy, education, vocational training, skills development and culture. I look forward to the opportunity of meeting the President of Germany, Mr. Christian Wulff.

Germany and India will serve together on the United Nations Security Council as non-permanent members during 2012-13," Dr Singh had said.

Ahead of Dr Singh's visit, Mr Vivek Katju, Secretary (West) in the Ministry of External Affairs, had told journalists on Tuesday that the strategic partnership forged between India and Germany in 2001 had strengthened the ties between the two countries.

Dr Singh last visited Germany for the G8+5 Summit at Heiligendamm in June 2007 and Ms Merkel had visited India in October, 2007.

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PM reaches Berlin for summit meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reached Berlin on Saturday for a summit meeting later in the day with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the second leg of a visit that had earlier taken him to Brussels, where he had attended the 11th India-European Summit on Friday.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reached Berlin today for a summit meeting later in the day with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the second leg of a three-day visit that had earlier taken him to Brussels, where he had attended the 11th India-European Summit yesterday.


Dr Singh was received on arrival at the Tegel Military Airport in Berlin by senior German and Indian officials.


The Prime Minister had, in a statement before leaving here on Friday, said that his discussions with Ms Merkel would, apart from bilateral issues, include a review of the major regional and global issues the world faced today.


"These include the situation in Afghanistan and climate change, as well as the state of the global economy and the role of the G-20 in the recovery process," he had said.


During his stay in Berlin, Dr Singh is also slated to meet German President Christian Wulff.


"Our engagement with Germany is strong and multi-faceted. I look forward to reviewing with Chancellor Merkel the developments in our bilateral cooperation in the areas of high technology, trade, investment, energy, education, vocational training, skills development and culture. I look forward to the opportunity of meeting the President of Germany, Mr. Christian Wulff.


Germany and India will serve together on the United Nations Security Council as non-permanent members during 2012-13," Dr Singh had said.


Ahead of Dr Singh's visit, Mr Vivek Katju, Secretary (West) in the Ministry of External Affairs, had told journalists on Tuesday that the strategic partnership forged between India and Germany in 2001 had strengthened the ties between the two countries.


Dr Singh last visited Germany for the G8+5 Summit at Heiligendamm in June 2007 and Ms Merkel had visited India in October, 2007.


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Top UN official says India-EU draft pact threat to generic medications

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to health, Mr. Anand Grover, has said that the India-European Union (EU) draft free trade agreement could prevent millions of people gaining access to necessary, life-saving and life-prolonging medicines.


India is currently the largest supplier of generic medicines to the developing world, but the free trade agreement (FTA) under negotiation between India and the EU threatens the production of generic medicines, a press release issued by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said.


"Millions in the developing world depend on India for generic medicines at affordable costs. Restriction of generic drug production in India will have a devastating public health impact around the world and adversely affect the right to health of millions of patients," it quoted Mr Grover as saying.


He said India’s ability to provide low-cost generic medicines is predominately due to its intellectual property laws—specifically, pre-TRIPS (Trade-related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) and presently TRIPS-compliant patent law—which allow for local generic production of safe and efficacious medicines. However, some aspects of the FTA currently in negotiation between India and the European Union threaten this system, he said.


Mr Grover said available leaked texts of the draft FTA contain provisions to protect and enforce intellectual property, which are beyond countries’ obligations under TRIPS.


"If the intellectual property provisions remain in the FTA as drafted, the production of generic medicines in India will be severely hampered. As a result, millions of people in India and around the world may not be able to access to necessary, life-saving and life-prolonging medicines. People living with HIV would be disproportionately affected, because the majority of antiretroviral treatments used to treat HIV around the world are provided through generic medicines produced in India," he said.


According to him, among the provisions which jeopardize medication supplies, data exclusivity provisions in the draft FTA are particularly concerning.


"Data exclusivity provisions prevent the drug regulatory authority of countries from relying on test data submitted by a first entrant to approve subsequent generic versions of the medicine for a specified time. The introduction of data exclusivity has been shown to delay and restrict market entry of generic medicines and, as a result, increase prices and reduce access to medicines," he said.


Mr Grover said that, alongside this, the draft FTA calls for stronger intellectual property enforcement provisions and border control measures. Border seizures of non-infringing goods in Europe over the past few years have demonstrated how such provisions have delayed access to medicines for patients in other developing countries, he said.


He said the draft FTA also contains "investment provisions" that would effectively result in States having to pay compensation for expropriation of property, where the State has made use of legal "TRIPS-flexibilities," such as compulsory licensing. Such provisions would obviously deter a State from using TRIPS-flexibilities to increase access to medicines, he said.


The UN official said that, though this agreement had taken shape over the course of many years, the process had suffered from lack of transparency and lack of consultation and participation.


"At no point has either party voluntarily opened negotiations to the public, or made available official draft texts for comment. This ignores the rights to information and to participation in the conduct of public affairs, which are essential dimensions of the right to health, as well as self-standing rights," he said.


He said the United Nations Committee on Economic, Cultural, and Social Rights had also noted that State parties must respect the enjoyment of the right to health in other countries, and take steps to ensure that international agreements did not infringe or adversely impact upon the right to health.


"The EU-India draft FTA, as it stands, places trade interests over human rights and, in effect, may not be in compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and other international instruments concerning the right to health. Provisions pertaining to intellectual property in the draft FTA should be urgently reconsidered," he added.


Mr Grover was appointed the Special Rapporteur on the right to everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health in August 2008 by the United Nations Human Rights Council. He is independent from any government or organization.


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Medvedev to stand for 2012 presidential election : Top Kremlin official


A top Kremlin official today said Russian President Dmitry Medvedev intends to seek re-election in the 2012 presidential poll.


"I think it will be clear to anyone who looks carefully at what Dmitry Medvedev is doing, that he wants to stay on for a second term," Russian presidential aide Arkady Dvorkovich told the BBC Russian service in an interview.


Mr Dvorkovich said Medvedev is not acting like a President who was getting to leave office after his term ends in 2012. He added the issue will be jointly discussed between current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Mr Medvedev who have "constructive and friendly" relations.


After holding the presidential post for two terms from 2000- 2008, Putin, 58, picked Medvedev, 45, as his successor and took the position of Prime Minister for himself.


The two leaders earlier said that they will make the decision on who will run for the election closer to the vote.


Mr Putin also said he and Mr Medvedev were people from "one party" and pledged there would be no "shocks" at the 2012 presidential elections.


The one who wins the presidential election will serve for six years instead of four years in line with a law signed by President Medvedev in December 2008.


In November, the approval ratings of Mr Medvedev and Mr Putin were almost even for the first time in history, according to a survey conducted by the Levada Center.


Mr Medvedev, who has faced criticism for being "all talk and no action," showed off his presidential powers in late September by sacking long-standing Mayor Yury Luzhkov after the two had a series of disagreements.


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India signals support for EU waiver request to help Pakistan


India today signaled its support for a waiver the European Union(EU) is seeking from the World Trade Organisation (WTO)to help flood-hit Pakistan by allowing it to export free of duty goods worth $ 900 million to the 27-nation group.


European Council officials are in touch with Indian officials and the issue would be resolved satisfactorily, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in reply to a question by a European journalist at a


a press conference he addressed jointly with EC president Herman Va Rompuy after the 11th India-EU Summit here today.


"We support all international efforts to provide succour to victims of floods in Pakistan," Dr Singh said.


India had increased its $ 5 million assistance to $ 25 million to help those affected by the July-August floods in Pakistan.


The EU is committed to help Pakistan for its stability and had lodged a request for a waiver with the global trade body, Mr Rompuy said.


The EU has sought waiver from WTO to import duty free goods worth $ 900 million from Pakistan for two years beginning January 2011. These include textiles and such duty-free imports will make Indian exports of garments to EU countries uncompetitive at a time when India is just recovering from an export slump in the wake of the global meltdown in 2007-08.


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Indian Navy ship disables dhow with 31 pirates in Gulf of Aden

An Indian Naval ship intercepted and disabled a dhow with 31 pirates in the Gulf of Aden, 166 kms south of Yemen on Wednesday, an official press release said here today.


The release said INS Investigator was on transit through the Gulf of Aden when a distress call was received from MV Naftocement 18, reporting a dhow attempting to close the ship.


INS Investigator took swift action to close the dhow and launch a boarding party. Investigations revealed six skiffs with six Out Board Motors (OBMs), one AK-47 with magazine and ammunition box, gas cylinders, fuel and fresh water drums on board the dhow. All equipment was rendered unavailable and the dhow disabled from launching possible piracy missions, the release said.

At the same time, INS Gomati deployed in the Gulf of Aden for anti-piracy escort duties, was escorting other Merchant Vessels 110 km east of the incident.

This incident marked the 26th instance of successful disruption of piracy attempts by the Indian Navy since the anti-piracy operations were commenced by the Indian Navy in October, 2008, the release added.


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India, EU agree to enhance cooperation in counter-terrorism

India and the European Union today agreed to enhance their cooperation in the area of counter-terrorism and discussed opportunities for working more closely together in the political and security spheres.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy and the President of European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, during the India-EU Summit, in Brussels, Belgium on December 10, 2010.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy and the President of European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, during the India-EU Summit, in Brussels, Belgium on December 10, 2010.

India and the European Union today agreed to enhance their cooperation in the area of counter-terrorism and discussed opportunities for working more closely together in the political and security spheres.


They also felt that there was, in addition, scope for working together in combatting non-traditional threats to security such as piracy.


"We have had extremely productive and useful discussions today," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told mediapersons at a joint press interaction with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission Presidet Jose Manuel Barroso after the 11th India-EU Summit in Brussels today.


At the end of the Summit, two sides issued a Joint statement as well as a Joint Declaration on Terrorism and another on Culture.


Dr Singh said the meeting reviewed the progress that had been made in the implementation of the Joint Action Plan, which is the template of their cooperation.


He said agreements on cooperation on peaceful uses of nuclear energy and maritime transport were under negotiation between the two sides.


He also said that the two sideshad done commendable work in negotiations of an India-EU Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement.


"We are at the last stages of this complex exercise. We have directed our officials to redouble their efforts to reach a conclusion by the spring of 2011. Finalisation of a balanced Agreement will bring enormous benefits to both sides," he said.


The Prime Minister said India and Europe should take the lead in avoiding protectionist trends, keeping their markets open and encouraging the free flow and movement of people.


He said he had conveyed to the European leadership the vast opportunities that existed for European investment in India in the areas of infrastructure, high technology, research and development, clean energy and innovation.


"We are particularly keen to benefit from Europe’s experience in the area of skill development, vocational training and small and medium enterprises," he said.


Dr Singh said Europe had been a locomotive of the world’s economy and India, like the rest of the world, had a vital stake in Europe’s return to robust growth, innovation and the pre-crisis levels of high employment.


"As a member of the Group of 20, India will consult closely with the European Union and individual member States to ensure a balanced and sustained global economic recovery process," he said.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attends the India-EU Summit, in Brussels, Belgium on December 10, 2010.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attends the India-EU Summit, in Brussels, Belgium on December 10, 2010.

He said the two sides exchanged views on the situation in India's neighbourhood and developments in Europe.


"We were united in our view that the success of the international community’s efforts in Afghanistan was critical for the people of Afghanistan as well as for the stability and security of India and Europe," he said.


The Prime Minister said the meeting also discussed other global issues like sustainable development, climate change, reform of institutions of global governance including the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and disarmament and non-proliferation.


Today's meeting was the first India-EU Summit since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty.


Dr Singh said India greatly valued its relations with the European Union and saw it as a key strategic partner in meeting the country's development needs.


"We welcome the enhanced role of the European Union on the world stage consequent to the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty. A strong and prosperous Europe, with whom India shares common values of democracy, pluralism and respect for human rights, is essential for stability and balance in the international order," he said.


He said that, over the years, the partnership between India and the European Union had matured tremendously and, today, covered the entire gamut of areas ranging from the political and security to education and science. "Its significance transcends the purely bilateral," he said.


"I am fully satisfied with my talks today. They give me confidence that we are on the right track. Our partnership with the European Union is poised for further expansion, and we will work with the EU towards world peace, stability and prosperity," Dr Singh added.


In their Joint Declaration on International Terrorism, the two sides acknowledged terrorism was one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.


The declaration said the EU and India stood united in combating combating threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts and condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, committed by whomever, wherever and for whatever purpose.


They also denounced those who sponsor, abet and instigate terrorism and provide terrorists safe havens and underlined that cooperation in combating international terrorism, including cross border terrorism, was one of the key political priorities in the India-EU strategic partnership.


The two sides reaffirmed their conviction that the proposed Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism should become a vital component of the international legal framework against terrorism, and to intensify efforts to bring negotiations to a successful conclusion.


As part of their cooperation in this area, the two sides decided to continue to discuss counter-terrorism cooperation at high level meetings within their security dialogue and encourage all countries to deny safe haven to terrorists and to dismantle terror infrastructure on the territories under their control.


They also discussed cooperation in the areas of law enforcement and police; research, technology and cyber security; transport, aviation and border security; consequence management; and cooperation in the multilateral system, including the UN.


The Joint Statement issued by the two sides said the leaders reaffirmed their commitment to cooperation in the areas of energy, clean development and climate change. They expressed satisfaction with recent progress in negotiations on a maritime transport agreement. They also called for the early implementation of the civil aviation agreement.


In the field of space, the leaders acknowledged the active cooperation pursued by space agencies and industries of the two sides for developing, launching and operating Earth Observation and Communication Satellites through appropriate bilateral relations. The leaders welcomed the recent formation of ISO-ESA Joint Working Group on Earth Observation to concretize the cooperation areas.


They committed to a swift finalisation of the agreement on satellite navigation initialled in 2005 and earnestly work toward a technical agreement on the use of the frequency spectrum.

Recognising the important implications of the movement of people for India and EU, they agreed to explore initiatives that could lead to a regular, comprehensive and structured dialogue on migration issues, with a view to deepening cooperation in this field.


The EU and India reiterated their common interest in a stable, peaceful and inclusive Afghanistan free from terrorism, as well as their support to the Kabul Process building upon broad international partnership towards further Afghan responsibility and ownership in security, governance and development. They also underlined the need for more effective regional cooperation for the stabilisation of Afghanistan and expressed their continued commitment to an ongoing dialogue to this end. The leaders agreed that terrorism must be combated firmly and expressed concern at the continuing existence of safe havens, including in the cross border dimension.


They acknowledged their respective humanitarian assistance to Pakistan, voiced a shared hope for a speedy recovery, and emphasised that a democratic and prosperous Pakistan was in the interest of the entire region. They called upon Pakistan to expeditiously bring all the perpetrators, authors and accomplices of the Mumbai attacks to justice.


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PM reaches Brussels, will seek to deepen India's political, strategic cooperation with EU

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived at BRUMIL Military Airport, Brussels, to attend the India-EU Summit, in Belgium on December 09, 2010.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived at BRUMIL Military Airport, Brussels, to attend the India-EU Summit, in Belgium on December 09, 2010.

Prime Minister Mamohan Singh reached Brussels tonight to attend the 11th India-EU Smmmit tomorrow when he will seek to deepen India's political and strategic cooperation with the EU, including in areas such as counter-terrorism and other non-traditional threats to security.

Dr Singh and Mrs Gursharan Kaur were received by senior EU, Belgian and Indian officials on his arrival at the BRUMIL Military Airport in Brussels.

In a statement ahead of the three-day visit that will also take him to Berlin for a summit meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday, Dr Singh said that, apart from bilateral relations, his discussions in both Belgium and Germany would also include a review of the major regional and global issues the world faced today.

"These include the situation in Afghanistan and climate change, as well as the state of the global economy and the role of the G-20 in the recovery process," he said.

In Brussels, Dr Singh will also have a bilateral summit meeting with Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme. In Berlin, he is also slated to meet German President Christian Wulff.

The India-EU Summit will be jointly hosted by the President of the European Council, Mr. Herman Van Rompuy, and the President of the European Commission, Mr. Jose Manuel Barroso.

"India and the European Union have a Strategic Partnership, with Annual Summits and a Joint Action Plan reflecting the intensity and breadth of our interaction," Dr Singh said.

He said India's partnership with the EU had evolved from economic and development cooperation to a broader strategic engagement.

"This will be the first India-EU Summit since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty of the European Union which recast its structures for strengthening the European Union’s external relations. India welcomes the enhanced role that the European Union seeks to play in global affairs pursuant to this Treaty," he said.

The Prime Minister said India and the EU shared common values of democracy, pluralism, tolerance, the rule of law, respect for fundamental human rights, freedom of the press and independence of the judiciary.

"There is a high degree of convergence of our views on global issues. I will seek to deepen our political and strategic cooperation, including in the area of counter terrorism and other non-traditional threats to security," he said.

He noted that the EU was India’s largest trading partner and a significant source of investment and technology.

"It is also increasingly a destination for Indian investment. Negotiations on a Broad Based Trade and Investment Agreement are underway, and we hope to review the progress of the negotiations during the Summit," he said.

Referring to his summit meeting with Mr Leterme, Dr Singh said Belgium was a key partner for India in Europe and had been supportive of India on issues of importance to Delhi. He said his discusions with Mr Leterme would explore ways of diversifying the trade basket and promoting cooperation in high-technology sectors.

"Our engagement with Germany is strong and multi-faceted. I look forward to reviewing with Chancellor Merkel the developments in our bilateral cooperation in the areas of high technology, trade, investment, energy, education, vocational training, skills development and culture. I look forward to the opportunity of meeting the President of Germany, Mr. Christian Wulff. Germany and India will serve together on the United Nations Security Council as non-permanent members during 2012-13," he added.

Ahead of Dr Singh's visit, Mr Vivek Katju, Secretary (West) in the Ministry of External Affairs, had told journalists on Tuesday that the India-EU engagement was rooted in the shared values of democracy, the rule of law and respect for fundamental rights and civil liberties.

"These values and commitments are reflected in the India-EU interaction at different levels, including governmental, institutional and people to people. India-EU relations cover political, economic, commercial, cultural, educational, science & technology, transportation, energy among other areas," he said.

He said the relationship had expanded significantly over the years and especially since the First India-EU Summit which was held in Lisbon in 2000. At that Summit, a decision was taken to hold annual Summits.

He recalled that India and the EU had decided to elevate their relationship to the level of strategic partnership at the Fifth Summit in 2004. A Joint Action Plan, setting out a road map for India-EU interaction and diverse sectors, was adopted at the Sixth Summit in 2005.

Mr Katju said the EU was an important trading partner of India and also a significant source of investment.

The bilateral trade in goods in 2009 was €53 billion in value while services traded in the same year at €16.3 billion. The two sides have been in discussion to conclude a Broad-Based Trade and Investment agreement. Negotiations are progressing well and the two sides are hopeful of concluding the agreement in early 2011.

An India-EU Business Summit will be held on the margins of the Summit on the theme "EU-India Partnership Opportunities for Sustainable Development". It would have two sessions on "Clean Technologies in Energy" and "Transport and Infrastructure" and a CEO Round Table on "Growth and Partnership Opportunities".

A Joint Declaration on culture is expected to be signed between the Department of Culture and the EU Commission.

India and Belgium have cordial and friendly relations, and they have had regular interaction at the highest levels. The King of Belgium visited India in November 2008. The Crown Prince of Belgium has visited India four times, most recently in March 2010 leading a large business delegation. Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt had visited India in November 2006. During his visit to Brussels to attend the ASEM Summit in October 2010, the Vice President of India had a bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister of Belgium.

Mr Katju said bilateral trade turnover was about $ 7 billion, of which 75% is in diamonds. He said there was potential for diversification of trade, cooperation in the field of transport, and in steel, bio-technology and pharmaceuticals, aeronautics, science and technology and automotive parts. He said there was also potential to develop investment in areas such as energy, ports, construction, banking and finance, solar energy and bio-technology.

He pointed out that the strategic partnership forged between India and Germany in 2001 had strengthened the ties between the two countries. Dr Singh last visited Germany for the G8+5 Summit at Heiligendamm in June 2007 and Ms Merkel had visited India in October, 2007.

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19 killed, over 200 injured in train accident in Bangladesh


At least 19 people were killed and more than 200 injured in a major train accident in Bangladesh’s eastern district of Narsindi this afternoon.


Police said station masters on duty were not present at the station at the time of the head-on collision between two expresss passenger trains at Narsingdi station, about 45 km from capital Dhaka.


Local people feared the casualty figure could go up. They said five to six compartments were seriously damaged.


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Indian American engineers and architects meet in NY


About 800 people attended the 30th annual gala of the Society of Indian American Engineers and Architects (SIAEA), under the theme of "Helping Rebuild America" here recently.


Society President Ravi Shenoy said his organisation was participating in an exhibition titled "Jugaad Urbanism". The exhibition, being held in cooperation with the Center for Architecture, is scheduled for February to May 2011 to create strategies for major Indian cities to ease congestion.


He explained to the audience the society's plans to encourage younger members don more responsible roles.


Founded about three decades ago as a non-profit body with a few dozen engineers, the society currently has some 700 members in New York and its neighbouring states. It holds grass-roots meetings, supports students in the field, holds seminars and participates in the annual India Day parade.


The members have traditionally been construction engineers, but in recent years the society has begun diversifying itself by attracting other types of engineers. Among other things, it seeks the reservation of 15 per cent of government contracts to minority women business owners.


Chief guest John C Liu, the comptroller of New York City, laid stress on improving infrastructure and praised the Indian-American community's contribution to the sector. He unveiled a colourful souvenir on the occasion. Among the other dignitaries present was Consul General of India Prabhu Dayal.


Nine people were honoured for their achievements in the field at the recent gala. They were Uday Durg, of MTA Capital Construction; Rajnikant Doshi, of CEC Engineers; Mahesh Hemrajani, of Structuretone Inc; Pradip Mehta, of College of Schedulung; Nandini Phookan, of Phookan Architects; Sunil Saigal, of New Jersey Institute of Technology; Varun Kohli, of Merge Studio; Ekta Naik, from the Town of Babylon and Shankar Arumugavelu, of Verizon Communications.


Ten talented students were given scholarships each valued at $ 2000.


"Dharavi for Sale," an 80-minute documentary on the Mumbai slum that formed part of the exhibition, was also shown earlier.


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2 killed as plane skids off runway at Moscow airport


At least two people were killed when a Dagestan Airlines plane skidded off the runway during an emergency landing at Moscow's Domodedovo airport today.


"At least two people were killed. A team from the investigative department has gone to the scene of the accident,'' a spokesman for the transport investigations department told RIA Novosti news agency.


Earlier, the Emergencies Ministry reported that one person had died.


The airport officials said 155 people were on board the Tu-154 aircraft. It made the emergency landing after taking off on a flight to southern Russia.


The first engine failed when the plane was climbing after take-off, the second failed during the flight and the third cut out during the emergency landing itself, according to RIA Novosti.


The cause of the engine failure is under investigation.


Nearly two dozen ambulances were on their way to the accident site, Interfax news agency said.


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India, EU review economic engagement at talks in Brussels

Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma with EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht in Brussels on November 29, 2010.
Union Minister for Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma with EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht in Brussels on November 29, 2010.

Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma reviewed the economic engagement between India and the European Union (EU) at a meeting in Brussels today with EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht.

An official press release said here that the meeting took stock of the progress of the broad-based India-EU Trade and Investment negotiations.

Both Ministers expressed satisfaction about the status of the talks and agreed on a roadmap that will enable early conclusion of the negotiations.

A joint Ministerial statement will be presented to the leaders at the India-EU Summit to be held in Brussels on December 10, 2010.

Mr Sharma said the early conclusion of the negotations would bring gains for both sides while Mr Gucht said the agreement would send a strong message to the global community and give an impetus to the Doha round of World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The EU is India’s largest trading partner, with bilateral trade touching $ 70 billion last year and a conclusion of this agreement will catalyze greater trade and investment flows, the release said.

Mr Sharma said there had been a considerable enhancement in India’s investments in EU and at the same time the Indian economy was ready to absorb much greater investment flows from Europe in all areas, including infrastructure, energy, renewables and manufacturing.

The Indian Minister pointed out that consignments of Indian generics transiting through Europe had faced difficulties in the past in the context of seizures by EU authorities. The EU Trade Commissioner assured Mr Sharma that a solution would be found to the satisfaction of India, and the required statutory changes in European regulations would be made, the release added.

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Krishna launches works for reconstruction of railway lines in Sri Lanka

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna today formally inaugurated the works for the reconstruction of the North Railway lines at Medawachchiya in Sri Lanka and assured the island nation that India was committed to further enrichment of bilateral ties.


Mr Krishna also said India was committed to working with the Sri Lankan Government towards the consolidation of peace, prosperity and development in the country.


On the third day of a four-day visit to Sri Lanka, Mr Krishna also inaugurated the Consulate General of India in Jaffna.


Speaking at Medawachchiya, the Minister said the development partnership between India and Sri Lanka had expanded significantly following the end of armed conflict in the country last year.


He said India was currently helping the reconstruction efforts in Northern and Eastern Sri Lanka, complementing the efforts of the Sri Lanka Government.


He said the Government of India had pledged a line of credit of $ 800 million at significantly concessional rates for various aspecs of the Northern Railway project, including reconstruction of railway lines, installation of signalling and telecom systems and the procurement of rolling stock.


He noted that the public sector IRCON, which launched works today on the Medawachchiya-Madhu line, was already working on the rehabilitation of the Southern Railway, which is also being financed through an Indian line of credit.


He noted that the work on Phase 1 of the project in the Galle-Matara Section was progressing well and was likely to be completed by December 2010.


He said work would also begin simultaneously on the Madhu-Talaimannar and Omanthai-Pallai railway lines. In this context, he recognized the efforts put in by the demining teams from India to clear the project area of mines.


Mr Krishna said that, as a part of these works, a new pier at Talaimannar would also be built. In order to enable resumption of ferry services between Talaimannar and Rameswaram at an early date, IRCON will also build a temporary jetty at Talaimannar.


"The reconstruction of transport-related infrastructure would restore normal life, generate and support livelihood-related activities and also assist in restoring connectivity, not only within the Northern Province, but also with the rest of the country, thus promoting integration and reconciliation," he said.


Speaking at the inauguration of the consulate, Mr Krishna said India's relations with Sri Lanka would be incomplete without highlighting the special relationship that existed between the people of the Northern Province in general, the Jaffna Peninsula in particular and those of southern India.


"There must be several in this audience who would have seen the days when there was a direct flight from Palaly to Trichy and a ferry service from Talaimannar to Rameswaram. It is possible that some among you may even have gone off to Chennai – Madras as it was called – only to catch a movie. It’s time to revive those links," he said.


Mr Krishna also flagged off, through a ground-breaking ceremony, the pilot project for the Government of India-aided housing project under which 50,000 houses will be built in Northern and Eastern Sri Lanka.


He said that, earlier this month, India had also begun the process of donating seeds as well as five hundred tractors, with their associated tools and implements, for distribution to agrarian service centres in the Northern Province.


"We will stay engaged to revive the livelihood of those in the Northern Province and help people rebuild their lives," he said.


The Minister said that, to ensure that the cultural heights of Jaffna were revived, the Consulate General of India would assist in setting up the Jaffna Cultural Centre and restore the Duriappa stadium. India is also undertaking the restoration of the Thiruketeeswaram temple in Mannar.


Mr Krishna said India was convinced that a meaningful devolution package, building upon the 13th Amendment, would create the necessary conditions for a lasting political settlement in the island nation.


"We hope that this process of dialogue and discussion would start soon with the participation of all communities. The ultimate goal is to live in dignity and peace," he added.


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India, Sri Lanka say bilateral ties poised to develop further in all-round manner

External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna with President of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa at Colombo on November 26, 2010.
External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna with President of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa at Colombo on November 26, 2010.

India and Sri Lanka today agreed that, with the end of armed conflict in the island nation, bilateral relations between the two countries were poised to develop further in an all-round manner.

A statement issued by the two countries after the 7th session of the India-Sri Lanka Joint Commission in Colombo today said the two sides, in particular, reiterated the need to substantially enhance the range and depth of the bilateral relationship greater economic integration to achieve the shared goals of alleviating poverty, creating wealth and bringing about progress and prosperity for the people of the two countries.

The meeting was co-chaired by External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and his Sri Lankan counterpart G L Peiris.

"With the tone that has been set in my discussions today, I have no doubt that India-Sri Lanka relations are poised to fully take advantage of the opportunities open before us," Mr Krishna told mediapersons after the meeting.

He said that his discussions with Mr Peiris were very useful and productive, covering all areas of bilateral relevance, including trade, services and investment, development cooperation, science and technology, culture and education.

"The sheer breadth of our engagement today, as is reflected in the Joint Commission discussions, is testimony to the fact that our relations have greatly diversified with the passage of time," he said.

Mr Krishna said the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Colombo in 2008 and of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to Delhi in June and October this year had given bilateral relations a fillip.

The Minister called on Mr Rajapaksa today and the two leaders witnessed the signing of the credit agreeet for $ 41639 million for the Northern Railway construction project. He announced work on the Northern Railway Line would commence soon, with the foundation stone laying ceremony slated for tomorrow.

External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna addressing the media at Colombo November 26, 2010.
External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna addressing the media at Colombo November 26, 2010.

Mr Krishna and Mr Peiris also witnessed the exchange of Instruments of Ratification of the Agreement on Transfer of Sentenced Prisoners and of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty. This brings into effect these two important agreements between the two countries.

Mr Krishna said that, to build on the vibrant and multi-faceted partnership between the two countries, it was important for them to leverage their common strategic interests, further enhance connectivity and economic engagement, and promote people-to-people contacts.

He said the opening of Indian consulates in Hambantota today and Jaffna tomorrow was a significant milestone in this quest. He said the two sides also expected to resume ferry services between Colombo and Tuticorin and Talaimannar and Rameswaram soon, an agreement on which has been finalized.

Mr Krishna said the project for the construction of 50,000 houses for IDPs in the Northern and Eastern Provinces and also for estate workers in the Central Provinces would be an enduring symbol of India-Sri Lanka partnership.

The Exchange of Letters on the pilot phase of this project took place in the presence of Mr Rajapaksa today. The project will formally commence tomorrow through a ground-breaking ceremony in Jaffna.

Mr Krishna said the cessation of hostilities in Sri Lanka in May last year provided a historic opportunity to address all outstanding issues related to rehabilitation as well as a political settlement in a spirit of understanding and mutual accommodation.

"It is our hope that a structured dialogue mechanism to work towards this end will be launched soon. We have been assured that it is the intention of the Sri Lankan Government to resettle the Internally Displaced Persons by the end of this year," he said.

Mr Krishna said he emphasised on the need to adhere to the October 2008 understanding on fishing arrangements arrived at between the two countries, which has had a salutary effect on the incidence of fishermen’s arrests and on their safety. The two sides agreed that the joint Working Group on Fishing should meet soon.

The agreed minutes of the Joint Commission meeting said the discussions were marked by friendship, mutual respect and understanding.

On the economic front, the meeting noted that bilateral trade, despite the downturn in 2009 as a result of the global economic slowdown, had shown a healthy recovery in 2010. The two sides reviewed investment proposals being considered by companies in both countries and expressed satisfaction at the growing interest of Indian and Sri Lankan companies to invest further in each other's markets. In this context, the two sides agreed to cooperate closely to nurture a favourable environment to forge closer economic and trade linkages.

The Joint Commission noted the significant progress achieved under the India-Sri Lanka Free Trade Agreement (ISLFTA). It reaffirmed the understanding contained in the bilateral Joint Declaration of June 9, 2010 that it would be timely to build on this achievement through a more comprehensive framework of economic cooperation best suited to the two countries.

In this context, it expressed satisfaction with the recent discussions between the officials of the Departments of Commerce of the two countries. The Joint Commission also took note of the stakeholders’ consultations carried out by the Sri Lankan side on the draft framework text of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).

It welcomed also the agreement between the officials of the Departments of Commerce of the two countries following their recent talks that, in keeping with the instructions of their respective leaders to hold intensive consultations towards a more comprehensive framework for economic cooperation, a delegation from the Ministry of Commerce and Industry of India would visit Sri Lanka on mutually convenient dates in December 2010 to resume discussions on such a framework from where they had been left in July 2008.

The Joint Commission reviewed the utilization of the existing Lines of Credit (LOC) offered by India to Sri Lanka, especially those pertaining to the rehabilitation of the Southern Railway corridor ($ 167.4 million). The two sides also reviewed the status of the LOC for Northern Railway Reconstruction and the LOC of $200 million offered by India for the construction of a jetty at Sampur and of a transmission line from Sampur to Habarana, and financial support for equity contribution of the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) for setting up the joint venture with India's NTPC to develop a coal power plant at Sampur.

The Joint Commission reviewed progress on the Northern Railway projects being implemented by IRCON. It expressed satisfaction that contracts for Omanthai-Pallai, Madu Road-Talaimannar and Medawachchiya-Madu Road had been signed.

The meeting took note of the finalization of the negotiations pertaining to the agreement on signaling and telecommunication and agreed that the contract for the Pallai-KKS line, to be implemented jointly by IRCON and Sri Lanka Railway, would be concluded soon. The Joint Commission noted that the procurement of rolling stock from India would take place in a phased manner. Both Ministers expressed their satisfaction at the progress of work on the Colombo-Matara railway line being constructed with Indian assistance.

The Joint Commission also discussed cooperation in areas such as tourism, civil aviation, development, agriculture, energy, ferry services, health, fishing, education, culture and science and technology.

Both sides welcomed the ongoing and close cooperation between the two countries in the field of defence and security, the resumption of high level contacts between the defence forces of the two sides and the planned interactions on an annual defence dialogue.

The Joint Commission agreed that while the respective claims of the two countries with regard to the delimitation of their continental shelf margin had been submitted to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, bilateral discussions to come to a mutually acceptable and beneficial settlement would be useful. They agreed to convene a meeting of their respective officials in this regard at an early date.
The Joint Commission agreed that Indian companies would be encouraged to participate actively in future oil and gas exploration activities in Sri Lanka, including in the Cauvery and Mannar basins. With regard to the proposal to establish a joint information exchange mechanism on the possibility of oil and gas fields straddling the India Sri Lanka Maritime Boundary, the Indian side assured the Sri Lankan side that the proposal was receiving the Government of India's attention. It was agreed to hold discussions on this subject at the earliest possible.

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GMR Group takes over operations of Male International Airport


GMR Malé International Airport Private Limited (GMIAL), a subsidiary of GMR Infrastructure Limited (GIL), has achieved financial closure for the project to modernize, expand and operate the Malé International Airport in the Maldives.


On June 24 this year, the consortium led by GIL with Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad (MAHB) had won the concession for the Malé Airport for a period of 25 years. GMIAL is the special purpose vehicle formed in Maldives pursuant to the concession in which the stake of GIL and MAHB is 77% and 23% respectively, a press release from GMR said here today.


The total cost of the modernization and expansion project, estimated at $ 511 million, is being funded through a combination of debt and equity in the ratio of 70:30. The debt component of $ 358 million has been tied up with Axis Bank Ltd., Singapore Branch, who is acting as the Sole Underwriter and Mandated Lead Arranger for the entire debt facility.


The debt has a door to door tenure of 12 years with ballooning repayment over 7 years commencing from June 2015. Axis Bank is also acting as Security Trustee and Facility Agent whereas State Bank of India, Maldives Branch is acting as Account Bank for the debt facility.


At an official ceremony held today at Hulhulé Island, the aerodrome license was handed over by Chairman of Malé Airports Company Limited, Mr Ibrahim Saleem to Mr. Kiran Kumar Grandhi, Business Chairman, Airports, GMR Group.


Maldives President Mahamod Nasheed and his cabinet ministers were among those who attended the ceremony.


Starting today, GMR and MAHB will operate the Malé International Airport, four months ahead of schedule, the release said.


Malé International Airport is the gateway to the idyllic and enchanting Maldives and is one of the fastest growing airports in the region. Situated on Hulhulé Island, it is the largest airport in the archipelago, located in the capital city of Male.


The traffic at the Malé Airport in the year 2009 was 2.6 Million passengers with traffic growth in first half of 2010 clocking over 20% on YoY basis.


With Malé, the GMR Group now has four operational airports. The others are Delhi, Hyderabad and Istanbul (Turkey).


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ICCR to set up Chair of India Studies at Ryukoku University in Japan

The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and the Ryukoku University at Kyoto in Japan have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for establishment of a Short-Term Chair of India Studies at the university.


The MoU was signed by Indian Ambassador to Japan Hemant Krishan Singh and Prof Dosho Wakahara, President of the Ryukoku University.


An official press release said that, under the terms of the agreement, ICCR, in consultation with the Ryukoku University, shall appoint an Indian academician who would be visiting the University for a period of one semester during each academic year. The academician would deliver lectures on Indian Philosophy/Literature/History and Buddhist Studies and would contribute to the academic life of the University by engaging in teaching and research in his/her respective specialization, it said.


The Chair would commence from the academic year 2011 and the MoU would remain valid for three years till 2014, the release said.


This Chair would be ICCR’s second Chair in Japan. The first Chair on Indian Studies was set up at the University of Tokyo on September 25, 2009 and the Chair commenced in April 2010.


The establishment of this Chair is another major step in propagation of India-related studies in Japan and thereby fulfilling ICCR’s mandate of fostering and strengthening academic and cultural bonds and towards enhancing knowledge and awareness about India, the release added.


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India, Oman review bilateral relations

Minister of State for Corporate Affairs and Minority Affairs Salman Khurshid meeting the Special Adviser to the Sultan of Oman for External Liaison, Dr. Omar bin Abdul Munim Al Zawawi, in Oman on November 23, 2010.
Minister of State for Corporate Affairs and Minority Affairs Salman Khurshid meeting the Special Adviser to the Sultan of Oman for External Liaison, Dr. Omar bin Abdul Munim Al Zawawi, in Oman on November 23, 2010.

India and Oman reviewed the entire gamut of their bilateral relations during a series of meetings that Minister of State for Corporate Affairs and Minority Affairs Salman Khurshid had with the top leaders of the Sultanate this week.

Mr Khurshid was in the Gulf state from November 21-23 as the Prime Minister's Special Envoy to convey greetings from India on the 40th Anniversary of the Renaissance of Oman. The visit coincided with the 55th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

During his audience with Sultan Qaboos bin Said, Mr Khurshid conveyed warm greetings and felicitations on behalf of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the people of India.

He called on Oman's Minister of Commerce and Industry Maqbool bin Ali bin Sultan, with whom he discussed strengthening of collaboration in food, education and IT sectors. Space, renewable energy and nuclear energy cooperation also came in for discussion.

Mr Khurshid called on Mr Omer bin Abdul Munim Al Zawawi, Special Adviser to the Sultan for External Liaison Affairs. He met Shaikh Abdullah bin Mohammed al Salmi, Minister of Awqaf and Religious Affairs, who conveyed that permission for building of a temple and a gurudwara in the Sultanate would be given shortly.

The Minister met Omani Foreign Minister Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah and Mr Ahmed bin Abdulnabi Macki, Minister of National Economy & Deputy Chairman of Financial Affairs And Energy Resources Council yesterday.

He also interacted with a cross section of Indian expatriates living in Oman during the visit, an official press release added.

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President Patil holds talks with UAE counterpart Sheikh Khalifa

President Pratibha Patil with UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahayan at the Ceremonial Reception accorded to her at Mushrif Palace in Abu Dhabi on November 22, 2010.
President Pratibha Patil with UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahayan at the Ceremonial Reception accorded to her at Mushrif Palace in Abu Dhabi on November 22, 2010.

President Pratibha Patil held talks here today with United Arab Emirates (UAE) President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan on ways to further develop and enhance the bilateral relationship between the two countries to a new level.

Ms Patil, who arrived here at the start of a nine-day visit that will also take her to Syria, was accorded a ceremonial welcome this morning by Sheikh Khalifa.

Later, the two leaders held talks at which the UAE Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Presidential Affairs, Foreign Minister, Education Ministers and others were present. Sheikh Khalifa also hosted a banquet in the President's honour.

Ms Latha Reddy, Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs, said the talks between the two leaders were warm and friendly, reflecting the close ties between India and the UAE.

"Both leaders dwelt on the long tradition of friendship between the two peoples which are based on historical ties between the two countries. They emphasized the need to further develop and enhance this relationship to a new level of cooperation given the potential that exists," she said.

The two leaders expressed satisfaction that the trade relationship had grown substantially resulting in both countries becoming the largest trading partners for each other in 2009-2010 with bilateral trade crossing the US $ 43 billion mark.

According to Ms Reddy, both leaders agreed to enhance the strategic relationship by focussing on areas such as education, science & technology, regional security and many other areas where there is potential for cooperation. They agreed that specific proposals in this regard should be taken up in detail at the coming meeting in Abu Dhabi of the Joint Commission which is headed by the Foreign Ministers of the two countries.

In particular, the two sides discussed the possibility of cooperation in the area of food security. Ms Patil invited UAE investments in projects for enhancing agricultural production in India, especially in the area of food processing. Sheikh Khalifa said this was a proposal that should be pursued.

Ms Patil spoke of India’s keenness to further strengthen its energy security ties with the UAE and invited their participation in upstream and downstream activities in the petroleum sector in India. She also invited the UAE to invest in the infrastructure sector including in the railways.

The UAE Minister of Higher Education mentioned that there was an agreement between UAE and India on the plantation of palm trees. It was agreed that this could be useful in areas such as Rajasthan.

Another important proposal discussed related to the reduction of the high costs of setting up of desalination plants which would provide valuable water resources needed by UAE and by India. Ms Patil’s proposal that this could be the subject of a joint research project was welcomed by Sheikh Khalifa.

Ms Reddy said the two sides also discussed the need for enhanced cooperation in the area of security, particularly to address issues relating to counter-terrorism and maritime securty. Ms Patil emphasised that the agreement on security cooperation should be signed as early as possible by the concerned Ministries on both sides.

Ms Patil thanked Sheikh Khalifa for UAE's support for India's recent election to a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council and sought the Gulf state's continued support for a permanent seat for India on an expanded Security Council.

Sheikh Khalifa stated that the UAE would certainly support India, which he felt had the right to be a permanent member of a reformed UN Security Council.

Ms Patil mentioned the contribution of the Indian community and the positive support extended to them by the UAE authorities. She thanked the UAE Government for extending many facilities to the 1.75 million strong Indian community, which is the largest expatriate group in this country.

The two leaders agreed that issues with regard to the welfare of the Indian community, particularly the workers, should continue to be discussed by the UAE Ministry of Labour and India's Overseas Indian Affairs Ministry.

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President Patil reaches UAE on State Visit

President Pratibha Patil being welcomed by UAE Minister of Foreign Trade Sheikha Lubna Bint Khalid Al Qasimi on her arrival in Abu Dhabi on November 21, 2010.
President Pratibha Patil being welcomed by UAE Minister of Foreign Trade Sheikha Lubna Bint Khalid Al Qasimi on her arrival in Abu Dhabi on November 21, 2010.

President Pratibha Patil reached the United Arab Emirates (UAE) tonight at the start of a nine-day visit that will also take her to Syria.

Ms Patil was received on her arrival in Abu Dhabi by UAE Minister of Foreign Trade Sheikha Lubna Bint Khalid Al Qasimi, UAE Ambassador to India Mohammed Sultan Abdullah Al-Owais, Indian Ambassador to UAE M.K. Lokesh and other senior officials.

The President said in a statement to mediapersons accompanying her that she was confident that her visit would reaffirm India's interest in strengthening ties with countries in the Arab world, which are a part of its extended neighbourhood.

"Our relationship with the UAE is free of any irritants which enables us to focus on the many positives that define our relationship," she said.

Ms Patil said that, during her talks with UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan and other UAE leaders, the two sides would look at ways and means to further strengthen their bilateral ties in order to realize the full potential that exists between the two countries.

She said that, similarly, India and Syria enjoyed traditionally friendly ties and cooperated actively in the United Nations and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). She also pointed out that Syria had expressed support for India's Permanent Membership of the UN Security Council.

"India, too, on its part, has always supported all just Arab causes, and has consistently supported the return of the Golan Heights to Syria, which remains occupied by Israel since 1967," she said.

Ms Patil said she looked forward to her talks with Syrian President Bashar Al Assad with a view to further strengthening bilateral ties.

"India seeks to further reinforce relations with the UAE and Syria and, it is in this context, that I look forward to my visit to both these countries," she added.

Ms Patil's five-day stay in the UAE will be her first State Visit to a Gulf nation while her November 26-29 visit to Syria will be the first ever visit by an Indian President to that country.

In the UAE, apart from Shekh Khalifa, Ms Patil will meet the Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan, and the Ruler of Sharjah, Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed al Qasimi.

Apart from Abu Dhabi, Ms Patil will also visit Dubai and Sharjah. They are among the seven emirates that make up the UAE federation, which includes Ajman, Ras al Khaimah, Umm al Quwain and Fujairah. The federation was formed in 1971.

The President is accompanied on the trip by Minister of State for Power Bharatsinh Solanki, Mr K A Ismael, member of the Rajya Sabha, Mr Vijay Bahadur Singh and Ms Masoom Noor, members of the Lok Sabha, senior officials and a business delegation drawn from the leading industry associations.

The UAE is a significiant trading and energy security partner for India, and bilateral trade was valued at $ 43.4 billion in 2009-10. In 2009-10, the UAE had emerged as India's top export destination, accountng for 13.41 per cent of the country's total exports. The country is also among the top five suppliers of crude oil to India.

There are more than 450 flights per week between various destinations in India and the UAE. Indians have emerged as important investors within the UAE, and the UAE has around $ 5 billion investment in India and is one of the biggest investors in terms of foreign direct investment (FDI) in this country.

Ms Patil will address captains of business and industry in the UAE in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. In Sharjah, she will inaugurate the Indian Trade Exhibition Centre being set up to promote bilateral trade, tourism and investment between the two countries.

The two countries have had a regular exchange of high-level visits. Since the 9th session of the Joint Commission, headed by their Foreign Ministers, the two sides have had more than 15 exchanges at the Ministerial level. During this period, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum had visited India in March this year.

The President will also take the opportunity to interact with the Indian community, which is 1.75 million strong and is the largest expatriate community in the UAE. She wll launch an Indian Workers’ Resource Centre during her visit, which is designed to provide 24-hour helpline and counselling services to distressed workers. In addition, the President will inaugurate the premises of the Indian Islamic Centre in Abu Dhabi. In Dubai, she will be address the students and faculty of the Dubai International Academic City where several Indian educational institutions have their branches. In Abu Dhabi, the President will also interact with the students of the Abu Dhabi Indian School.

In Syria, Ms Patil's discussions with Mr Assad will cover political, economic and cultural issues. The two sides will also explore investment opportunities in each other's country. The Middle East Peace Process (MEPP) and Syria's relations with its neighbours will also be an important segment of the talks, she said.

Since Mr Assad's visit to New Delhi in June 2008, India's engagement with Syria in the economic sphere has increased substantially. An IT Centre is coming up with Indian assistance and will be functional soon. Consultancy firm MECON is finalising a feasibility study on the utilization of phosphatic resources of Syria; the power project awarded to BHEL is partially funded by India through a $240 million Line of Credit; and Apollo International of India is upgrading a steel plant in Hama, for which India has extended a Line of Credit of $25 million.

In the hydrocarbons sector, ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL) has investments in the Al-Furat Petroleum Company and it has struck oil in Block-24. OVL is now looking for other opportunities for oil exploration, making Syria important to India's energy security.

The two-way trade level stands at a modest $530 million. The Indo-Syrian Joint Commission that met in June this year has decided to work towards doubling the trade shortly.

Ms Patil's meeting with Mr Assad will be followed by delegation-level talks, which are expected to cover various aspects of bilateral relations as well as regional and international issues.

She will also meet Syrian Prime Minister Mohammad Naji Otri and the Speaker of the Syrian Parliament, Mr Mahmoud Al Abrash. The President will address Indian and Syrian businessmen and launch the Syria-India Business Council. Ms Patil will also visit the International Centre for Agricultural Research in Dry Areas (ICARDA) in Aleppo.

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PM proposes multi-pronged strategy for rebalancing global economy

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday proposed a multi-pronged strategy to develop a workable G-20 mechanism for international coordination of efforts in rebalancing the global economy.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the Morning Session-I of the G20 Summit, at Seoul in South Korea on November 12, 2010.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the Morning Session-I of the G20 Summit, at Seoul in South Korea on November 12, 2010.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today proposed a multi-pronged strategy to develop a workable G-20 mechanism for international coordination of efforts in rebalancing the global economy, including avoidance of competitive devaluation and resistance to any resurgence of protectionism.

"Second, advanced deficit countries must follow policies of fiscal consolidation, consistent with their individual circumstances so as to ensure debt sustainability over the medium term," he said in his address to the Plenary Session of the G-20 Summit in Seoul, South Korea, this morning.

"This means that fiscal correction need not be frontloaded everywhere," he said.

Thirdly, Dr Singh said that, while structural reforms were necessary everywhere, these should increase efficiency and competitiveness in deficit countries, while expanding internal demand in surplus countries. This rebalancing will take time, but it must begin, he said.

"Fourth, exchange rates flexibility is an important instrument for achieving a sustainable current account position and our policies must reflect this consideration. At the same time, reserve currency countries have a special responsibility to ensure that their monetary policies do not lead to destabilizing capital flows, which can put pressure on emerging markets," he said.

"To these well known ingredients, I would add another that has not been sufficiently discussed.

"Even as we try to avoid a destabilizing surge of volatile capital flows to developing countries, there is a strong case for supporting long term flows to these countries to stimulus investment, especially in infrastructure," he said.

Dr Singh said that the economic performance of emerging markets, including many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, had improved greatly in recent years.

These countries are now in a position to absorb capital flows aimed at an expansion in investment, which would inject much needed demand into the global economy. Multilateral Development Banks have an important role to play in this process through recycling of global savings. Many emerging market countries are also in a position to attract private investment, including into infrastructure, he pointed out.

The Prime Minister said that recycling surplus savings into investment in developing countries would not only address the immediate demand imbalance, it will also help to address developmental imbalances.

A view of the G20 Summit before the beginning of the Morning Session-I, at Seoul in South Korea on November 12, 2010.
A view of the G20 Summit before the beginning of the Morning Session-I, at Seoul in South Korea on November 12, 2010.

"In other words, we should leverage imbalances of one kind to redress imbalances of the other kind," he said.

According to him, the G-20 would convey a powerful signal to markets if it committed itself to a second stage Mutual Assessmet Process (MAP) aimed at coordinating policies in these areas.

He said G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors could be asked to develop these ideas further, with the assistance of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and produce, as quickly as possible, a credible approach to identifying sustainable trajectories for external balances for their countries and to assess the policies proposed by each country to achieve these.

"I recognize this is not going to be easy and we must allow considerable flexibility to accommodate learning by doing. However, if we can actually do this, we will have made a lasting contribution to a new style of global governance," he said.

Dr Singh noted that the G-20 had only been in existence for two years but could claim several important successes in this short period which had led to its emergence as the premier forum for international economic cooperation.

He recalled that the grouping had acted swiftly to respond to the crisis of 2008 with a massive and coordinated stimulus which almost certainly avoided what could have been a precipitous collapse of the world economy.

"We successfully initiated a process of reforms of the World Bank and the IMF which has already yielded good results. We have launched a much needed reform of financial regulation through a broad based Financial Stability Board (FSB). And we are currently engaged in an ambitious process of coordinating policies in our countries to achieve a strong and sustainable recovery," he said.

According to him, efforts to achieve a strong recovery in the global economy are particularly important at present.

"Our discussion yesterday on the state of the world economy reveals a mixed picture. There is some good news. Industrialized countries have resumed growth in 2010, although output gaps remain large and unemployment is still at crisis levels," he said.

Dr Singh said emerging market economies had done well on the whole, and especially so in Asia.

"I am happy to say that the Indian economy has rebounded fairly well from the crisis. We grew at 9% in the four years prior to the crisis, but slowed down to 6.7% in the 2008-09. The economy recovered to 7.4% growth in 2009-10 and is likely to grow at 8.5% in 2010-11. We hope to achieve 9% in 2011-12," he said.

However, he said, high unemployment in industrialized countries threatened a revival of protectionist sentiment, especially since the use of conventional monetary and fiscal tools to revive the economy had been exhausted.

He said that uncertainty about the prospects of industrialized countries affected the investment climate and dampened the medium term growth prospects of emerging market countries.

"All this suggests that much remains to be done to bring our economies back to the path of strong, sustainable and balanced growth," he said.

The Prime Minister said the problem facing the G-20 in rebalancing the global economy was well-known. Major industrialized countries were running unsustainable current account deficits which have to be reduced to manageable levels. If this is not to have a contractionary impact on the world economy, it must be offset by reducing current account surpluses elsewhere. This rebalancing requires pursuit of appropriately coordinated policies in G-20 countries, he said.

He said the MAP adopted at the Pittsburgh Summit was a unique G-20 initiative to achieve such coordination.

"We saw the outcome of the first stage in Toronto, at the level of country groupings. We had expected to move to the second stage of considering country specific recommendations by the time of the Seoul Summit.

"We are not there yet, and for good reasons. It is not easy to reach agreement on what are sustainable current account balances for individual countries given the structural differences across countries, the many uncertainties that prevail, and the multiple goals that each country has to balance. It is even more difficult to agree on a particular combination of policies to achieve these targets," he said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arriving at the Morning Session-I of the G20 Summit at Seoul in South Korea on November 12, 2010. Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia is also seen.Prime Minister shaking hands with the South African President Dr. Jacob Zuma, before the Morning Session-I of the G20 Summit, at Seoul in South Korea on November 12, 2010.Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with the Australian Prime Minister Julia Eileen Gillard, before the Morning Session-I of the G20 Summit, at Seoul in South Korea on November 12, 2010.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arriving at the Morning Session-I of the G20 Summit at Seoul in South Korea on November 12, 2010. Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia is also seen; Prime Minister shaking hands with the South African President Dr. Jacob Zuma, before the Morning Session-I of the G20 Summit, at Seoul in South Korea on November 12, 2010; Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with the Australian Prime Minister Julia Eileen Gillard, before the Morning Session-I of the G20 Summit, at Seoul in South Korea on November 12, 2010.

Dr Singh complimented the Korean presidency for the initiative it took to include development as an accepted item in the agenda of the G-20.

"The G-20 was born at the time of a crisis and as such it has been preoccupied with the short-term agenda of crisis management and global rebalancing. However, one of the biggest imbalances facing us is the development imbalance and putting development on the G-20 agenda fills an important gap," he said.

He said developing countries had performed well in the years before the crisis and had also done well in subsequent years. But there was need to ensure that the global economic environment, including especially the environment for trade and investment flows, remained strongly supportive of development.

He said the Seoul Development Consensus and the associated Multi- Year Action Plans being considered by the meeting provided a comprehensive agenda with timelines which should be pursued in all relevant fora in the months ahead.

In particular, he endorsed the focus on facilitating investment in national and regional infrastructure projects and the call for establishing a High Level Panel to recommend measures to mobilize private, semi-public and public resources for infrastructure investment and to review MDB policy in this area.

"Infrastructure is a critical constraint to rapid and inclusive growth in most emerging markets and we need to find innovative ways of meeting the enormous costs of infrastructure development. This should be made a major focus of the MDB agenda.

"The emphasis on development of employable skills is also extremely important. We in India are giving high priority to skill development in our effort to provide access to quality jobs to the large numbers of new entrants’ labour force," he said.

Dr Singh said the Seoul Summit was also delivering on the promise of reform of the IMF.

"We have agreed to a shift in quota shares of 6% to emerging market countries and the composition of Board is being changed to reduce the European representation. With the additional resources already provided to the IMF, we have not only provided the IMF with the firepower that it needs to perform its stabilization role, but also moves it in the direction of greater democratization. Further moves are necessary in this direction and we welcome the decision to comprehensively review the quota formula by 2013 to reflect the growing economic weight of the emerging market countries.

"This should be fully reflected in the next quotas review due to be completed by 2014," he said.

The Prime Minister said the G-20 must ensure that the Doha Development Round of multilateral trade negotiations was brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

"We have seen a resurgence of protectionist sentiment in the world in the wake of recessionary trends. It is commendable that actual protectionist action has been more limited. The only way to ensure that protectionism does not gain the upper hand is to restore momentum to the trade talks. I hope the G20 will land in their weight to this objective," he said.

Dr Singh said the G-20 was an apt response to an adverse situation that the world faced.

"A few years down the line, the world will ask as to what else did G 20 achieve other than averting a total breakdown due to the global financial crisis. Fortunately, through the dynamic leadership shown by the Korean Presidency the G20 has moved forward and arrived at a rich agenda of things to do. I would once again like to thank Korea for their tireless efforts. I am also confident that the G20 will be able to translate this agenda into tangible outcomes under the forthcoming presidency of France and I wish them success in our common endeavour," he added.

The Prime Minister had reached Seoul on Wednesday night for the Summit and is due to fly back home later today.

Before leaving for Delhi, he had pointed out that this was the second G-20 Summit this year and it reflected the high expectations the world had from the grouping in moving beyond the immediate crisis the world faced in 2008 to ensuring a sustained and balanced economic recovery in the long term. It is the fifth G-20 Summit in two years and also the first G-20 Summit outside a G-8 country and the first in Asia. The theme of the summit is "Shared Growth Beyond the Crisis".

On the sidelines of yesterday's meetings, Dr Singh had bilateral discussions with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.

The Prime Minister's delegation to the Summit includes Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who is India's "sherpa" for the G-20, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and senior officials.

The Summit started yesterday with a welcome reception followed by a working dinner by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, the host.

The opening plenary session this morning will be plenary working sessions, a G-20 "Family Photograph", a Leaders' Working Lunch and the Final Plenary Session in the afternoon.

The G-20 Summit is attended by the G7 (the United States, France, United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, Italy and Canada), 4 Asian countries (India, China, South Korea and Indonesia), 3 Latin American countries (Brazil, Argentina and Mexico), 4 European countries (Russia, Australia, Turkey and the European Union Chair), South Africa and Saudi Arabia.

The G-20 had met at the summit level in Washington in November 2008 and then followed it up with summits in London in April 2009, Pittsburgh in September 2009 and Toronto in June this year.

The grouping came into being in 1999 following the East Asian financial crisis It is an informal forum comprising major developed countries and leading emerging market economies representing around 90% of global GDP, 85% of the world trade and two-thirds of humanity.

Apart from G-20 member-countries, South Korea, as the host, has invited leaders from Spain, Malawi (Chair of African Union), Ethiopia (Chair of NEPAD), Vietnam (Chair of ASEAN) and Singapore. In addition, top officials from the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organisation, the Financial Stability Board and others are attending the meeting.

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