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India hopes to work closely with Nepal on common security challenges

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said on Friday India's open border with Nepal had promoted close cooperation between them but had also presented challenges to their common security and safety.
External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna calling on Prime Minister of Nepal, Madhav Kumar Nepal in Kathmandu, on January 15, 2010.
External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna calling on Prime Minister of Nepal, Madhav Kumar Nepal in Kathmandu, on January 15, 2010.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna today said India's open border with Nepal had sustained and promoted close cooperation between the two countries but it had also presented challenges to their common security and safety.

"We look forward to working closely with you to address these effectively," he said at a banquet hosted by Nepalese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sujata Koirala in Kathmandu tonight at the start of his three-day visit to Nepal.

Mr Krishna said that, as close neighbours, India and Nepal shared a unique relationship of friendship and cooperation underpinned by language, cultural and civilisational links, wide-ranging commercial and economic ties and intimate people-to-people contacts.

"Few countries have a relationship as extensive and multifaceted as India and Nepal. Yet there is much untapped potential for mutually beneficial cooperation between our two countries in areas like hydropower, tourism, agriculture and trade, just to name a few areas. We would be happy to work closely with Nepal to further expand and strengthen our bilateral relations for mutual benefit," he said.

Mr Krishna said India was the first country to welcome the restoration of democracy in Nepal. He said India looked forward to the early conclusion of the peace process and the drafting of the new Constitution to make Nepal a multi-party and inclusive democracy, in keeping with the wishes of its people.

"We believe that a peaceful, democratic, stable and prosperous Nepal is also in our interest," he said.

"On behalf of the Government and people of India, I reiterate our commitment to working together with the Government and the friendly people of Nepal in this period of your historic transition. We stand ready to help Nepal in any manner it would like us to," he added.

This is Mr Krishna's first visit to Nepal after assuming charge as External Affairs Minister in May last year.

"I am very happy to be in your beautiful country...and I look forward to fruitful and meaningful interactions with the leaders and decision-makers of Nepal," he said in an arrival statement.

He noted that India and Nepal shared a unique relationship that was rooted in shared civilizational links and close people-to-people contacts.

"Our close relations with Nepal encompass a broad spectrum including, trade, commerce, investment, water resources, security, power, education, human resource development, medical just to name a few," he said.

External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna and Nepal's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Sujata Koirala signing the MoU in Kathmandu on January 15, 2010.
External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna and Nepal's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Sujata Koirala signing the MoU in Kathmandu on January 15, 2010.

Mr Krishna expressed confidence tht the visit would help further strengthen and expand the bilteral relations and open more avenues for cooperation for mutual benefit.

Apart from holding talks with Ms Koirala, Mr Krishna also called on Nepalese Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal today.

An official press release from the Ministry of External Affairs yesterday had said the visit was in consonance with the ongoing high-level bilateral interaction between the two countries.

During the visit, Mr Krishna will also call on the President and meet some other Nepalese leaders.

"The purpose of the visit is to exchange views on strengthening and deepening of our bilateral relations with Nepal," the release added.

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Photos courtesy Ministry of External Affairs website.

Krishna reaches Kathmandu on 3-day visit to Nepal

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna reached Kathmandu today on a three-day visit to Nepal aimed at strengthening and deepening the bilateral relations between the two countries.


"I am very happy to be in your beautiful country. This is my first visit to Nepal since assuming the charge of my Ministry and I look forward to fruitful and meaningful interactions with the leaders and decision-makers of Nepal," Mr Krishna said in a statement on his arrival in Kathmandu.


He noted that India and Nepal shared a unique relationship that was rooted in shared civilizational links and close people-to-people contacts.


"Our close relations with Nepal encompass a broad spectrum including, trade, commerce, investment, water resources, security, power, education, human resource development, medical just to name a few," he said.


Mr Krishna expressed confidence tht the visit would help further strengthen and expand the bilteral relations and open more avenues for cooperation for mutual benefit.


An official press release from the Ministry of External Affairs yesterday had said the visit was in consonance with the ongoing high-level bilateral interaction between the two countries.


During the visit, Mr Krishna will call on the President and the Prime Minister of Nepal. He will hold talks with his counterpart Sujata Koirala and also meet some other Nepalese leaders.


"The purpose of the visit is to exchange views on strengthening and deepening of our bilateral relations with Nepal," the release added.


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South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to be Chief Guest at R-Day Parade

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak will be the Chief Guest at this year's Republic Day Parade on January 26, an official statement said here today.

Mr Lee will arrive in India on January 24 on a four-day state visit at the invitation of President Pratibha Patil.

During his stay in the country, Mr Lee will also visit Chennai, the statement from the Ministry of External Affairs said. He will be accompanied by his wife, Mrs Kim Yoon-ak and a high-level delegation.

Mr Lee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will hold delegation level talks and discuss bilateral, regional and global issues, the statement added.

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Mozambique calls for greater vigour in ties with India

Minister of State for External Affairs, Shashi Tharoor meeting with President of Mozambique, Armando Emilio Guebuza, during his visit to Mozambique to attend the inauguration ceremony at the commencement of the President’s second term of office.
Minister of State for External Affairs, Shashi Tharoor meeting with President of Mozambique, Armando Emilio Guebuza, during his visit to Mozambique to attend the inauguration ceremony at the commencement of the President’s second term of office.

Mozambique President Armando Emilio Guebuza has expressed interest in imparting greater vigour and momentum to the close and cooperative relations between his country and India in his second term of office.

Mr Guebuza conveyed this to visiting Minister of State for External Affairs, who was in Maputo yesterday and today to attend the inauguration ceremony of the President on the commencement of his second term.

An official press release said the meeting between Dr Tharoor and Mr Guebuza enabled a discussion of issues of bilateral, regional and international interest.

Dr Tharoor had separate meetings with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Interior and Science & Technology of Mozambique during which they discussed specific areas of bilateral interest and India's economic and scientific projects in that country.

Foreign Minister Eldemiro Boloi hosted a dinner in honour of Dr Tharoor. Earlier, the Indian Miister met leaders of Indian community associations at a function held at the residence of the High Commissioner.

Today, Dr Tharoor attended the elaborate inauguration ceremony of the Mozambique Presidency along with a number of Heads of State and Government and leaders of delegations from invited countries.

According to the release, India’s relations with Mozambique have been characterized by close and friendly relations since that country’s independence from colonial rule in 1975.

Close personal relations between the leadership of the two countries, including Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and President Samora Machel and Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and President Joaquim Chissano, added to the warmth of bilateral ties, it said.

India’s political and moral support for Mozambique during its struggle for independence and its economic assistance over the years has been appreciated by the Government and people of Mozambique. Since the establishment of a Joint Commission for Economic, Cultural, Scientific and Technical Cooperation between India and Mozambique in 2002, India has extended five Lines of Credit to Mozambique worth US$ 115 million for projects in the areas of rural electrification, water management and Information Technology.

Mozambique greatly values the Science & Technology park and research incubator financed under a Line of Credit and to be completed in two years. Capacity building support in several sectors is underway and the Pan African e-network project has been commissioned, the release said.

India is one of Mozambique’s larger trading and investment partners. Indian companies are active in the transport, minerals, energy and infrastructure development sectors.

"Dr. Tharoor’s visit is expected to further strengthen the close bilateral relations between the two countries and accelerate the ongoing programme of cooperation," the release added.

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Incredible India road show held in Johannesburg

Minister of International Relation and Cooperation, of South Africa, M. Mashabane along with the Consul General of India, Vikram Doraiswamy and the Joint Director General, Commonwealth Games Organising Committee, T.S .Darbari, at the Incredible India Road Show organised by Ministry of Tourism to coincide with the passing of the Queen's Baton to promote Commonwealth Games 2010, in Johannesburg on January 12, 2010.
Minister of International Relation and Cooperation, of South Africa, M. Mashabane along with the Consul General of India, Vikram Doraiswamy and the Joint Director General, Commonwealth Games Organising Committee, T.S .Darbari, at the Incredible India Road Show organised by Ministry of Tourism to coincide with the passing of the Queen's Baton to promote Commonwealth Games 2010, in Johannesburg on January 12, 2010.

The Ministry of Tourism held an Incredible India Road Show in Johannesburg yesterday to coincide with the passing of the Queen's Baton to promote Commonwealth Games 2010 that will be hosted by Delhi in October this year.

As part of the event, ten double decker buses, wrapped in images of Incredible India, the Government's tourism campaign, were flagged off by South African Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane along with Mr Vikram Doraiswamy, Consul General of India, and Mr T S Darbari, Joint Director General, Commonwealth Games Organising Committee.

An official press release issued here today said the event was followed by presentations on Incredible India and the Commonwealth Games and a taste of Indian music and dance.

The highlight of the evening was a dinner that included cuisine representing various regions of India, it said.

Ms Nkoana-Mashabane praised the promotional event and spoke highly of India-South Africa relations and India's tourism products.

More than 200 people belonging to a cross section of the African travel trade and the media attended the event, the release added.

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Ansari calls for enhanced bilateral cooperation with Malawi

Vice President, Hamid Ansari meeting the President of Malawi, Bingu Wa MUTHARIKA, in Malawi on January 07, 2010.
Vice President, Hamid Ansari meeting the President of Malawi, Bingu Wa MUTHARIKA, in Malawi on January 07, 2010.

India has anounced grants totalling $ 5 million to Malawi as part of its efforts to improve the economic situation of the people and bring about overall development of the African country.

The grants include $ 1 million as emergency relief for rehabilitation following the series of earthquakes that caused loss of life and property in Malawi.

In addition, it has announced a $ 4 million in grants to support Malawi's development in agriculture, health and education sectors.

Announcing the grants, Vice-President M Hamid Ansari said India was committed to provide all possible assistance to Malawi.

Speaking at a State Dinner hosted for him by the President of Malawi, Dr Bingu Wa Mutharika in Malawi yesterday, Mr Ansari said the ties of friendship and cooperation between the two countries were built upon shared values and traditions.

"We share a common commitment to democratic governance, rule of law, respect for human rights and inclusive development," he said.

Mr Ansari said bilateral cooperation in agriculture, trade, investment, small and medium industries, culture and education needed to be stepped up significantly and new areas of cooperation explored.

The Vice-President and his delegation arrived in Malawi yesterday on the second leg of a week-long trip to Africa that had first taken him to Zambia. He will also visit Botswana before returning home.

He said he was happy to note that Malawi had utilized the Indian Line of Credit of $ 30 million extended to it in 2008 for irrigation, grain storage and tobacco threshing projects.

"We believe that our contribution building of Malawi’s own capacities, infrastructure and food security is a valuable component of our partnership. As part of the commitments made by India during the India-Africa Forum Summit, we would also like to extend a Line of Credit of $ 50 million to support the development goals of Malawi," he said.

Mr Ansari said the private sectors of both the countries were being encouraged to explore possibilities of forming partnerships to realise the potential for cooperation. The opportunities under the unilateral tariff concessions to the Indian market should be utilized to enhance access of Malawi’s produce to the growing Indian market, he said.

Vice President, Hamid Ansari being received by Vice President of Malawi Ms. Joyce Banda at Kamuzu International Airport, in Malawi on January 07, 2010.
Vice President, Hamid Ansari being received by Vice President of Malawi, Ms. Joyce Banda at Kamuzu International Airport, in Malawi on January 07, 2010.

He said India's cooperation with Malawi under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme in the field of human resource development was a matter of satisfaction. India has been providing training positions to Malawians under the ITEC programme and these have increased substantially over the years.

The Vice-President said the presence of the 7000-strong vibrant Indian community in Malawi served as a vital link which had strengthened the bonds of friendship between the two countries.

He said India and Malawi shared common perceptions on major international and multilateral issues of mutual interest.

"We are determined to work with your great country on the issues of UN reforms, the ongoing multilateral trade negotiations, fight against terrorism and the issue of climate change. We would work together to ensure that the vital interests of developing countries are protected and no barriers are placed that could constrain their developmental aspirations," he said.

Mr Ansari said it was heartening to note that during Dr Mutharika's term in offce the Malawian economy had performed creditably with an average growth of seven per cent in the last five years.

He also noted that both countries had successfully held general elections in May last year and said it was essential for functioning democracies and countries with similar views to interact frequently.

He invited Dr Mutharika to visit India, saying it would give him an opportunity to see how India had changed since his college days in New Delhi four decades ago.

"Our partnership with Malawi is an integral element of our larger vision of close and multi-dimensional engagement with African countries," he said, noting that, at the first ever India-Africa Forum Summit held in New Delhi in April 2008, African leaders and the Indian Prime Minister had jointly adopted a Framework for Cooperation to strengthen their engagement.

He said India, along with its partners in Africa, would announce this year a joint plan of action at the continental level and a follow up mechanism to implement their Framework for Cooperation.

"We would like Malawi to take advantage of the new initiatives announced by India at the Summit, particularly the capacity building opportunities and the concessional lines of credit," he said.

He said India's Pan African E- Network project had been commissioned in Malawi. This project, which is fully funded by Government of India, aims to connect the 53 African countries for the purpose of tele-education and tele-medicine and video-conferencing among all the Heads of State in Africa.

"This visionary project will endeavour to bridge the digital divide, and contribute to building technical, education and health sector capacities in Malawi. This is a shining symbol of South-South cooperation," he added.

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Ansari calls for greater cooperation between India, Zambia

Vice-President M Hamid Ansari has stressed the need for cooperation between India and Zambia in the economic, commercial and technical fields to be energized and cited the bilateral relationship as an important component of India's larger vision of a close partnership with African countries.

"India’s partnership with Zambia is an important component of our larger vision of close, cooperative and multi-sectoral partnership with African countries encompassing political, security, economic, science and technology, human resource development and cultural sectors," he said.

Mr Ansari was speaking at a banquet hosted for him in Lusaka last night by Zambian Vice-President George Kunda.

The Vice-President had arrived in Lusaka earlier yesterday on a three-day visit to Zambia on the first leg of a seven-day trip to Africa that will also take him to Botswana and Malawi.

He said the two countries should exploit their synergies and complementarities and utilise the enormous opportunities of cooperation that existed in areas of agriculture, irrigation, trade, investment, power, small and medium industries, education, telecommunication and tourism.

"We would encourage public private partnerships to realize this potential to the fullest and further deepen our economic engagement," he said.

Mr Ansari said Zambia was an example of how people could live in peace and seek development within a plural democratic polity. Zambia and India have historically been close allies in the struggle for independence, equality, human rights, freedom and democracy for the Southern African and other developing countries, he noted.

He said the India-Africa partnership was based on the fundamental values of equality, mutual respect, and understanding between their peoples for their mutual benefit.

Among other things, it was aimed at development of intra-regional/sub-regional integration by complementing and building upon existing/sub-regional initiatives in Africa, he said.

He also said that India and Zambia shared common perceptions on the major issues before the international community today.

"We are committed to work together for the maintenance of global peace and security, United Nation reforms, universal disarmament, fight against terrorism, establishment of a fair and equitable global trading regime and addressing the vagaries of climate change," he observed.

Recalling Zambian President Rupiah Banda's visit to Delhi for the first-ever India-Africa Forum Summit in April, 2008, Mr Ansari urged Zambia to take advantage of the new initiatives announced at the meeting, particularly in regard to concessional credit lines so as to promote trade between the two countries.

Zambian companies could also access the funds provided by India through the COMESA PTA Bank to finance purchase of technology, equipment and consultancy from India, he said.

The Vice-President said India had, in 2008, approved $ 50 million Line of Credit for the Itezhi Tezhi Hydropower Project. He said India would continue with the process of extending its Line of Credit for infrastructural and industrial projects that would contribute to Zambian development.

Mr Ansari said India would also make available grants for the social sector for projects covering agriculture, health and education sectors in Zambia. "This is a signal of our commitment for cooperation and partnership with the people and government of Zambia," he said.

He noted that the Indo-Zambia Bank, which celebrated 25 years of its successful operations in Zambia last month, was the brainchild of two visionary leaders, independent Zambia's first President Kenneth Kaunda and late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

He said the recently commissioned pan-African E-Network Project was yet another milestone of South-South Cooperation. This project will facilitate tele-education and tele-medicine services and video-conferencing with all the Heads of State in Africa.

"This is an example of our efforts to bring the benefits of our technological development to our partners in Africa," he said.

Mr Ansari said he was happy to note that Zambia had been a major beneficiary of India's ITEC programme with around 2300 civilians trained in India so far. In addition, several Zambian defence chiefs and over 325 other defence officers have been trained in Indian defence institutions. India's Military Advisory Team has also assisted in the setting up and running of the Defence Services Command and Staff College (DSCSC) in Lusaka.

"India stands committed to human resource development and building Zambian capacities," he said.

The Vice-President said the 13,000-strong Indian community in Zambia represented a vital aspect of the bilateral relationship.

"They have helped build bridges of cooperation and bonds of friendship between the two countries and peoples," he added.

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Ban Ki-moon to extend independent probe into Bhutto killing

Benazir Bhutto
Benazir Bhutto

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has decided to extend the mandate of the independent UN commission charged with examining the facts and circumstances behind the December 2007 assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto by another three months.

A statement issued by his spokesperson here on Thursday said Mr Ban had informed both the Pakistani Government and UN Security Council of his intention to extend the Commission of Inquiry’s mandate, which began on July 1, 2009.

The probe was due to submit its report yesterday, but "because of the substantial amount of information collected by the Commission in Pakistan and further follow up work that remains, the Commissioners requested additional time to complete their report," the Secretary-General said.

Set up following a request from the Pakistani Government, the Commission has met with dozens of individuals and made several trips to the South Asian nation.

After wrapping up its work, the probe will submit its report to Mr. Ban, who will also share it with the Government of Pakistan.

The Commission is headed by Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz of Chile, and its other members are Mr Marzuki Darusman, the former attorney-general of Indonesia, and Peter Fitzgerald, a veteran of the Irish National Police who has also served the UN in a number of capacities.

Mr Munoz has been the Chilean Permanent Representative to the United Nations since 2003. He has served as President of the Security Council in January 2004, and is currently the Chairman of the United Nations Peace-building Commission. He was also the Deputy Foreign Minister of Chile from March 2000 to January 2002.

As part of the preparatory work for the Commission, a UN technical assessment mission had visited Pakistan in February last year.

Ms Bhutto was twice Prime Minister of Pakistan from 1988-90 and 1993-96. She was the wife of Pakistan's current President Asif Ali Zardari.

She had gone into self-imposed exile in Dubai after she was removed as Prime Minister in 1996 on grounds of alleged corruption by President Farooq Leghari. She returned to Pakistan on October 18, 2007, after reaching an understanding with then President Pervez Musharraf by which she was granted amnesty and all corruption charges were withdrawn. She was assassinated on December 27, 2007 while leaving the Liaquat National Baug in Rawalpindi after an election campaign rally, two weeks before the scheduled General Elections.

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Japanese PM Hatoyama to visit India Dec 27-29

A file photo of Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.
A file photo of Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama.
Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama will pay an official visit to India from December 27-29, an official announcement said here today.

Mr Hatoyama, who will be accompanied by his wife Miyuki Hatoyama, wll visit Mumbai and Delhi during the visit, the statement from the Ministry of External Affairs said.

This will be the fourth annual summit between the Prime Ministers of India and Japan since 2006.

The two Prime Ministers will discuss ways to expand, enhance and strengthen the India-Japan Strategic & Global Partnership. They will also discuss various regional and global issues, the statement added.

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Milliband invites Krishna to attend conference on Afghanistan


British Foreign Secretary David Miliband rang up External Affairs Minister S M Krishna today and discussed with him bilateral relations and regional and international issues of common concern.


Mr Milliband reiterated an invitation for Mr Krishna to attend the Conference on Afghanistan scheduled to be held in London on January 28, 2010.


An official press release said Mr Krishna underlined the importance of the international community reaffirming unambiguously its commitment to strengthening the Government of Afghanistan and continuing its support to the development and reconstruction of the country.


He conveyed India’s position that the international community must show unwavering commitment in resolutely opposing, resisting and overcoming terrorism and those who nurture, sustain and give sanctuary to terrorists and extremist elements.


Mr Krishna reiterated India’s determination to fulfill its commitments to the Afghan Government and people as they build a peaceful, democratic and pluralistic Afghanistan, the release added.


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Chinese Foreign Minister rings up Krishna


Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi made a telephone call to External Affairs Minister S M Krishna today during which the two Ministers discussed cooperation between the two countries on climate change, including possible follow-on measures flowing from the recent Copenhagen summit.


Mr Krishna observed during the conversation that India and China had worked closely and effectively together at Copenhagen, thereby safeguarding the interests of developing countries.


He stressed that the developing world, including India and China, needed to evaluate the results of the Copenhagen conference and then decide on a strategy for the post-Copehagen process.


According to an official press release, the ministers noted that India and China would be marking the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 2010.


Mr Yang reiterated his invitation to Mr Krishna to visit China in the first half of next year. Mr Krishna accepted the invitation and mutually convenient dates will be fixed through diplomatic channels.


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PM calls for collaborative response to climate change in 2010 negotiations

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today supported calls for negotiations towards building a collaborative response to climate change to be concluded during 2010.
Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh speaking at the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference at Copenhagen on December 17, 2009.
Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh speaking at the 15th United Nations Climate Change Conference at Copenhagen on December 17, 2009.

As the UN summit on climate change headed for an outcome short of expectations, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today supported calls for subsequent negotiations towards building a truly global and genuinely collaborative response to climate change being concluded during 2010.

"We have all worked hard to reconcile our different points of view. The outcome may well fall short of expectations," he said in his remarks at the Informal Plenary of Heads of State/Governments at the Conference of Parties (COP-15) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at Copenhagen in Denmark.

"Nevertheless, it can become a significant milestone. I therefore support calls for subsequent negotiations towards building a truly global and genuinely collaborative response to climate change being concluded during 2010," he said. The conference started on December 7 and will end today.

The Prime Minister said that as countries embarked on future negotiations, they would do well to take stock of what they have learnt from their efforts over the past two years. He felt there were three lessons that could be drawn and which should guide the countries in the task ahead.

He said the first lesson was that the vast majority of countries do not support any renegotiation or dilution of the principles and provisions of the UNFCCC, in particular the principle of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.

"Further, the need for action on our part is more and not less than what was envisaged at the time of the Rio Convention or the Kyoto Protocol. That is why the Bali Action Plan commits us to enhancing the implementation of the UNFCCC.

"To settle for something that would be seen as diminished expectations and diminished implementation would be the wrong message to emerge from this Conference. We should therefore reaffirm categorically that our negotiations will continue on the basis of the Bali mandate," he said.

Dr Singh said the second point was that the Kyoto Protocol should continue to stand as a valid legal instrument. Parties to the Protocol should deliver on their solemn commitments under the Protocol.

"It would go against international public opinion if we acquiesce in its replacement by a new and weaker set of commitments," he said.

Finally, he said it was clear that any agreement on climate change should respect the need for development and growth in developing countries.

"Equitable burden sharing should underlie any effective global climate change regime. Any new regime will have moral authority and credibility only if it acknowledges that every citizen of the globe has an equal entitlement to the global atmospheric space," he said.

The Prime Minister said India had a vital stake in the success of the negotiations as it was among the countries most likely to be severely impacted by climate change.

He said India had, therefore, adopted and started to implement a major National Action Plan on Climate Change, relying upon its own resources.

"Our targets include installation of 20,000 MW of solar energy capacity by 2022, improving energy efficiency by 20% by 2020 and adding an additional 6 million hectares of forests over the next several years," he said.

Dr Singh said each of the heads of state/government attending the conference acknowledged that those worst affected by climate change were the least responsible for it.

"Whatever emerges from our negotiations must address this glaring injustice, injustice to countries of Africa, injustice to the Least Developed Countries, and injustice to the Small Developing States whose very survival as viable nation states is in jeopardy," he said.

He said India, too, was vulnerable, but nevertheless as responsible citizens of the globe, it had agreed to take on a voluntary target of reducing the emission intensity of its GDP growth by around 20% by 2020 in comparison to 2005.

"We will deliver on this goal regardless of the outcome of this Conference. We can do even more if a supportive global climate change regime is put in place," he declared.

"We have a difficult task ahead of us. I hope we will all play a positive and constructive role so that we can bridge differences and come up with a balanced and also an equitable outcome during the coming year. India will not be found wanting in this regard," he added.

Dr Singh reached Copenhagen yesterday evening, accompanied by his Special Envoy on Climate Change Shyam Saran and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, among others.

India's negotiating team has been at the conference right from December 7 while Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh reached Copenhagen a few days ago.

In a statement issued here yesterday before his departure for Denmark, Dr Singh said India was fully committed to working with the rest of the world to preserve and protect the environment.

"This is our common heritage, and this is what we must bequeath to our succeeding generations," he had said.

"At the same time, climate change cannot be addressed by perpetuating the poverty of the developing countries. Every citizen of the globe has equal entitlement of the global atmospheric space," he added.

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Bhutan King to pay State Visit to India from Dec 21-26

Bhutan's King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk will pay a State Visit to India from December 21-26 on the invitation of President Pratibha Patil.

This will be the first visit of the King to a foreign country after his formal coronation in November, 2008. He had earlier visited India in February 27.

An official statement from the Ministry of External Affairs said the visit would provide an opportunity to further consolidate the tradition of high-level exchange of views between the two countries.

During his stay here, King Jigme would meet President Patil. Vice-President M Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, Home Minister P Chidambaram, Leader of the Opposition Lal Krishna Advani, National Security Adviser M K Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao will call on the King.

"Relations between India and Bhutan are characterised by profound friendship, deep understanding and trust. The visit of the King of Bhutan will contribute to further strengthening and expanding the close bilateral relations between the two countries," the statement added.

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India welcomes BIMSTEC convention on combating terrorism

India on Friday welcomed the Convention on Cooperation in Combating International Terrorism adopted by the BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting in Myanmar, describing it as a major achievement.

India today welcomed the Convention on Cooperation in Combating International Terrorism, Trans-national Organised Crime and Illicit Drug Trafficking adopted by the 12th BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting in Myanmar, describing it as a major achievement.

"This would provide a legal framework for our law enforcement agencies to cooperate in combating the scourge of terrorism, organized crime and drug trafficking," External Affairs Minister S M Krishna told the meeting held in Nay Pyi Taw, the new capital of Myanmar.

He said the Convention would send a strong message to the perpetrators of such crimes that the BIMSTEC region could no longer be used as a safe haven and the Governments and the people of the region were united in their response to the threat posed by terrorism, organized crime and drug trafficking.

The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) brings together India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand, which are home to some 1.4 billion people and accounts for $ 1.7 trillion in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The grouping also acts as a bridge between South and South-East Asia.

"The people of BIMSTEC countries are linked by the waters that flow down the Himalayas as well as the waters of the Bay of Bengal. There exist complementarities amidst diversities with regard to our potential of economic-commercial cooperation. We need to tap our myriad synergies to consolidate our cooperation," Mr Krishna said.

According to him, the second BIMSTEC Summit held in New Delhi last year was an important milestone and an opportunity to reflect about the achievements so far and the future path. He said the leaders had given concrete ideas to build upon the cooperation among member-countries for the coming years, which would guide them in shaping the future of the grouping collectively.

BIMSTEC had identified 13 areas of cooperation earlier, where considerable progress had been made, he said. More recently, the grouping has identified Climate Change as the 14th area of cooperation among member-countries.

Mr Krishna said the meeting was being held in the backdrop of the global economic and financial scenario where the crisis may be bottoming out, but the global economy was not expected to reach 3 % growth until the end of 2010.

"However, to make growth sustainable, and to make good the losses of developmental gains made by the developing countries as a result of the crisis, much remains to be done. The steps which need to be taken to lift millions of people in the developing world, should be brought into focus in the global discourse. We need to pay special attention to this aspect under BIMSTEC," he said.

The External Affairs Minister spoke of the increasing challenge from emerging and re-emerging diseases. He said no country in the world was immune to this challenge, referring to the global pandemics of SARS, Influenza A (H1N1), Chickunguniya and avian flu in recent years.

He said BIMSTEC countries had to work together in communities, at the national level and the international level for mitigating these diseases. He said India could collaborate with BIMSTEC partners in many areas to address such issues.

Mr Krishna noted that the challenges faced by BIMSTEC members in the area of agriculture were quite similar and said they could put in concerted efforts through development and execution of common programmes. He said cooperation in seed development was another vital area in this context.

He stressed the need to focus on improving connectivity among the member-countries, particularly in the area of transport and communication linkages. He said constraints and bottlenecks in this area needed to be tackled on a priority basis.

Speaking of intra-BIMSTEC trade, Mr Krishna said this was still at modest levels. He felt the implementation of the Trade-in-Goods Agreement finalised in June this year would help fully exploit the natural synergies among member-countries in strengthening trade and economic ties and provide a fresh impetus to intra-regional trade flows. Similarly, he said, there was considerable scope for enhancing intra-regional investments. He hoped for early agreement in the area of investment and services as the next stage of the FTA.

Mr Krishna said enhancing people-to-people contacts should also be one of the overarching priorities for the grouping. He noted that Indian think tank Research and Information Systems would host a meeting of BIMSTEC think tanks in February next year.

The External Affairs Minister said BIMSTEC countries should consider creating tourism packages by identifying one tourist destination from each country. These could be then jointly promoted and popularised and other innovative tourism packages could be worked out jointly by the tourism boards of the member-countries. Direct contacts between the tourism stakeholders of BIMSTEC countries should also be encouraged, he said.

He said India was already in the process of establishing the Nalanda University as an international university of excellence and would be happy to have BIMSTEC closely associated with it.

Mr Krishna said India remained committed to her engagement with BIMSTEC partners in furthering its cooperation in this regional framework. Under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme, India is offering 450 scholarships to BIMSTEC countries to encourage greater exchange of technical know-how in areas of mutual benefit. This includes an additional 150 training slots offered by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the last BIMSTEC Summit. He said the utilisation rate of these training slots was more than 80 per cent.

"While BIMSTEC is still a young and growing grouping, in the fast changing global economic scenario we need to make all efforts to make BIMSTEC an effective and enabling platform for further consolidation of our multifaceted cooperation and tap the new emerging opportunities. Establishment of a Permanent Secretariat for BIMSTEC will help coordinate our efforts in an effective way," he added.

Apart from Mr Krishna, the meeting was attended by Foreign Ministers U Nyan Win of Myanmar, Dipu Moni of Bangladesh, Lyonpo Ugen Tshering of Bhutan, Sujata Koirala of Nepal, Rohitha Bogollagama of Sri Lanka and Kasit Piromya of Thailand.

Gen Thein Sein, the Prime Minister of Myanmar, addressed the opening session of the meeting today. The Foreign Minister of Myanmar assumed the chairmanship of the BIMSTEC Ministerial Meeting from Mr Krishna today.

In a Joint Statement issued at the end of the meeting, the member-countries reiterated their commitment to promotion of socio-economic development and to create an enabling environment for cooperation among them.

Apart from the convention on terrorism, the grouping adopted memoranda of association (MoA) on the establishment of a BIMSTEC Energy Centre, a Centre for Weather and Climate and a Cultural Industries Observatory.

The Ministers reaffirmed the importance of BIMSTEC FTA in promoting trade and investment in a mutually beneficial manner for all member-states and enhancing competitiveness and socio-economic development in the BIMSTEC region.

They welcomed the finalization of the text of the Agreement on Trade in Goods and other provisions relating to the Rules of Origin, Operational Certification Procedures and the Agreement on Customs Cooperation at the 18th Meeting of the BIMSTEC Trade Negotiation Committee at Phuket in Thailand in June this year.

The meeting urged the TNC to finalize the Annexes to the BIMSTEC FTA Agreement on Trade in Goods at the earliest. It also took note of the ongoing negotiations on the Agreements on Services and Investment under BIMSTEC FTA, and urged the Member States to conclude them as soon as possible.

Today's discussions focused on poverty alleviation in the context of ensuring food security in the BIMSTEC region. The ministers welcomed the decision to establish the BIMSTEC Poverty Alleviation Centre in Bangladesh as a step forward for the realization of the Millennium Development Goals in the region.

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India-Russia civil nuclear pact assures fuel supplies even after termination

The agreement signed by India and Russia on civil nuclear energy cooperation in Moscow on Monday has an upfront consent for reprocessing of spent fuel,
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Russian President Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev at the delegation level talks, in Moscow, Russia on December 07, 2009.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Russian President Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev at the delegation level talks, in Moscow, Russia on December 07, 2009.

The agreement signed by India and Russia on civil nuclear energy cooperation has an upfront consent for reprocessing of spent fuel and also includes a provision that any termination will be without prejudice to ongoing contracts and fuel supply obligations.

The agreement between the two Governments on Cooperation in Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy was signed in Moscow yesterday after talks between visiting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the Kremlin.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao told the media in Moscow later yesterday that the agreement also included provisions which were common with other agreements such as application of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, retransfer mechanism and non-interference in India's unsafeguarded programme.

She said the agreement marked the culmination of expert-level negotiations, which were going on for the past few months.

She said the agreement was a broad-based one, and listed several areas of cooperation, including research and development, construction of nuclear power plants, supply of uranium, and so on.

India and Russia had been cooperating in this area under the Inter-Governmental Agreement (IGA) of 1988, as part of which two 1000 MW nuclear power units are being set up at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu. In December last year, the two countries agreed on four additional units at Kudankulam.

Recently, India agreed to allocate one more site at Haripur in West Bengal for nuclear reactors supplied by Russia.

Three of the agreements signed yesterday between the two countries related to the area of defence, including the extension of the Programme for Military and Technical Cooperation (MTC) for the period 2011-20.

Ms Rao said the agreement would help enhance the operational capability of the Indian defence forces in the net decade by providing various defence equipment and systems. It will also facilitate capacity development of the Indian defence industry.

She said the agreement provided for acquisition, licensed production, upgrades and modernisation of defence equipment as well as the development of new and advanced weapon systems.

The two countries signed an agreement on After Sales Support for the Russian Arms and Military Equipment supplied to India. This will facilitate timely and adequate supply of spares and services for maintaining a high level of readiness and integrated maintenance of Russian-made military equipment supplied to India.

The two sides also signed a protocol to their agreement on Cooperation in Development and Production of Multi-Role Transport Aircraft of November 12,2007. This is an amendment to the existing agreement.

The other agreements signed yesterday include a programme of cultural exchanges between the two countries for the years 2010-12. It will ensure continuation of exchanges between the two Governments in the fields of art and culture and intensification of people-to-people contacts.

They also signed a Dollar Credit Line Agreement between Vnesheconombank (Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs) of Russia and the Export Import Bank of India. It is intended to extend a line of credit of $ 100 million by EXIM Bank to Vnesheconombank for financing export of Indian equipment, technology, goods and services to Russia.

Ms Rao said Dr Singh's three-day visit, ending today, had demonstrated in ample measure the depth and the strong vitality of the India-Russia Strategic Partnership.

"It has been a most successful and very productive visit. The discussions held by Prime Minister with President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin have been substantive and detailed, and the leaders have focused on priority areas of the partnership and how we intend to take these forward through intensive efforts by both sides in the months ahead," she said.

She said the agreements signed during the visit reflected the great depth of the relationship, its stability and maturity, and the mutually beneficial nature of the bilateral relations.

"Ours is a partnership that is multi-dimensional in the true sense. It is a partnership of strategic importance, and it is a partnership that works for the development and progress of the peoples of both countries, and for peace and stability in the region and the world," she said.

The Foreign Secretary said the Joint Declaration issued by the two countries yesterday on deepening their Strategic Partnership to meet global challneges encapsulated a shared vision on many global issues and reflected the desire of both sides to take their relationship to the next level.

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India, Russia agree to intensify Strategic Partnership, deepen cooperation

India and Russia today decided to intensify their Strategic Partnership and raise it to the next level for an effective response to the regional and global challenges in the future and deepen their bilateral cooperation.

"As two large pluralistic democracies undergoing rapid economic transformation, India and Russia share many interests and viewpoints on global issues," the two countries said in a Joint Declaration issued at the end of the annual India-Russia Summit between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow.

"India and Russia value their Annual Summit as the principal vehicle to advance their Strategic Partnership," it said.

The two sides reiterated their aim of deepening and strengthening in every way the close, friendly and historic India-Russia bilateral relationship and recalled their Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation of 28 January, 1983 and the Declaration on Strategic Partnership of 3 October 2000.

They noted that their Strategic Partnership was the culmination of the long and multi-facted relations that have flourished between them since the establishment of diplomatic relations in April 1947 and was a key foreign policy priority for both sides.

"This deepening partnership is not impacted in any way by the engagement of the two countries with the rest of the world. It is a time-tested and enduring friendship which is mutually beneficial and which has emerged as a factor of peace and stability in the region and the world," the declaration stressed.

The two countries called upon the international community to enhance efforts to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

"The United Nations Global Counter-terrorism Strategy and the respective resolutions of the UNGA and UNSC should be steadfastly implemented, in particular UNSC resolutions 1267, 1373 and 1540. Both Sides call upon the international community to comply with the provisions of international counter-terrorism conventions and protocols including the principle, 'either prosecute or extradite', regarding the persons accused of committing acts of terror. The Sides strongly call for an early adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. The Sides intend to further develop Indian-Russian bilateral cooperation in combating new challenges and threats, including such cooperation within the framework of the India and Russia Working Group on Combating International Terrorism," the declaration said.

Russia expressed solidarity and support to the Government and people of India in connection with terrorist attacks in Mumbai on November 26-29, 2008 and both sides underscored the need to bring the perpetrators of the attack to justice.

India supported Russia's efforts to maintain peace and stability in the Caucasus. India expressed sympathy for the victims of the attack of the "Nevsky Express" by terrorists on November 27, 2009 in Russia, and supported the Government of the Russian Federation in its determination to eliminate terrorism from Russian soil.

The declaration welcomed the result of the presidential elections in Afghanistan and agreed that the people of Afghanistan and the international community faced a clear and present danger from terrorist and extremist elements which must be tackled resolutely before peace and stability could be be restored in the region.

The two countries emphasised that the resurgence of the al Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan threatened the progress made over the last few years. In this regard, they condemned the terrorist attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul on October 8, 2009. They agreed that the fight against terrorism cannot be selective, and drawing false distinctions between "good" and "bad" Taliban, would be counter-productive.

They highlighted the need for strict observance of the sanctions regime against persons and entities listed by UNSC Committee 1267. They reaffirmed their long-term commitment to a democratic, pluralistic and stable Afghanistan.

The two countries said they were in favour of enhancing the role of the International Security Assistance Forces in combating the illegal narcotics infrastructure in Afghanistan. In this context, India appreciated the convening by the Russian Federation of an International Conference on Afghanistan under the aegis of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation on March 27, 2009.

They shared the international community's concern with the continuing acts of piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia. They asserted that measures to combat piracy should be implemented in compliance with international law and that persons guilty of acts of piracy must be brought to justice.

The declaration talked about the radical changes taking place in the international system, which the two countries said did not just pose new challenges and threats but also provided opportunities to build a new, democratic and fair multi-polar world order based on collective approaches, supremacy of international law, and adherence to the goals and principles enshrined in the UN Charter.

The two countries said they were convinced that only collective efforts by the international community as a whole could successfully meet challenges such as overcoming the global financial crisis, ensuring energy and food security and addressing an issue of global concern such as climate change.

They supported international efforts aimed at global, complete and verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons. In this regard, India welcomed the intention of Russia and the United States to conclude a new Treaty on Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms.

The two countries stressed that the proliferation of nuclear weapons and its possible link to terrorism posed a threat to international peace and security, undermined security of states, complicated progress toward nuclear disarmament and might negatively affect prospects for wider international cooperation in the sphere of peaceful uses of nuclear energy. They pledged to work together for global non-proliferation.

They reaffirmed their commitment to prevent the deployment of weapons in outer space and to maintain outer space exclusively for peaceful use and cooperation for the sake of all mankind.

The declaration emphasised the urgency of effective international action to combat climate change and, in this context, affirmed their readiness to continue to work constructively for the success of the UN Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen in accordance with the principles and provisions of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Bali Action Plan, bearing in mind the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities of states.

The two sides agreed to enhance cooperation in the energy sector and welcomed the agreement signed between them today on Cooperation in the Use of Atomic Energy for Peaceful Purposes. They said they looked forward to developing and intensifying broad-based cooperation between the two countries in the area of nuclear energy including such areas as joint scientific research, implementation of nuclear power projects and setting up of fuel supply arrangements.

Among other things, they agreed on cooperation in responding to natural and man-made disasters and in countering the threat of extremely dangerous infectious and other contagious diseases.

They agreed to further strengthen their cooperation on issues related to the reform of the UN and its Security Council.

Russia said it considered India a deserving and strong candidate for a permanent seat in an expanded UN Security Council.

The two countries welcomed the Pittsburgh Summit's landmark decision to institutionalise the G-20 as the premier forum for international economic cooperation.

The declaration said India and Russia considered their interaction in the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) and RIC (Russia, India, China) formats to be an effective tool to promote strengthening a more balanced and predictable international system as well as a core element to shape a multipolar world order and to ensure sustainable world development in the post crisis setting.

Russia appreciated India's participation at the Prime Minister's level in the Summit Meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) at Yekaterinburg, held on 16 June 2009. Russia supported India’s full membership in the SCO.

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India, Russia set $ 20 billion target for trade by 2015

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said India and Russia had set a new target of bilateral trade turnover of $ 20 billion by 2015 and called for greater investments into each other's countries.

"India and Russia are strategic partners and we have a broad-ranging relationship. However, our bilateral trade and investment cooperation has not kept pace with our close political ties," he told the first meeting of the India-Russia CEOs' Council in Moscow today.

"This is despite the fact that there are strong complementarities between our two trillion-dollar-plus economies," he said

Dr Singh recalled that the two Governments had, in recognition of this fact, taken several initiatives to promote establishment of business-to-busness linkages. These include the esgtablishment of the India-Russia Forum on Trade and Investment in 2007 and the CEOs' Council in 2008.

He noted that the India-Russia Forum had already met thrice and acquired its own identity as a platform for enabling interaction between the corporate sectors of the two countries.

He said he would like the CEOs' Council, which is a more campact group of business leaders, to provide corporate leadership for utilising the economic opportunities between the two countries.

"Our two countries are going to be engines of global economic growth in the coming decades. I invite you to take the lead in ensuring much greater interaction at the business level between India and Russia. We have high expectations from you, and I assure you of the Government's full support to your activities," he said.

The CEOs' Council was co-chaired on the Indian side by Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani. Today's meeting was also addressed by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Dr Singh told the meeting that Mr Putin had played a "magnificent" role in the development of multi-faceted cooperation between the two countries.

He said Russia was richly endowed with natural resources including hydrocarbons, and a work force capable of generating the most advanced technologies in areas as varied as defence and biotechnology.

"India is an economy with a huge market, a young and expanding work force, and in need of massive investments, particularly in infrastructure," he pointed out.

Listing out some possible areas of future cooperation, the Prime Minister said the energy sector illustrated the strong complementarities between the two countries. Russia is a major producer of energy and Indai is one of the fastest growing consumers.

He said Indian companies had technology and the ability to invest in both upstream and downstream activities. He said a good beginning had been made with our collaboration in Sakhalin-I and the recent acquisition of Imperial Energy by ONGC Videsh Ltd., which needed to be carried forward.

Dr Singh said new avenues had opened in the nuclear energy sector and the conclusion of negotiations on a broad-based inter-governmental agreement on civil nuclear energy would open fresh opportunities.

He felt India could be an ideal partner for Russia in the pharmaceuticals sector, which had been identified by Russia as a priority area. India has already emerged as the most reliable supplier of quality generic drugs to Russia. This cooperation should be consolidated by, among other things, establishment of joint ventures, he said.

The Prime Minister also spoke about India's global leadership in the information technology sector and pointed out that collaboration in BPO/KPO sectors with Indian companies had brought significant benefits to several countries and companies, especially in Europe and America. He said both countries stood to benefit from much closer cooperation in this area.

He said there were significant opportunities for Russian companies in India, particularly in the area of infrastructure, construction and engineering services. He invited them to invest much more in India.

He said there was a natural complementarity between the two countries in the area of trade in rough diamonds. Russia is the largest producer and India is the centre for cutting and polishing. He said that while there had been some ad hoc contacts, companies from the two countries should consider developing long-term arrangements in this sector.

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India, Russia conclude civil nuclear cooperation agreement

India and Russia on Monday concluded a bilateral agreement on cooperation in civil nuclear energy, which will strengthen the existing cooperation between the two countries in this field.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Russian President Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev at the delegation level talks, in Moscow, Russia on December 07, 2009.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Russian President Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev at the delegation level talks, in Moscow, Russia on December 07, 2009.
India and Russia today concluded a bilateral agreement on cooperation in civil nuclear energy and Prime Manmohan Singh described the pact as a major step forward in strengthening the existing cooperation between the two countries in this field.

"We welcome greater Russian participation in the expansion of our nuclear energy programme," Dr Singh told mediapersons at a joint press conference with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow after their annual summit meeting at the Kremlin.

The agreement with Russia is said to be much more advantageous to India than the 123 agreement it signed with the United States, especially because it contains assurances on uninterrupted supplies of uranium for the atomic reactors and on transfer of technology.

The Prime Minister said he had reiterated to Mr Medvedev India's keen interest to similarly expand bilateral cooperation in the hydrocarbon sector.

"Given India’s energy needs, and the world class capabilities of Indian companies in the oil and gas sector, this is an area of vast untapped potential. I was most encouraged by the President’s positive response to taking further concrete steps in this direction," he said.

Dr Singh said the agreements the two sides had also signed today in the field of defence cooperation, in particular on the Programme for Military and Technical Cooperation for the period 2011-2020, would provide the basis for an intensive and broad-based cooperation in this vital area.

He expressed gratitude for the support given by the Russian Government for the holding of the Year of India in Russia. "We would like to build upon this by focussing on greater exchanges between our youth, institutions of higher learning, parliamentarians, business leaders, media, scientists and researchers," he said.

The Prime Minister said he and Mr Medvedev also discussed regional issues, including the situation in Afghanistan.

"Both India and Russia have an interest in a stable, prosperous and moderate Afghanistan, and we have agreed to regularly consult each other on this important issue," he said.

Dr Singh said they had also agreed to enhance their cooperation to meet the grave challenges of terrorism and religious extremism that emanated from their region and threatened both their societies.

The two countries reviewed their collaboration in the United Nations and multilateral fora such as the G-20.

"India and Russia can play a significant role in ensuring that the process of global economic recovery is sustained, balanced and inclusive. We have agreed to work towards a successful and comprehensive outcome at the climate change Conference in Copenhagen," he said.

He said he had invited Mr Medvedev for the next annual summit in Delhi in 2010. He said India also looked forward to the visit of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to India next year.

"These high level exchanges are a defining characteristic of our relations, and reflect the strong political commitment on both sides to continue to strengthen our Strategic Partnership," he said.

At the outset, Dr Singh conveyed to the Government and people of Russia the deepest condolences on behalf of the Government and people of India on the fire in a night club in Perm, which claimed more than a hundred lives. "Our thoughts are with the friends and families of the bereaved," he said.

The Prime Minister said relations between India and Russia were characterised by deep mutual trust and confidence.

"India and Russia are characterised by deep mutual trust and confidence. They are based on shared interests and common perceptions on global issues. Russia is a major global power and a factor of peace and stability in the international system. India accords the highest priority to its relations with Russia. This is a relationship that stands on its own footing and is not influenced by our relations with any other country," he said.

Dr Singh said he was most satisfied with his discussions today as well as the informal talks he had with Mr Medvedev at the dinner the Russian President hosted for him last night at his dacha on the outskirts of Moscow.

He said he had conveyed to Mr Medvedev the special importance India attached to strengthening the economic dimension of the bilateral ties. He expected the India-Russia CEOs Council to play a much bigger role in realising this objective.

Dr Singh and Mr Putin met the members of the Council later today. The Council is co-chaired on the Indian side by Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani.

The Prime Minister said the two countries had decided to set a trade target of $ 20 billion by 2015.

"We have decided to set a trade target of 20 billion US dollars by 2015. We have identified the areas of energy, Information Technology and Communications, and pharmaceuticals as the new thrust areas for cooperation," he added.

Russian media reports quoted Mr Medvedev as saying that the civil nuclear agreement would pave the way for large-scale joint projects in this area.

He noted that the two countries had many joint projects in the energy sector and many of them were in nuclear energy.

India and Russia were cooperating in this area so far under their 1988 agreement, under which two 1000 MW nuclear power units are being set up at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu. In December last year, the two countries agreed on four additional units at Kudankulam.

Recently, India agreed to allocate one more site at Haripur in West Bengal for nuclear reactors supplied by Russia.

Russia's nuclear chief Sergei Kiryenko said today that the first unit of the Kudankulam nuclear power station would be commissioned next year as scheduled. He said the second unit would follow within nine months after that, in 2011.

Mr Medvedev also said Russia was determined to step up trade with India and hoped it would reach $ 10 billion next year from the $ 5 billion achieved in the first nine months of 2009. He said the potential, given the size of the two economies, was much higher.

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Photos courtesy Press Information Bureau

PM in Russia hoping to strengthen strategic partnership

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reached Moscow on Sunday on a three-day visit during which India and Russia are likely to sign six agreements, including one on cooperation in the area of civil nuclear energy.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrives at the Vnukovo-II International Airport to attend the Annual India-Russia Summit in Moscow, Russia on December 06, 2009.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrives at the Vnukovo-II International Airport to attend the Annual India-Russia Summit in Moscow, Russia on December 06, 2009.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reached Moscow today on a three-day visit during which India and Russia are expected to sign six bilateral agreements, including one on cooperation in the area of civil nuclear energy.

Dr Singh, who arrived by a special Air India aircraft at 1245 hours local time, was received by senior Russian and Indian officials.

"I am confident that my visit will be yet another step forward in consolidating our cooperation with Russia and in reinforcing the fact that the India-Russia strategic partnership is a factor of peace and stability in the evolving international situation," Dr Singh said in a statement here this morningprior to his departure for Moscow.

During his stay in Moscow, Dr Singh will meet Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for the annual India-Russia Summit and also hold wide-ranging talks with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

"The Annual Summit is the principal mechanism for the advancement of our strategic partnership with Russia. This is a partnership based on the solid foundation of long-standing friendship, deep mutual trust and strong convergence of interests. Over the years, our multifaceted cooperation with Russia has acquired greater depth and maturity through joint efforts. We seek to strengthen these ties further," Dr Singh said.

He said that, at his summit meeting with Mr Medvedev, he hoped to review the status of the bilateral cooperation between the two countries, including in the key areas of defence, civil nuclear energy, space, science and technology and hydrocarbons.

He said he would also exchange views with the President on key regional and global issues such as terrorism, recovery of the global economy, energy security, climate change, nuclear disarmament and reform of international institutions.

"During the visit, I will also meet Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, under whose Presidency we had established the strategic partnership between our two countries in 2000. Prime Minister Putin and I will jointly attend the closing ceremony of the Year of India in Russia. I also look forward to meeting the members of the India-Russia CEO’s Council along with Prime Minister Putin. These events symbolize the mutual desire of both countries to enhance people-to-people contacts, and expand our trade and economic engagement, which is well below our true potential," he said.

The Prime Minister said he also looked forward to interacting with Russian intellectuals and scholars during the visit. "We need to build upon the tradition of study and research of each other’s countries through greater contacts between the media and academic circles," he said.

Dr Singh and Mr Medvedev will issue a Joint Declaration during the visit on deepening the bilateral strategic partnership to meet global challenges.

The Prime Minister is accompanied on the visit by Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) President Karan Singh, National Security Adviser M K Narayanan and senior officials.

"We are currently in the advanced stages of finalising a bilateral framework Inter-Government Agreement on Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy," Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said here yesterday while briefing journalists on the visit.

She said several rounds of negotiations had already taken place between experts from the two countries and they were hopeful that the agreement would be finalised during Dr Singh's visit.

"This agreement envisages broad-based cooperation on a range of technologies and know-how in the realm of peaceful uses of nuclear technology," Ms Rao said.

India and Russia have an existing agreement, signed in 1988, for cooperation in the construction of two 1000 MW nuclear power units at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu. In December 2008, the two countries concluded an agreement for four additional units at Kudankulam.

Recently, India agreed to allocate one more site at Haripur in West Bengal for nuclear reactors supplied by Russia.

Ms Rao said the agreements that are expected to be signed during the visit would reflect the breadth of the bilateral relationship and, particularly, the depth of the cooperation between the two countries in the area of defence.

The three defence agreements likely to be signed during the visit include one on extending the Progamme for Military and Technical Cooperation for the period 2011-20, another on after-sales support for Russian arms and military equipment supplied to India and a protocol to the Agreement on Cooperation in Development and Production of Mutli-Role Transport Aircraft (MTA).

The two sides are also expected to sign a dollar credit line agreement between Vnesheconombank of the Russian Federation and the Exim Bank of India for the extension of a 100 million dollar credit to Russia for certain imports of equipment from India as well as a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on cultural exchanges between the two countries.

Ms Rao said defence cooperation had for long been a key element of the bilateral relationship.

"We have moved well beyond a buyer-seller relationship to joint production through the transfer of relevant technologies. In fact, the development of the Indian defence industry has been in large measure due to the strong relationship we have had with Russia and the Soviet Union earlier. A very robust bilateral institutions mechanism exists to discuss the defence relationship. The apex of this structure is the inter-governmental commission headed by the two defence ministers on military-technical cooperation. During the annual summit, this relationship will be reviewed at the highest level," she said.

She said the ongoing flagship projects which reflected the depth of this cooperation included the aircraft carrier Vikramaditya (Admiral Gorshkov), the multi-role transport aircraft, the fifth generation fighter aircraft, production of SU-30 MKI fighter aircraft and production of T-90 tanks.

The Foreign Secretary said another critical element of the relationship was the cooperation between the two countries in the hydrocarbons sector. India's ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL) has invested about $ 2.7 billion in the Sakhalin I project. "We are hoping to intensify this cooperation with further participation in oil and gas fields in the Russian Far-East," she said.

This will be Dr Singh's sixth visit to Russia as Prime Minister and the second this year. He had visited Yekaterinburg in June this year to attend the BRIC (Brazil Russia India China) and SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) Summits.

The bilateral relationship was re-energised by the declaration of Strategic Partnership between the two countries during the visit to India in 2000 by then Russian President Putin.

Ms Rao said the partnership had since then diversified enormously and was strong and expanding in areas such as defence, nuclear energy, hydrocarbons, space research and science and technology.

"We are now working to stimulate our relations in the field of bilateral trade and investment. We in India consider Russia to be an old and valued friend which is at the same time a country with a huge untapped potential for increasing our bilateral engagement. The warmth and desire for deepening engagement, we feel, is strongly reciprocated on the Russian side. Prime Minister has recently said that during his visit to Russia and in discussions with President Medvedev, we propose to discuss steps to raise our strategic partnership to the next level," she said.

Soon after reaching Moscow today, Dr Singh will have dinner with Mr Medvedev at his dacha, where the two leaders will have an information conversation ahead of the formal meetings at the Kremlin.

Tomorrow, Dr Singh will meet Mr Medvedev for a restricted format meeting as well as for delegation level talks, when they will discuss a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues. He will also meet Mr Putin.

The two Prime Ministers will together attend the closing ceremony of the "Year of India" in Russia.

Dr Singh and Mr Putin will address the CEOs Council, which will be meeting for the first time since it was conceived in 2008.

The Council comprises CEOs of some of the biggest and most important companies in India and Russia, and is aimed at stimulating further engagement between the private sectors of the two countries.

Several captains of industry will be in Moscow to participate in the meeting which will be co-chaired on the Indian side by Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani.

The visit has been preceded by a very intensive bilateral engagement between the two countries. Mr Medvedev had visited India in December last year and President Pratibha Patil had visited Russia in September.

Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, Defence Minister A K Antony and External Affairs Minister S M Krishna had visited Moscow in October and November to discuss various aspects of the relationship.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had visited India for the 9th Trilateral Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of India, Russia and China in Bangalore on October 27. In November, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Sobyanin. Besides, the Foreign Secretary had detailed Foreign Office-level consultations with her counterpart, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister.

"As our Prime Minister said recently, Russia is an important factor of peace, stability and security in the world. We view our relationship with Russia as an enduring friendship that has stood the test of the time. Our relations with Russia enjoy a strong national consensus in India. The people of India can never forget the help and support we have received from Russia in difficult moments of our history," Ms Rao added.

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Photos courtesy Press Information Bureau

PM leaves on 3-day visit to Russia to strengthen bilateral ties

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh left here on Sunday on a visit to Russia during which the two countries are likely to sign six agreements, including one on civil nuclear energy cooperation.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrives at the Vnukovo-II International Airport to attend the Annual India-Russia Summit in Moscow, Russia on December 06, 2009.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrives at the Vnukovo-II International Airport to attend the Annual India-Russia Summit in Moscow, Russia on December 06, 2009.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh left here today on a three-day visit to Russia during which the two countries are expected to sign six bilateral agreements, including one on cooperation in the area of civil nuclear energy.

"I am confident that my visit will be yet another step forward in consolidating our cooperation with Russia and in reinforcing the fact that the India-Russia strategic partnership is a factor of peace and stability in the evolving international situation," Dr Singh said in a statement prior to his departure for Moscow.

During his stay in Moscow, Dr Singh will meet Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for the annual India-Russia Summit and also hold wide-ranging talks with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

"The Annual Summit is the principal mechanism for the advancement of our strategic partnership with Russia. This is a partnership based on the solid foundation of long-standing friendship, deep mutual trust and strong convergence of interests. Over the years, our multifaceted cooperation with Russia has acquired greater depth and maturity through joint efforts. We seek to strengthen these ties further," Dr Singh said.

He said that, at his summit meeting with Mr Medvedev, he hoped to review the status of the bilateral cooperation between the two countries, including in the key areas of defence, civil nuclear energy, space, science and technology and hydrocarbons.

He said he would also exchange views with the President on key regional and global issues such as terrorism, recovery of the global economy, energy security, climate change, nuclear disarmament and reform of international institutions.

"During the visit, I will also meet Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, under whose Presidency we had established the strategic partnership between our two countries in 2000. Prime Minister Putin and I will jointly attend the closing ceremony of the Year of India in Russia. I also look forward to meeting the members of the India-Russia CEO’s Council along with Prime Minister Putin. These events symbolize the mutual desire of both countries to enhance people-to-people contacts, and expand our trade and economic engagement, which is well below our true potential," he said.

The Prime Minister said he also looked forward to interacting with Russian intellectuals and scholars during the visit. "We need to build upon the tradition of study and research of each other’s countries through greater contacts between the media and academic circles," he said.

Dr Singh and Mr Medvedev will issue a Joint Declaration during the visit on deepening the bilateral strategic partnership to meet global challenges.

The Prime Minister is accompanied on the visit by Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) President Karan Singh, National Security Adviser M K Narayanan and senior officials.

"We are currently in the advanced stages of finalising a bilateral framework Inter-Government Agreement on Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy," Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said here yesterday while briefing journalists on the visit.

She said several rounds of negotiations had already taken place between experts from the two countries and they were hopeful that the agreement would be finalised during Dr Singh's visit.

"This agreement envisages broad-based cooperation on a range of technologies and know-how in the realm of peaceful uses of nuclear technology," Ms Rao said.

India and Russia have an existing agreement, signed in 1988, for cooperation in the construction of two 1000 MW nuclear power units at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu. In December 2008, the two countries concluded an agreement for four additional units at Kudankulam.

Recently, India agreed to allocate one more site at Haripur in West Bengal for nuclear reactors supplied by Russia.

Ms Rao said the agreements that are expected to be signed during the visit would reflect the breadth of the bilateral relationship and, particularly, the depth of the cooperation between the two countries in the area of defence.

The three defence agreements likely to be signed during the visit include one on extending the Progamme for Military and Technical Cooperation for the period 2011-20, another on after-sales support for Russian arms and military equipment supplied to India and a protocol to the Agreement on Cooperation in Development and Production of Mutli-Role Transport Aircraft (MTA).

The two sides are also expected to sign a dollar credit line agreement between Vnesheconombank of the Russian Federation and the Exim Bank of India for the extension of a 100 million dollar credit to Russia for certain imports of equipment from India as well as a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on cultural exchanges between the two countries.

Ms Rao said defence cooperation had for long been a key element of the bilateral relationship.

"We have moved well beyond a buyer-seller relationship to joint production through the transfer of relevant technologies. In fact, the development of the Indian defence industry has been in large measure due to the strong relationship we have had with Russia and the Soviet Union earlier. A very robust bilateral institutions mechanism exists to discuss the defence relationship. The apex of this structure is the inter-governmental commission headed by the two defence ministers on military-technical cooperation. During the annual summit, this relationship will be reviewed at the highest level," she said.

She said the ongoing flagship projects which reflected the depth of this cooperation included the aircraft carrier Vikramaditya (Admiral Gorshkov), the multi-role transport aircraft, the fifth generation fighter aircraft, production of SU-30 MKI fighter aircraft and production of T-90 tanks.

The Foreign Secretary said another critical element of the relationship was the cooperation between the two countries in the hydrocarbons sector. India's ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL) has invested about $ 2.7 billion in the Sakhalin I project. "We are hoping to intensify this cooperation with further participation in oil and gas fields in the Russian Far-East," she said.

This will be Dr Singh's sixth visit to Russia as Prime Minister and the second this year. He had visited Yekaterinburg in June this year to attend the BRIC (Brazil Russia India China) and SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) Summits.

The bilateral relationship was re-energised by the declaration of Strategic Partnership between the two countries during the visit to India in 2000 by then Russian President Putin.

Ms Rao said the partnership had since then diversified enormously and was strong and expanding in areas such as defence, nuclear energy, hydrocarbons, space research and science and technology.

"We are now working to stimulate our relations in the field of bilateral trade and investment. We in India consider Russia to be an old and valued friend which is at the same time a country with a huge untapped potential for increasing our bilateral engagement. The warmth and desire for deepening engagement, we feel, is strongly reciprocated on the Russian side. Prime Minister has recently said that during his visit to Russia and in discussions with President Medvedev, we propose to discuss steps to raise our strategic partnership to the next level," she said.

Soon after reaching Moscow today, Dr Singh will have dinner with Mr Medvedev at his dacha, where the two leaders will have an information conversation ahead of the formal meetings at the Kremlin.

Tomorrow, Dr Singh will meet Mr Medvedev for a restricted format meeting as well as for delegation level talks, when they will discuss a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues. He will also meet Mr Putin.

The two Prime Ministers will together attend the closing ceremony of the "Year of India" in Russia.

Dr Singh and Mr Putin will address the CEOs Council, which will be meeting for the first time since it was conceived in 2008.

The Council comprises CEOs of some of the biggest and most important companies in India and Russia, and is aimed at stimulating further engagement between the private sectors of the two countries.

Several captains of industry will be in Moscow to participate in the meeting which will be co-chaired on the Indian side by Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani.

The visit has been preceded by a very intensive bilateral engagement between the two countries. Mr Medvedev had visited India in December last year and President Pratibha Patil had visited Russia in September.

Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, Defence Minister A K Antony and External Affairs Minister S M Krishna had visited Moscow in October and November to discuss various aspects of the relationship.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had visited India for the 9th Trilateral Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of India, Russia and China in Bangalore on October 27. In November, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Sobyanin. Besides, the Foreign Secretary had detailed Foreign Office-level consultations with her counterpart, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister.

"As our Prime Minister said recently, Russia is an important factor of peace, stability and security in the world. We view our relationship with Russia as an enduring friendship that has stood the test of the time. Our relations with Russia enjoy a strong national consensus in India. The people of India can never forget the help and support we have received from Russia in difficult moments of our history," Ms Rao added.

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Photos courtesy Press Information Bureau

PM to attend Copenhagen Climate Change Summit

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will attend the Copenhagen summit on climate change on December 18.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will attend the Copenhagen summit on climate change on December 18, official sources said here today.

The sources told NetIndian that Dr Singh would leave here in the morning of December 17 and leave for home from Copenhagen, Denmark, in the evening of December 18.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whom he had met on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Port of Spain last month, had urged Dr Singh to attend the summit so that India's voice could be heard.

Other world leaders, including United States President Barack Obama, are also understood to have requested him to attend the summit.

The summit will begin on December 7 and go on until December 18. Mr Obama and other world leaders are expected to attend the summit on December 18.

Dr Singh was of the view that he would attend the meeting only if there was a chance for a comprehensive and equitable agreement to emerge at Copenhagen. His decision to attend the summit is seen as an indicator of the importance India attaches to the meeting and the issue of climate change.

Two days ago, India announced it would reduce its carbon emission intensity by 20-25 per cent by 2020 from the levels they were at in 2005.

Outlining India's position for the summit, Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh told the Lok Sabha on December 3 that the decision to reduce the carbon emission intensity would prove beneficial for the country.

Replying to a debate on climate change and what India's position should be at the summit, Mr Ramesh said the Government was planning a series of policy measures, including legislation, to achieve the planned reduction.

He said the Government would bring legislation to provide for mandatory fuel efficiency standards for vehicles by December 2011 that would help reduce green house gas (GHG) emissions in the transportation sector.

He said the Government would also bring a model green building code that would encourage energy conservation. He said amendments would be made to various laws to reduce the energy inensity of various industrial sectors.

Mr Ramesh said the Government would report regularly to Parliament on the state of the country's cover and ensure that they are maintained at current levels. The forests acted as a "carbon sink", absorbing upto 10 per cent of the country's green house gas emissions, he said.

The Minister said the Government would also ensure that half of the new coal-based power plants that will come up in the future use clean coal technologies, which will need supercritical and ultra-critical and coal gasification technologies.

He said over and above these steps that it was taking unilaterally, India was prepared to do even more if an equitable and comprehensive agreement emerged from the Copenhagen summit.

Mr Ramesh also took the opportunity to reiterate India's "non-negotiables". He said India would not accept a legally binding emission reduction target. It will also not accept any agreement at Copenhagen that stipulated a peaking year for India's emissions.

He said India would be willing to subject all its mitigation actions which are supported by international finance and technologies to international review, but would not like any such scrutiny for unsupported actions that it undertook on its own. At the same time, he said all the Government's actions would be carried out in a transparent manner.

Mr Ramesh felt that the announcement would enhance India's bargaining and leadership position at the Copenhagen talks.

He stressed the need for a flexible attitude towards the summit, saying that flexibility did not mean a "sell-out". He said India must have the ability to respond to the rapidly evolving international situation.

Meanwhile, Brazil, South Africa, India and China tabled a draft agreement at Copenhagen on December 2 on what they felt such an agreement should like like. The hosts, Denmark, have also tabled a draft agreement. "We have come up with a draft which protects our interests," Mr Ramesh said.

India's announcement came within days of China announcing a 40-45 per cent cut in its emissions intensity by 2020. Brazil also announced its plans to achieve a 38-42 per cent reduction and Indonesia announced a 26 per cent.

Dr Singh had told the a special session on climate change at CHOGM that India was willing to sign on to an ambitious global target for emissions reduction or limiting temperature increase if these were accompanied by an equitable burden sharing paradigm.

He had said India had repeatedly emphasised the need for the outcome at the 15th Conference of Parties (COP) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change -- the formal name of the Copenhagen summit -- to be comprehensive, balanced and, above all, equitable.

He had said it must be comprehensive in the sense that it must cover all the inter-related components of mitigation, adaptation, finance and technology.

He had said this meant that a partial outcome must be resisted and that there must be balance and equal priority given to each of the four components.

"Mitigation is important but cannot take precedence over adaptation which, for many countries represented here, poses a greater challenge. And most important from our perspective, is the need to ensure an equitable outcome corresponding to the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities," he had said.

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India, Russia likely to sign civil nuclear cooperation pact during PM's visit

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will leave here tomorrow on a three-day visit to Russia during which the two countries are expected to sign six bilateral agreements, including one on cooperation in the area of civil nuclear energy.

During his stay in Moscow, Dr Singh will meet Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for the annual India-Russia Summit and also hold talks with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Dr Singh and Mr Medvedev will issue a Joint Declaration during the visit on deepening the bilateral strategic partnership to meet global challenges.

The Prime Minister will be accompanied on the visit by Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) President Karan Singh, National Security Adviser M K Narayanan and senior officials.

"We are currently in the advanced stages of finalising a bilateral framework Inter-Government Agreement on Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy," Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said here today while briefing journalists on the visit.

She said several rounds of negotiations had already taken place between experts from the two countries and they were hopeful that the agreement would be finalised during Dr Singh's visit.

"This agreement envisages broad-based cooperation on a range of technologies and know-how in the realm of peaceful uses of nuclear technology," Ms Rao said.

India and Russia have an existing agreement, signed in 1988, for cooperation in the construction of two 1000 MW nuclear power units at Kudankulam in Tamil Nadu. In December 2008, the two countries concluded an agreement for four additional units at Kudankulam. Recently, India agreed to allocate one more site at Haripur in West Bengal for nuclear reactors supplied by Russia.

Ms Rao said the agreements that are expected to be signed during the visit would reflect the breadth of the bilateral relationship and, particularly, the depth of the cooperation between the two countries in the defence.

The other agreements likely to be signed during the visit include one on extending the Progamme for Military and Technical Cooperation for the period 2011-20, another on after-sales support for Russian arms and military equipment supplied to India and a protocol to the Agreement on Cooperation in Development and Production of Mutli-Role Transport Aircraft (MTA).

The two sides are also expected to sign a dollar credit line agreement between Vnesheconombank of the Russian Federation and the Exim Bank of India for the extension of a 100 million dollar credit to Russia for certain imports of equipment from India as well as a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on cultural exchanges between the two countries.

Ms Rao said defence cooperation had for long been a key element of the bilateral relationship.

"We have moved well beyond a buyer-seller relationship to joint production through the transfer of relevant technologies. In fact, the development of the Indian defence industry has been in large measure due to the strong relationship we have had with Russia and the Soviet Union earlier. A very robust bilateral institutions mechanism exists to discuss the defence relationship. The apex of this structure is the inter-governmental commission headed by the two defence ministers on military-technical cooperation. During the annual summit, this relationship will be reviewed at the highest level," she said.

She said the ongoing flagship projects which reflected the depth of this cooperation included the aircraft carrier Vikramaditya (Admiral Gorshkov), the multi-role transport aircraft, the fifth generation fighter aircraft, production of SU-30 MKI fighter aircraft and production of T-90 tanks.

The Foreign Secretary said another critical element of the relationship was the cooperation between the two countries in the hydrocarbon sector. India's ONGC Videsh Limited (OVL) has invested about $ 2.7 billion in the Sakhalin I project. "We are hoping to intensify this cooperation with further participation in oil and gas fields in the Russian Far-East," she said.

This will be Dr Singh's sixth visit to Russia as Prime Minister and the second this year. He had visited Yekaterinburg in June this year to attend the BRIC (Brazil Russia India China) and SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organisation) Summits.

The bilateral relationship was re-energised by the declaration of Strategic Partnership between the two countries during the visit to India in 2000 by then Russian President Putin.

Ms Rao said the partnership had since then diversified enormously and was strong and expanding in areas such as defence, nuclear energy, hydrocarbons, space research and science and technology.

"We are now working to stimulate our relations in the field of bilateral trade and investment. We in India consider Russia to be an old and valued friend which is at the same time a country with a huge untapped potential for increasing our bilateral engagement. The warmth and desire for deepening engagement, we feel, is strongly reciprocated on the Russian side. Prime Minister has recently said that during his visit to Russia and in discussions with President Medvedev, we propose to discuss steps to raise our strategic partnership to the next level," she said.

Soon after reaching Moscow tomorrow, Dr Singh will have dinner with Mr Medvedev at his dacha, where the two leaders would have an information conversation before the formal meetings at the Kremlin are held.

On Monday, Dr Singh will meet Mr Medvedev for a restricted format meeting as well as for delegation level talks, when they will discuss a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues. He will also have wide-ranging discussions with Mr Putin.

The two Prime Ministers will together attend the closing ceremony of the "Year of India" in Russia.

Dr Singh and Mr Putin will also address the CEOs Council, which will be meeting for the first since since it was conceived in 2008.

The Council comprises CEOs of some of the biggest and most important companies in India and Russia, and is aimed at stimulating further engagement between the private sectors of the two countries.

Several captains of industry will be in Moscow to participate in the meeting which will be co-chaired on the Indian side by Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani.

Dr Singh will also attend a meeting of Indologists where Russian scholars and academicians with an informed interest in India will present their views on the civilisational engagement between India and Russia.

The visit has been preceded by a very intensive bilateral engagement between the two countries. President Pratibha Patil had visited Russia in September, after which Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma, Defence Minister A K Antony and External Affairs Minister S M Krishna had visited Moscow in October and November to discuss various aspects of the relationship.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had visited India for the 9th Trilateral Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of India, Russia and China in Bangalore on October 27. In November, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Sobyanin. Besides, the Foreign Secretary had detailed Foreign Office-level consultations with her counterpart, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister.

"As our Prime Minister said recently, Russia is an important factor of peace, stability and security in the world. We view our relationship with Russia as an enduring friendship that has stood the test of the time. Our relations with Russia enjoy a strong national consensus in India. The people of India can never forget the help and support we have received from Russia in difficult moments of our history," Ms Rao added.

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PM hopes his visit will deepen India-Russia strategic partnership

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has hoped that his December 6-8 visit to Moscow would further develop the bonds of friendship between the two countries and provide deeper and broader content to their strategic partnership.

"Both President (Dmitry) Medvedev and Prime Minister (Vladimir) Putin are great friends of our country." Dr Singh told a group of Russia journalists in an interview ahead of the trip.

He said Russia had been a great friend of India and had stood by it through very difficult times.

Stating that India faced the onset of terrorism aided, inspired and instigated by its "neighbour", in an obvious reference to Pakistan, Dr Singh said India and Russia could work together to devise effective counter-terror strategies by coordinating their intelligence and information systems.

"We can help each other because Russia, like India, has also been the victim of terrorism. We also believe that Russia being a great power can influence the conduct of Pakistan. Our hope is that Russia’s influence will be utilised to convince Pakistan that the strategy of using terror as an instrument of state policy is counter-productive, it runs counter to a policy of good neighbourliness," he said.

Dr Singh said that, India on its part, if Pakistan territory ceased to be used by terrorists, saw immense opportunities for the two neighbours to work together in cooperation. "There are immense opportunities of expanding trade, investment and technology flow between our two countries," he said.

During his stay in Moscow, Dr Singh will meet President Medvedev for the annual India-Russia Summit and also meet Prime Minister Putin.

The Prime Minister said cooperation in the area of defence had been a very important aspect of India's relationship with Russia.

He said India had been able to get defence equipment and technologies from Russia which were not available to it from any other country. Simultaneously, Russia had played a very important role in helping India to develop its nuclear energy programme. It had helped India in developing its space programme and in many areas of science and technology the two countries had actively collaborated to the enormous advantage of Indian economy and polity.

"When I go to Russia, naturally, we will review our relationship in its diverse fields, including defence relationship, how we can strengthen, how we can develop new technologies in the field of defence," he said.

Dr Singh said the issue of aircraft carrier Admiral Gorshkov would figure in his discussions in Moscow and he was confident that the two sides could find practical solutions to the problems that had arisen in the deal.

"Collaboration between our two countries in the field of defence is a very vital aspect of our development. It will stay that way for many years to come. Cooperation in the field of nuclear energy has been a very important pillar of our cooperation with Russia and we have identified now new sites for collaboration with Russia for nuclear power projects. I see enormous opportunities in defence, in science and technology, in atomic energy, in space programme and in the development of our trade and investment relations which have not grown as fast as we both would like them to grow," he said.

Asked about the possibility of investments in Russia by Indian pharmaceutical firms, Dr Singh said the companies had built up enormous capacities in the field of medicines and pharmaceuticals.

"World over, in generic drugs Indian companies have acquired a name for themselves. I sincerely hope that Russia and India can explore avenues of cooperation whereby Indian pharmaceutical concerns can help to expand the quality healthcare in particular in the supply of generic drugs to the Russian public at affordable costs and prices," he said.

Dr Singh also pointed out that Russia had cooperated and collaborated with India in its space programmes, including Chandrayaan-I, the lunar mission.

He said India was now planing a manned space flight and it would provide opportunities for the two countries to work together.

"As of now the cooperation that we have with Russia, or the way we want it to grow with Russia, I think is far in excess of any cooperation that we have or we plan to develop with other countries," he said.

To a question about visa-related problems, the Prime Minister said India was in favour of developing the closest possible business and people-to-people contacts between the two countries. He said any obstacles in this regard should be discussed and solutions found, promising to explore all avenues to expand contacts between the peoples of the two countries.

"The India Russia bilateral relationship has been growing from strength to strength ever since we first established diplomatic relations in 1947. We view our relationship with Russia as an enduring friendship that has stood the test of time. Our relations with Russia enjoy a strong national consensus in India. The people of India can never forget the help and support we have received from Russia in difficult moments of our history," he said.

At the same time, he said India, like Russia, had tried to respond to the changes in the international system in different ways, including by broadening its engagement with the rest of the world.

"Our objective in India is to create an external environment that is conducive to meeting the developmental aspirations of our people, and to address the key challenges of our times - the global economic and financial crisis, energy security and climate change, terrorism, and reform of global institutions of governance. We are, however, clear that our growing engagement with the rest of the world cannot be at the cost of our time-tested ties with Russia. Russia is an important factor of peace, stability and security in the world," he said.

The Prime Minister said that, for a effective response to the regional and global challenges that they faced, it was importat that India and Russia further intensified their strategic partnership.

"As two large pluralistic democracies undergoing rapid economic transformation, we share many common interests and have similar viewpoints on global issues. During my visit to Russia I propose to discuss with President Medvedev the steps we can take to raise our Strategic Partnership to the next level," he said.

Dr Singh said the annual India-Russia Summit was the principal vehicle to advance the bilateral Strategic Partnership.

"Every such Summit has contributed to this process. It involves discussions on a broad range of subjects from bilateral cooperation to collaboration in international fora and discussions on global issues of common concern," he explained.

"In my talks with President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin, I hope to have an indepth discussion on all aspects of our relations. For several years now trade and investment ties between India and Russia have lagged behind. The trade target of US$ 10 billion that we are likely to achieve in 2010 is well below our potential, given the size of the Indian and Russian economies. We need to widen our trade basket, and promote greater investments in each other’s countries. Pharmaceuticals, Information Technology and diamonds can become areas of future growth," he said.

He said that, during the India-Russia Inter-Governmental Commission in Moscow, the energy sector was identified as a thrust area of cooperation.

"We would in particular like to see further progress in the hydrocarbon sector, which has been under discussion for sometime. Indian companies have developed world-class capabilities and can work with their Russian counterparts in both upstream and downstream sectors. India’s energy needs are vast, and this area offers huge potential for win-win cooperation," he said.

"India and Russia have a history of close collaboration in the area of civil nuclear cooperation. New opportunities in this sector are opening up, and we would like to see greater Russian participation in our nuclear energy expansion programme. We must revitalize our cooperation in the cutting edges of science and technology, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and transfer of high technologies. Defence cooperation is a key pillar of our relations. We would like to strengthen it, and move towards joint design, research, development and manufacture," he said.

He said the two countries would also discuss regional and global issues, particularly the situation in Afghanistan, terrorism, climate change and measures to revive the global economy.

Dr Singh said the Year of India in Russia, which will draw to a close during his visit, and the Year of Russia in India last year had provided the people of both countries an opportunity to understand modern India and modern Russia.

"India and Russia enjoyed a strong tradition of people-to-people exchanges until the late 1980s. Russian thinkers, writers, painters, and artists have had a profound effect on India, just as our scholars and artists have had on Russia. We are keen to revive this tradition by promoting greater number of exchanges between our parliamentarians, media personnel, academics and scholars. We must in particular focus on promoting exchanges between our youth, who need to have much greater exposure to the achievements of each other’s countries. In my view, this is extremely important because both our countries are undergoing rapid transformation, and we should not be bound by old stereotypes," he said.

Asked about BRIC, G-20 and other such formats in which India participates actively, Dr Singh said such multi-lateral groupings represented the growing inter-dependence of the world.

"Such groupings are in many ways the building blocks of the emerging global architecture," he added.

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Sharma: No change in India’s position in agriculture, NAMA

Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma has made it clear that there was no change in India's negotiating position in agriculture and non-agricultural market access (NAMA) at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Talking to journalists in media after the working session of the 7th Ministerial Conference of the WTO in Geneva last night, Mr Sharma said the meeting had provided members with a useful opportunity to collectively discuss the world economic scenario and the challenges faced by the multi-lateral trading system.

He said the conference, the first ministerial in the aftermath of the economic slowdown, had also given an opportunity to the members to review the working of the WTO.

"While the Conference was not intended as a negotiating forum, it had provided a useful opportunity for different groups and caucuses to assess the direction of the negotiations. India and its coalition partners were steadfast and united in their commitment to uphold the development dimension, the centrality of the multilateral process and the need to safeguard livelihood concerns, particularly of the poor, subsistence farmers in their countries," he said.

At the working session of the conference, Mr Sharma said the first priority should be to conclude the Doha Round as quickly as possible.

Banking the progress achieved in reducing tariffs, cutting distorting subsidies, opening markets and removing non-trade barriers would go a long way to increasing world trade and welfare, he said.

Mr Sharma also stressed the importance of inclusive global development to shore up demand.

Referring to the collapse of trade finance from September 2008 onwards, he emphasized the importance of the WTO initiatives for aid for trade and trade financing and underlined the need to rebalance factor movements and flows of capital and investment and for liberalisation across other factor markets including greater mobility of labour.

Appreciating the WTO’s role in monitoring protectionist trends, the Minister observed that for the WTO to contribute to recovery growth and development it must be made a more effective institution.

Mr Sharma also attended a Ministerial Session of the Negotiating Committee of the GSTP, which adopted the Draft Ministerial Decision on Modalities for the Third Round of Global System of Trade Preferences negotiations.

"India attaches a great deal of importance to the GSTP process for optimizing South-South synergies and expanding trade among developing countries. GSTP has contributed to an expansion of trade and has also fostered special and differential treatment to the exports of the Least Developed Countries. India participated actively and exchanged tariff concessions with 14 countries in the First GSTP Round in 1989. India believes that timely implementation of the agreement would assist developing countries in coping with the debilitating effects of the global economic crisis," he said.

The Minister also held meetings with his counterparts from Argentina, Malaysia and Australia, during which a range of issues, including the Doha Round, were discussed, an official press release added.

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US says India key partner on way forward in Afghanistan, Pakistan

The United States today described India as its key, global partner with whom it shared an aspiration -- its core goal to disrupt, dismantle and defeat terrorist networks in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"India is a key, global partner of the United States and we value the positive role India continues to play in the region, including its significant humanitarian contributions to Afghanistan," US Ambassador to India Timothy J Roemer said in a statement here today, hours after US President Barack Obama unveiled his new strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan at a meeting in New York Tuesday night.

Among other things, Mr Obama has decided to send an additional 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan, saying that America's security was at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"Our nations share a common goal -- to see a world free of the global terrorism that threatens our people where they worship, live, work, and study. We are committed to working steadfastly together to accomplish this goal," he said.

"Our core goal in Afghanistan and Pakistan -- to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat terrorist networks -- is an aspiration we share with India. We must unite in the commitment of our civilian resources, and provide the tools for economic development and humanitarian aid to eliminate the extremist violence that is the enemy of peace, faith, democracy, tolerance, fundamental freedoms and human rights," he said.

Mr Roemer noted that Mr Obama had announced significant and closely coordinated military and civilian resources for Afghanistan.

"He has directed us to work together to strengthen the Afghan National Security Forces so that the Afghans can take the lead in reclaiming and governing their own country. We are helping to create jobs for the Afghans which are critical to undermining the appeal of the brutal extremists while insuring sustainable, economic growth in the long term, with agriculture as our top development priority," Mr Roemer said.

He said Mr Obama had also announced substantial civilian resources for Pakistan as part of the effort to enhance the Pakistani government's capacity to meet the immediate needs of its people, facilitate sustainable economic growth, and build on its success in the fight against militancy and global terrorism.

"In order for this new strategy to be effective, the U.S. and Pakistan must work together to hold terrorists accountable for their actions and to offer terror networks no safe haven," the US Ambassador said.

According to him, President Obama had indicated that while the US military presence in Afghanistan was not open-ended, America had enduring interests in the region and would remain politically, diplomatically and economically engaged in Afghanistan and Pakistan for the long term.

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