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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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Obama decides to send 30,000 additional US troops to Afghanistan

US President Barack Obama has announced his decision to send an additional 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan, saying the country's security was at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

United States President Barack Obama has announced his decision to send an additional 30,000 US troops to Afghanistan, saying the move was in America's vital national interest and that the country's security was at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"These are the resources that we need to seize the initiative, while building the Afghan capacity that can allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan," Mr Obama said while unveiling his new Afghanistan-Pakistan policy in an address at the US Military Academy at West Point in New York Tuesday night.

The decision came after a thorough review of the US Af-Pak policy that Mr Obama had ordered following the completion of voting in the Afghan presidential elections some weeks ago.

The US President said he had not made the decision lightly. "I make this decision because I am convinced that our security is at stake in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This is the epicenter of violent extremism practiced by al Qaeda. It is from here that we were attacked on 9/11, and it is from here that new attacks are being plotted as I speak," he said.

Mr Obama said this was no idle danger and no hypothetical threat, pointing out that US authorities had, in the last few months alone, apprehended extremists within the country's borders who were sent from the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan to commit new acts of terror.

"And this danger will only grow if the region slides backwards, and al Qaeda can operate with impunity. We must keep the pressure on al Qaeda, and to do that, we must increase the stability and capacity of our partners in the region," he said.

"If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake in Afghanistan, I would gladly order every single one of our troops home tomorrow," he said.

Mr Obama said this was a burden that was not the US' alone to bear and not just America's war. He said that, since 9/11, al Qaeda's safe havens had been the source of attacks against London, Amman and Bali. He said the people and governments of both Afghanistan and Pakistan were endangered.

"And the stakes are even higher within a nuclear-armed Pakistan, because we know that al Qaeda and other extremists seek nuclear weapons, and we have every reason to believe that they would use them," he said.

"These facts compel us to act along with our friends and allies. Our overarching goal remains the same: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent its capacity to threaten America and our allies in the future," he said.

Spelling out the US objectives within Afghanistan, he said the al Qaeda must be denied a safe haven. He said the Taliban's momentum had to be reversed and it must be denied the ability to overthrow the government. He said the capacity of Afghanistan's security forces and government must be strengthened so that they could take lead responsibility for their country's future.

"We will meet these objectives in three ways. First, we will pursue a military strategy that will break the Taliban's momentum and increase Afghanistan's capacity over the next 18 months," he said.

He said the 30,000 additional troops announced last night would deploy in the first part of 2010--the fastest possible pace -- so that they could target the insurgency and secure key population centres. He said the additional troops would increase the US' ability train competent Afghan security forces and to partner with them so that more Afghans could get into the fight. He said they would help create the conditions for the US to transfer responsibility to the Afghans.

Mr Obama said he had asked for contributions from US allies. Some of them had already provided additional troops and he was confident that there would be further contributions in the days and weeks ahead.

"But taken together, these additional American and international troops will allow us to accelerate handing over responsibility to Afghan forces, and allow us to begin the transfer of our forces out of Afghanistan in July of 2011. Just as we have done in Iraq, we will execute this transition responsibly, taking into account conditions on the ground. We'll continue to advise and assist Afghanistan's security forces to ensure that they can succeed over the long haul. But it will be clear to the Afghan government -- and, more importantly, to the Afghan people -- that they will ultimately be responsible for their own country," he said.

The US President said the US would work with its partners, the United Nations and the Afghan people to pursure a more effective civilian strategy so that the government could take advantage of improved security.

"This effort must be based on performance. The days of providing a blank check are over. President Karzai's inauguration speech sent the right message about moving in a new direction. And going forward, we will be clear about what we expect from those who receive our assistance. We'll support Afghan ministries, governors, and local leaders that combat corruption and deliver for the people. We expect those who are ineffective or corrupt to be held accountable. And we will also focus our assistance in areas -- such as agriculture -- that can make an immediate impact in the lives of the Afghan people," he explained.

Mr Obama assured the Afghan people that America wanted an end to the era of war and suffering in their country and had no interest in occupying Afghanistan. He said the US would support efforts by the Afghan government to open the door to those Taliban who abandon violence and respect the human rights of their fellow citizens.

"And we will seek a partnership with Afghanistan grounded in mutual respect -- to isolate those who destroy; to strengthen those who build; to hasten the day when our troops will leave; and to forge a lasting friendship in which America is your partner, and never your patron," he said.

Mr Obama said the US would act with the full recognition that its success in Afghanistan was inextricably linked to its partnership with Pakistan.

"We're in Afghanistan to prevent a cancer from once again spreading through that country. But this same cancer has also taken root in the border region of Pakistan. That's why we need a strategy that works on both sides of the border," he said.

He said recent events had shown that it was the Pakistani people were the most endangered by extremism in their country. He said public opinion had turned and the Pakistani army had waged an offensive in Swat and South Waziristan. "And there is no doubt that the United States and Pakistan share a common enemy," he said.

He said the US had, in the past, too often defined its relationship with Pakistan narrowly. "Those days are over. Moving forward, we are committed to a partnership with Pakistan that is built on a foundation of mutual interest, mutual respect, and mutual trust," he said.

Mr Obama said the US would strengthen Pakistan’s capacity to target extremist groups that threaten both countries. He said the US had made it clear that it could not tolerate a safe haven for terrorists whose location is known and whose intentions are clear.

"America is also providing substantial resources to support Pakistan’s democracy and development. We are the largest international supporter for those Pakistanis displaced by the fighting. And going forward, the Pakistan people must know America will remain a strong supporter of Pakistan’s security and prosperity long after the guns have fallen silent, so that the great potential of its people can be unleashed.

"These are the three core elements of our strategy: a military effort to create the conditions for a transition; a civilian surge that reinforces positive action; and an effective partnership with Pakistan," he said.

Answering critics of America's involvement in Afghanistan, Mr Obama said that to abandon the area now and to rely only on efforts against al Qaeda from a distance would hamper US ability to keep the pressure on al Qaeda and create an unacceptable risk of additional attacks on the US and its allies.

He said that by the time he had taken office in January this year the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had approved a trillion dollars. He said he would, going forward, address these costs openly and honestly. He said the new approach in Afghanistan was likely to cost the US roughly $ 30 billion for the military this year.

"The struggle against violent extremism will not be finished quickly, and it extends well beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan. It will be an enduring test of our free society, and our leadership in the world. And unlike the great power conflicts and clear lines of division that defined the 20th century, our effort will involve disorderly regions, failed states, diffuse enemies," he said.

Mr Obama stressed the need for investing in homeland security and improving and better coordinating intelligence systems. He said the tools of mass destruction had to be taken away.

"And that's why I've made it a central pillar of my foreign policy to secure loose nuclear materials from terrorists, to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and to pursue the goal of a world without them -- because every nation must understand that true security will never come from an endless race for ever more destructive weapons; true security will come for those who reject them," he said.

"We'll have to use diplomacy, because no one nation can meet the challenges of an interconnected world acting alone. I've spent this year renewing our alliances and forging new partnerships. And we have forged a new beginning between America and the Muslim world -- one that recognizes our mutual interest in breaking a cycle of conflict, and that promises a future in which those who kill innocents are isolated by those who stand up for peace and prosperity and human dignity," he added.

At the outset, Mr Obama recalled why the US and its allies were compelled to fight the war in Afghanistan in the first place, tracing the course of events from September 11, 2001, when 19 men hijacked four aircraft and crashed them into the World Trade Centre twin towers in New York and other buildings elsewhere, killing nearly 3000 people.

"As we know, these men belonged to al Qaeda -- a group of extremists who have distorted and defiled Islam, one of the world’s great religions, to justify the slaughter of innocents. Al Qaeda’s base of operations was in Afghanistan, where they were harbored by the Taliban -- a ruthless, repressive and radical movement that seized control of that country after it was ravaged by years of Soviet occupation and civil war, and after the attention of America and our friends had turned elsewhere," he explained.

Mr Obama said the situation in Afghanistan had deteriorated after that. "After escaping across the border into Pakistan in 2001 and 2002, al Qaeda’s leadership established a safe haven there. Although a legitimate government was elected by the Afghan people, it's been hampered by corruption, the drug trade, an under-developed economy, and insufficient security forces," he said.

According to him, over the last several years, the Taliban has maintained common cause with al Qaeda, as they both seek an overthrow of the Afghan government. Gradually, the Taliban has begun to control additional swaths of territory in Afghanistan, while engaging in increasingly brazen and devastating attacks of terrorism against the Pakistani people, he said.

"Now, throughout this period, our troop levels in Afghanistan remained a fraction of what they were in Iraq. When I took office, we had just over 32,000 Americans serving in Afghanistan, compared to 160,000 in Iraq at the peak of the war. Commanders in Afghanistan repeatedly asked for support to deal with the reemergence of the Taliban, but these reinforcements did not arrive. And that's why, shortly after taking office, I approved a longstanding request for more troops. After consultations with our allies, I then announced a strategy recognizing the fundamental connection between our war effort in Afghanistan and the extremist safe havens in Pakistan. I set a goal that was narrowly defined as disrupting, dismantling, and defeating al Qaeda and its extremist allies, and pledged to better coordinate our military and civilian efforts," he said.

He said that since then there had been progress on some important objectives. High-ranking al Qaeda and Taliban leaders had been killed and pressure had been stepped up on al Qaeda worldwide.

"In Pakistan, that nation's army has gone on its largest offensive in years. In Afghanistan, we and our allies prevented the Taliban from stopping a presidential election, and -- although it was marred by fraud -- that election produced a government that is consistent with Afghanistan's laws and constitution," he said.

"Yet huge challenges remain. Afghanistan is not lost, but for several years it has moved backwards. There's no imminent threat of the government being overthrown, but the Taliban has gained momentum. Al Qaeda has not reemerged in Afghanistan in the same numbers as before 9/11, but they retain their safe havens along the border. And our forces lack the full support they need to effectively train and partner with Afghan security forces and better secure the population. Our new commander in Afghanistan -- General McChrystal -- has reported that the security situation is more serious than he anticipated. In short: The status quo is not sustainable," he explained.

He told the cadets at West Point that he owed them a mission that was clearly defined and worthy of their service and that it why he had ordered the review of the operations.

"There has never been an option before me that called for troop deployments before 2010, so there has been no delay or denial of resources necessary for the conduct of the war during this review period. Instead, the review has allowed me to ask the hard questions, and to explore all the different options, along with my national security team, our military and civilian leadership in Afghanistan, and our key partners. And given the stakes involved, I owed the American people -- and our troops -- no less," he added.

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PM meets Sarkozy, Brown on margins of CHOGM

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the bilateral meeting on the sidelines of CHOGM 2009 in Port of Spain on November 27, 2009.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the bilateral meeting on the sidelines of CHOGM 2009 in Port of Spain on November 27, 2009.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on the sidelines of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2009 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, on Friday and discussed with them issues such as climate change, the situation in Afghanistan and terrorism.

Briefing journalists after the meetings, Mr Vishnu Prakash, the official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, said the leaders agreed on the need for the international community to stay the course to stabilise Afghanistan.

They also agreed that more vigorous efforts were required in the region to combat the menace of terrorism. They also felt there should be no double standards in fighting terrorism.

Mr Prakash said the meetings were between friends and between strategic partners. He said Dr Singh had been meeting Mr Sarkozy and Mr Brown regularly bilaterally or on the sidelines of international fora. He had visited France and the United Kingdom earlier this year, he said.

"The meetings were held in a very warm atmosphere, in a very friendly atmosphere, and there was a convergence of views and a convergence of interests," Mr Prakash said.

According to him, the primary focus of the talks was on climate change and Dr Singh stated very clearly and emphatically that India had a major stake in the success of the Copenhagen Summit.

He said India would work towards, and would like to see, a balanced, an ambitious and an equitable outcome of the Summit.

According to him, India is one of the countries which are worst affected by the climate change, and it was in its interest to see a successful outcome of the Copenhagen Summit.

The Prime Minister also told them about the steps already taken by India unilaterally, including the National Action Plan on Climate Change. He spoke in some detail about the efforts being made in the areas of energy conservation and carbon efficiency as well as in renewable sources of energy, particular solar energy.

At the same, he said, it was important that the historic responsibilities of the developed were taken into account. He said there was already an understanding an agreement that there should be common but differentiated responsibilities between the developed and developing countries.

Dr Singh underscored the importance of adequate transfer of resources and of technology to the developing countries because that was the real key to combating climate change.

He said it was adequate transfer of resources and technology which would enable the developing countries to take necessary steps towards mitigation and adaptation, which are required to tackle the challenge of climate change.

Mr Brown expressed sympathy on the first anniversary of the November 26, 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai. Both Dr Singh and Mr Brown said the perpetrators of the attack must be brought to justice.

Mr Brown also said that the recent state visit to the United Kingdom by President Pratibha Patil was very successful and that his country was very happy with its outcome.

The two leaders agreed to pay much greater attention to cooperation in the field of higher education and to focus on faculty development. It was agreed that the British Minister for Higher Education would visit India shortly to discuss the modalities of cooperation in this area with Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal.

They also discussed a fresh initiative that pertained to networking between the youth on both sides. This is aimed at basically reaching out to the next generation to sensitize them and to make them a part of the process of close engagement between the two countries.

Mr Prakash said Dr Singh invited Mr Sarkozy and Ms Carla Bruni Sarkozy to visit India next year.

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India votes with US, others at IAEA to rebuke Iran

India today voted with the United States and other world powers against Iran in a resolution adopted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) censuring it over its secret construction of another uranium enrichment plant.

The resolution was adopted 25-3 by the 35-member Board of Governors of the IAEA at its headquarters in Vienna, with six abstentions. Those who supported the resolution included Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

This was the first resolution passed by the IAEA against Iran in nearly four years and called upon the country to stop construction immediatley of the new uranium enrichment plant at Qom, a site that it had kept secret until September this year.

In its Explanation of Vote on the resolution, India said its delegation had taken careful note of the report of the IAEA Director General (DG) on "Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and Relevant Provisions of Security Council Resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran".

It said that the DG had noted that while the Agenc had continued to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran, there had, however, been no movement on remaining issues of concern which need to be clarified for the Agency to verify the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme.

According to the explanation, the DG concluded that "Iran's failure to notify the Agency of the existence of this facility until September 2009, rather than as soon as the decision to construct it or to authorize construction was taken, was inconsistent with its obligations under the Subsidiary Arrangements to its Safeguards Agreement and that Iran´s late declaration of the new facility reduces confidence in the absence of other nuclear facilities under construction in Iran which have not been declared to the Agency."

It said India had consistently supported the right of all states to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy consistent with the respective obligations that they have undertaken.

In Iran’s case, which is a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), it has all the rights and obligations that go with its membership of the NPT pertaining to the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, it said. The note also underlined the importance of the full and effective implementation of all safeguards obligations undertaken by member states of the IAEA.

"Our support for the resolution is based on the key points contained in the Report of the DG. During previous Board meetings we had underlined the critical importance of continued cooperation and dialogue between the Agency and Iran. The Agency’s safeguards system is the bedrock of the international community’s confidence that peaceful uses of nuclear energy and non-proliferation objectives can be pursued in a balanced manner. The integrity of this system should be preserved," it said.

"India has considered the role of the DG has having a vital bearing on the consideration of all issues by the Board of Governors. The conclusions he has drawn in his report are therefore difficult to ignore," it said.

India said that, in recent months, it was encouraged by the new pathways of engagement that had opened up with Iran, including the recent meetings in Geneva and Vienna, which gave rise to hopes of constructive and productive results.

It said that, as such, it did not believe that the adoption of the resolution should divert the parties away from dialogue.

"This resolution cannot be the basis of a renewed punitive approach or new sanctions. In fact, the coming weeks should be used by all concerned to expand the diplomatic space to satisfactorily address all outstanding issues. India firmly supports keeping the door open for dialogue and avoidance of confrontation," the explanation added.

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Sao Tome and Principe Foreign Minister Tiny to visit India Nov 29-Dec 3

Dr Carlos Alberto Pires Tiny, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sao Tome and Principe will visit India from November 29 to December 3 for discussions on ways of enhancing cooperation between the two countries.

This will be the first high-level visit on either side since the island nation got its independence from Portugal in 1975.

Sao Tome and Principe (STP), with an area of 1000 sq km, located in the Gulf of Guinea on the west coast of Africa, has a huge potential for hydrocarbons.

The tiny nation, which is a member of the Non-Aligned Movement, has been actively cooperating with India in the international fora and has offered its support to India’s bid for non-Permanent Membership of UN Security Council for the term 2011-2012.

An official press release issued here today said STP wanted to diversify relations with India and had sought assistance in the economic and social development of its people.

Mainly an agricultural economy, producing cocoa, coconuts, palm, banana, papaya, pepper and cinnamon, STP needs expertise in processing and packaging and creation of employment through small-scale enterprises.

During the visit, apart from official talks with Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor aimed at establishing institutional framework for bilateral cooperation, Dr. Tiny will also have interaction with the Indian business and industry with a view to encouraging Indian investments in his country, the release added.

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PM says committed to cement new bond with PIOs

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that his Government was committed to cementing a new bond of mutually beneficial collaboration between India and people of Indian origin.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrives at the Piarco International Airport to attend the CHOGM Summit in Port of Spain on November 26, 2009.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrives at the Piarco International Airport to attend the CHOGM Summit in Port of Spain on November 26, 2009.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that his Government was committed to cementing a new bond of mutually beneficial collaboration between India and people of Indian origin (PIOs) around the world.

"Today’s India is on the move, just as the people of Indian origin are on the move. India is reaching out to the world with confidence and in a spirit of live and let live," Dr Singh told members of the Indian community at a reception hosted for him by Indian High Commissioner Malay Mishra in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, on Thursday.

Dr Singh, who was on a four-day visit to the United States, arrived in Port of Spain yesterday to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2009 to be held there from November 27-29.

He said that, in reaching out to PIOs, India was also reaching out to the world at large. "You are, for millions of Indians, the most visible and dynamic symbol of our own globalization process," he said.

According to him, there is a fundamental difference between the globalization of India and many other developing countries. He said that, for India, globalization was a natural means of linking up with the world community of Indians.

"As I have often said, if there is one phenomenon in the world over which the sun truly never sets, it is the phenomenon of the global community of people of Indian origin," he remarked.

He also pointed out that the Commonwealth encompassed countries around the world where PIOs had made a mark.

"In different and diverse countries the people of Indian origin have successfully blended Indian culture and values with the local cultural and social environment. In doing so, you have demonstrated the unique liberalism and pluralism of the great Indian civilization. This is what enables each one of us to adapt and adopt to new homes and new neighborhoods," he said.

Dr Singh said that when he met PIOs around the world he celebrated India's pluralism as much as he celebrated the country's great civilisational inheritance.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meeting the Indian community at the civic reception hosted in his honour by the High commissioner of India to Trinidad & Tobago at Port of Spain, on November 26, 2009.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meeting the Indian community at the civic reception hosted in his honour by the High commissioner of India to Trinidad & Tobago at Port of Spain, on November 26, 2009.

"Indianness is like a large and all-encompassing banyan tree. It offers shade to everyone who comes in search of it. It has deep roots at home and branches that in turn go to great distances and strike roots there," he said.

Noting that it had been often said that the 21st century would be the "knowledge century", he said India was proud of its inheritance in this respect. He said overseas Indians had played an extremely important role in global brand building for this purpose.

He said that, during his visit earlier in the week to the US, he felt proud as an India to meet so many people of Indian origin doing so well in so many different walks of life.

"If India is today viewed as a 'knowledge economy' it is because of the reputation that people of Indian origin worldwide have earned through their creativity, through their adventure, enterprise and diligence," he underlined.

According to him, India today seeks to tap the wellspring of Indian creativity and enterprise from around the world.

"Our ability to do so will depend on our ability to forge partnerships, on the one hand, and our ability to provide the proper enabling environment for the flowering of such partnerships back home," he stressed.

The Prime Minister said that long before Indians crossed the seas as workers, they travelled the world as traders and great teachers.

He said there was a time when the Indian gurukul system and its universities at Takshila, Nalanda and Nagarjuna were the envy of the world. Even after independence, Indian colleges and universities continued to attract students from all over the world, he said.

Dr Singh said that, in the last 20 to 30 years, India had lost ground, both because it failed to incentivise its institutions to become global players and because foreign universities become more aggressive in marketing.

He said he was conscious of the fact that an important demand of the overseas Indian community was to secure access to educational opportunities in India. That is why the Government had been widening educational opportunities for PIOs in India, he explained.

"I know many of your children wish to experience the new India, having heard about an old India from their parents and grand parents. I want all those people of Indian origin who have never been to India to make a pilgrimage and discover the new India that is in the making," he told the gathering.

He also invited PIOs to make use of the investment and business opportunities that India now offered. "I invite you to be active partners of a new India and walk with us in finding new pathways of development and progress. I invite you to feel the love and affection of Mother India and feel the warmth of her embrace," he said.

Dr Singh also hoped India could promote more tourism from India to the beautiful Caribbean islands. Noting that Indians are now travelling around the world, he said the Indian diaspora could emerge as a major global network for the tourism and travel trade. He said there were many people of Indian origin on the US mainland who would be happy to travel to the Caribbean for business and holiday, pointing out that there were win-win possibilities in this kind of business activity.

He said education and business were the two major arenas through India was reconnecting with PIOs worldwide, though the cornerstone of interaction remained their shared culture, both ancident and modern. He said he would like to see that children of PIOs got opportunities, wherever they were living, to learn classical Indian dance and music. He also said modern means of satellite-based communication must be expanded at the same time so that Indian film, music and television could reach PIO homes even though they might physically distant from India.

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PM says ties with US will be important pillar of India's foreign policy

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that relations with the United States will remain one of the important pillars of India's foreign policy.

"We see the United States as an important partner for meeting our national development goals and in creating a global environment marked by consensus, co-existence and cooperation," he told members of the Indian community in the US at a reception hosted for him in Washington on Wednesday by Indian Ambassador Meera Shankar.

Dr Singh said the India-US relationship was not born out of a crisis or any one concern and nor did it exist in the context of any other relationship.

"It is nurtured by our shared values; and the bonds and mutual respect that exist between the people of our two democratic and pluralistic societies. It derives its vitality from recognition of the enormous potential for mutually beneficial cooperation and a sense of shared responsibility to work towards addressing global challenges," he said.

The Prime Minister said that, for these reasons, the agenda for bilateral cooperation was extremely wide-ranging. He said the two sides were encouraged by the fact that they had made progress across the board in their shared objectives of making their economies more prosperous, their people and the world safer and the planer greener.

Speaking on the eve of the first anniversary of the 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai, Dr Singh especially thanked the US for the support India received in the investigations and for the enhanced cooperation in the area of counter-terrorism. He said this was just one example of how the two countries were working together to make their people more secure.

He said his four-day visit to Washington was fruitful and most stimulating. He told the community that, in his meetings with US President Barack Obama, they had resolved to further strengthen the bilateral relations and to work together as partners in a changing world.

He said that there were times in the past when the perspectives and priorities of the two countries were different, which had often obscured the commonality of values and interests.

"Today things have changed. I wish to record our deep appreciation for the enormous contribution your creativity, your hard work, and your good citizenship have played in bringing our two nations together. We also value the contribution you have been making to India’s progress and modernization," he said.

The Prime Minister told the gathering that India was today on the march. "While the global slowdown has hurt us too, we have been able to catch our breath and move forward. With a gross savings ratio of over 35 per cent of national income, and a gross investment ratio that is almost close to 40 per cent, we now have the economic pre-conditions for sustained high growth. Growth brings with it new challenges and new opportunities," he said.

He said the country needed better education and health care systems and investments in these areas, a modern infrastructure. He said the country hoped to march forward through the application of modern science and technology.

According to him, more than the resources, the country will require imagination and innovation to succeed. "People of Indian origin worldwide can contribute mightily to this effort. In the past few years we have already experienced what has been called a 'reverse brain-drain'. I would prefer to call this 'brain gain' or, indeed, a meeting of minds," he said.

Dr Singh said the Government had tried to encourage this flow by making it easier for Indian and American scholars, business leaders and other professionals to work together. He invited all Indian Americans and non-resident Indians who wished to return home to India in one capacity or another to do so. "You no longer have to make a choice between here and there. Modern technology and our flexible policies have opened possibilities of working in both places," he said.

He said he wanted to see a true intellectual and business partnership between Indians and Americans in the years to come.

"We are similar in so many ways. We are both free and open societies. We are both plural, multi-ethnic, multi-racial and multi-religious societies. Metaphors like salad bowl, melting pot and the rainbow have been used to describe both our societies. We are constantly dealing with issues like coalition building, dealing with civil society organizations, non-governmental activism and the free consumer – of goods and ideas," he said.

He said that this was what made it easy for Indians to adapt themselves to the US and for Americans to adapt themselves to India.

The Prime Minister said President Obama and he met at a time when the relationship between the two countries had matured into a strong strategic partnership of global dimension.

"This is a time of economic uncertainty and security challenges, but it is also a time of opportunity. There is a greater global awareness of the challenges and the need for stronger resolve to address them," he said.

He said he and Mr Obama had extremely good discussions on a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues. This was their first detailed discussion in a bilateral setting and he said he found in Mr Obama a great deal of respect for India and its values, and a strong commitment to the bilateral relationship

"We have, I believe, laid the foundation for consolidating the gains in our relationship. We are establishing new directions in the next phase of our relationship that will enable us to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Our relationship will see a new emphasis on five Es – economy, energy, environment, education and empowerment – even as we further strengthen our ties in defence, security and counter-terrorism. We will also harness our natural synergies in science and technology, education and research to advance food security, improve healthcare, develop green technologies and create the human resources for the future," he said.

"It is through the example of your family life, your good neighbourliness, your enterprise and your contribution to knowledge and commerce that you have given the land of your ancestors a new identity in the new world. We, at home in India, value that," the Prime Minister added.

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Obama says Pakistan must deal effectively with extremist organisations

US President Barack Obama has said that Pakistan has to make sure that the extremist organisations that operate out of its territories are dealt with effectively.

United States President Barack Obama has said that Pakistan has an enormously important role in the security of South Asia region by making sure that the extremist organisations that often operate out of its territories are dealt with effectively.

"And we've seen some progress.  The work that the Pakistan military is doing in the Swat Valley in west -- in south Waziristan all indicates the degree to which they are beginning to recognize that extremism, even if initially directed to the outside, can ultimately also have an adverse impact on their security internally," Mr Obama said at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after the two leaders held talks at the White House in Washington on Tuesday.

Dr Singh said he and President Obama had a very useful and productive exchange of views relating to security, peace and counter-terrorism. He said he was very satisfied with the outcome of their discussions.

He also said that, as far as the India-US civil nuclear cooperation agreement was concerned, Mr Obama had re-affirmed that it was the common resolve of the two governments to operationalise the deal as early as possible.

"There are a few 'i's' and 't's' which have to be crossed -- and I am confident and I have the assurance of the President that that process can be completed without much further loss of time," he said.

Mr Obama said that it was obvious that there were historic conflicts between India and Pakistan but it was not the place of the US to try to, from outside, resolve all those conflicts. On the other hand, the US wanted to be encouraging of ways in which both India and Pakistan could feel secure, and focus on the development of their own countries and their own people, he said.

"With respect to the relationship between the United States and Pakistan's military, I think that there have probably been times in the past in which we were so single-mindedly focused just on military assistance in Pakistan that we didn't think more broadly about how to encourage and develop the kinds of civil society in Pakistan that would make a difference in the lives of people day to day," he remarked.

He hoped that, over time, there would be further clarity and further cooperation between all the parties and all peoples of goodwill in the region to eradicate terrorist activity, to eradicate the kind of violent extremist activity that has been seen in Pakistan. "I think that will benefit the peoples of Pakistan and India and the world community as well," he said.

In his opening remarks at the joint press conference, Mr Obama said the fact that Dr Singh's was the first official state visit of his presidency reflected America's admiration for the Prime Minister's leadersip, the deep bonds between the peoples of the two countries and the historic opportunity they had to strengthen and broaden the partnership between the two nations.

"India today is a rising and responsible global power.  In Asia, Indian leadership is expanding prosperity and the security across the region.  And the United States welcomes and encourages India's leadership role in helping to shape the rise of a stable, peaceful, and prosperous Asia.

"Beyond Asia, as the world's largest multiethnic democracy, as one of the world's fastest-growing economies, and as a member of the G20, India will play a pivotal role in meeting the major challenges we face today.  And this includes my top economic priority, creating good jobs with good wages for the American people," he said.

Mr Obama said he believed the relationship between the US and India would be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century and Dr Singh's visit underscored the strengthening of that partnership, which he hoped would continue throughout his presidency. "That's why I've made it a priority to broaden the cooperation between our nations," he remarked.

He said his administration's commitment to India could be seen in the new strategic dialogue between the two countries, which addresses the full range of challenges and opportunities before them.

"And our commitment to India can be seen in my personal partnership with Prime Minister Singh.  We've worked together on economic matters at our G20 summits in London and Pittsburgh, as well as L'Aquila.  I consider him a wise leader who has helped unleash India's extraordinary economic growth.  He is a man of honesty and integrity.  I respect him and I trust him, and I have happily accepted his gracious invitation to visit India next year," he said.

The US President said the two sides had agreed to strengthen the economic recovery and expand trade and investment so that they could create jobs for both their peoples.

He noted that Indian investment in America was creating and sustaining jobs across the US. The US is India's largest trading and investment partner and there is significant balance in their trading relationships, he said. He said that, to sustain this momentum, the two sides were creating new initiatives to promote trade, investment and technology cooperation, especially among their small and medium-sized businesses.

He said he had reaffirmed to Dr Singh his administration's commitment to fully implement the nuclear deal, which would increase American exports and create jobs in both countries.

They agreed to move forward with their commitments at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh to pursue balanced growth while ensuring that emerging economies like India have a greater voice in shaping the international financial architecture.

He said they had made progress in confronting climate change and commended the Prime Minister for India's leadership in areas like green buildings and energy efficiency. He said the two sides had , agreed to a series of important new efforts:  a clean energy initiative that will create jobs and improve people's access to cleaner, more affordable energy; a green partnership to reduce poverty through sustainable and equitable development; and an historic effort to phase out subsidies for fossil fuels.

"With just two weeks until the beginning of Copenhagen, it's also essential that all countries do what is necessary to reach a strong operational agreement that will confront the threat of climate change while serving as a stepping-stone to a legally binding treaty," he said.

Mr Obama said he and Dr Singh had reaffirmed that an agreement in Copenhagen should be comprehensive and cover all the issues under negotiation. 

"We resolved to take significant national mitigation actions that will strengthen the world's ability to combat climate change.  We agreed to stand by these commitments with full transparency through appropriate processes as to their implementation.  All this builds on the progress that we made in Beijing, and it takes us one step closer to a successful outcome in Copenhagen," he said.

The US President said he and Dr Singh had also agreed to deepen their cooperation against transnational threats. "The American people join our Indian friends in remembering the horrific attacks in Mumbai one year ago this week.  To prevent future attacks, we agreed that our law enforcement and intelligence agencies will work even closer, including sharing more information.  We discussed my review of our policy in Afghanistan, and I thanked Prime Minister Singh for India's substantial contributions to the Afghan people," he said.

Mr Obama welcomed Dr Singh's support for the non-proliferation agenda that he had laid out in Prague, and looked forward to India's participation in the nuclear security summit next year, as well as India's participation as a full partner in the shared vision of a world without nuclear weapons.

"Now, part of that vision is working together to ensure that all nations, including Iran and South -- North Korea, live up to their international obligations," he said.

Mr Obama said the two sides agreed to expand the educational exchanges that will fuel their knowledge-based economies. 

They decided to "dramatically" expand the Fulbright-Nehru program that brings students and scholars from both countries together, especially in science and technology. 

They also decided to increase ties and exchanges between their universities and community colleges as part of "a new Obama-Singh -- or Singh-Obama" -- 21st Century Knowledge Initiative.
"We think it's appropriately named," he quipped.

Mr Obama said that, to advance their historic food security initiative, American and Indian researches would collaborate to improve agricultural output and reduce hunger -- not only in India, where enormous strides have been made, but around the world. "India has much to teach the developing world in terms of achieving food sufficiency," he remarked.

He said American Centres for Disease Control and Prevention would partner with their Indian counterparts to create a new disease detection centre in India to combat infectious diseases and promote global health.

"This is the concrete progress made today across a whole range of issues to create jobs, opportunity and security for our people.  As a result, I believe the relationship between our two countries has never been stronger -- a reminder that it will be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century," he said.

President and Ms Michelle Obama later hosted Dr Singh and Ms Gursharan Kaur at the first state dinner of his presidency. "It will be another opportunity to convey to the Prime Minister and the people of India, as India assumes its rightful place as a global leader in this century, that you will have no better friend and partner than the United States of America," he added.

Dr Singh said that when India and the US met, it was a moment to celebrate the values of democracy, pluralism, liberty and freedom. "Today we have done that and much more," he observed.

He said the two leaders had, in their discussions, reaffirmed the importance of the bilateral relationship between the two countries and decided on future steps to enhance their strategic partnership.

"We have agreed to further intensify our trade, investment, and economic cooperation in a way that creates jobs and prosperity in both our two countries and stimulates global economic recovery," he said.

Dr Singh expressed admiration for the leadership that President Obama had provided to stimulate and guide the G-20 process. He said they had decided to give a fresh impetus to collaboration in the fields of education, agriculture and health. He said the two countries would deepen their ongoing cooperation in frontier areas of science and technology, nuclear power and space. "This will open new opportunities for our universities and laboratories, and create human capital to meet the global needs of the future," he said.

The Prime Minister said he and Mr Obama had had a very constructive exchange of views on strategic issues. "Our defence cooperation is progressing well.  We agreed on the early and full implementation of our Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement.  Our strategic partnership should facilitate transfer of high technologies to India.  The lifting of U.S. export controls on high technology exports to India will open vast opportunities for giant research and development efforts.  It will enable U.S. industry to benefit from the rapid economic and technological transformation that is now underway in our country," he said.

Referring to the Copenhagen meeting on Climate Change in December, he said he and Mr Obama had agreed on the need for a substantive and comprehensive outcome, which would cover mitigation, adaptation, finance, and technology.  "We reaffirmed our intention to work to this end bilaterally and with all other countries," he said.

Dr Singh said India welcomed President Obama's commitment to a major programme for promotion of renewable energy. He drew Mr Obama's attention to India's own ambitious national action plan on climate change, which has eight national missions covering both mitigation and adaptation.

"Just as we partnered each other in the shaping of the knowledge economy, we have the opportunity today to become partners in developing the green economy of the future.  I underlined India's desire to benefit from clean and energy-efficient technologies from the United States.  Our partnership will contribute to global efforts to combat climate change and achieve energy security," he said.

Dr Singh said the two leaders had a detailed discussion on important regional and global issues. 
"We agreed that the Indo-U.S. partnership was important for addressing the challenges of an increasingly interdependent world that we live in.  The global economic crisis has brought home the fact that our prosperity is interlinked," he said.

"Our dialogue covered the need to have an open and inclusive architecture in the Asia Pacific regions.  It is important for the international community to sustain its engagement in Afghanistan, to help its emergence as a modern state," he said.

"The focus -- the forces of terrorism in our region pose a grave threat to the entire civilized world and have to be defeated.  President Obama and I have decided to strengthen our cooperation in the area of counterterrorism," he said.

Dr Singh said India welcomed the renewed international interest in nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, pointing out that India had been a consistent advocate of a world free of nuclear weapons.  He said India would work with the United States and other countries for the success of the nuclear security summit, which President Obama is hosting next April.

"In our discussions today, there was a meeting of minds on the future direction of our relations.  I was deeply impressed by President Obama's strong commitment to the India-U.S. strategic partnership and by the breadth of his vision for global peace and prosperity," he said.

Dr Singh said he had invited President Obama to visit India. "A very warm welcome awaits him, his gracious wife and his two daughters," he added.

In reply to a question, Mr Obama said he thought the US and India were natural allies, not just around counter-terrorism issues but on a whole host of issues.

"As we discussed earlier, we're the world's two largest democracies.  We have a range of shared values and ideals.  We're both entrepreneurial societies.  We're both multiethnic societies.  We are societies that believe in human rights and core freedoms that are enshrined in our founding documents.

"And one of the things that I think makes us such strong allies is the people-to-people contact.  It's one thing for leaders to have exchanges like this one, and that's very important, obviously.  But the incredible contributions that Indian Americans have made to the growth of our country and the degree to which they are woven into the very fabric of our society, the fact that very few Indians don't have some family member somewhere who has a connection to the United States -- that kind of exchange strengthens and deepens the bonds between our two countries in a profound way.

"Now, with respect to security issues in the region, the Prime Minister and I -- Prime Minister Singh and I had extensive discussions about that.  I think we both recognize that our core goal is to achieve peace and security for all peoples in the region, not just one country or the other.  And one of the things I admire most about Prime Minister Singh is that I think at his core he is a man of peace," he said.

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PM says India, US should jointly address terrorism, other global challenges

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Tuesday India and the United States should jointly address terrorism and other global challenges.
Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh making remarks at the White House welcome ceremony on November 24, 2009.
Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh making remarks at the White House welcome ceremony on November 24, 2009.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said India and the United States should cooperate in addressing global challenges of combating terrorism, making the environment cleaner and moving towards a world free of nuclear weapons.

"This is a moment of great opportunity in our relationship. India and the United States can, and must, work together to harness the immense potential of our talented and enterprising people, and support each other's growth and prosperity," he said in remarks at the arrival ceremony hosted for him by US President Barack Obama in the East Room of the White House in Washington.

Earlier, in his remarks, Mr Obama said India and the US, as nuclear powers, could be full partners in preventing the spread of the world's most deadly weapons, securing loose nuclear materials from terrorists and pursuing their shared vision of a world without nuclear weapons.

"As leading economies, the United States and India can strengthen the global economic recovery, promote trade that creates jobs for both our people, and pursue growth that is balanced and sustained," he said.

Mr Obama said the two countries, as people who have known the pain and anguish of terrorism, could stand together, cooperating to prevent future attacks, and promote the development and prosperity that undermined violent extremism.

"As India becomes an increasingly influential global power, we can partner to meet other transnational challenges: developing clean energy partnerships, confronting climate change, stopping infectious disease, reducing hunger and working to end extreme poverty in our time.

"And as the world's largest democracies, we can keep faith with our common values -- speaking out and standing up for the rights and dignity to which all human beings are entitled; and showing that nations that respect the rights and aspirations of their people are ultimately more stable, more secure and more successful," he said.

Welcoming Dr Singh and Mrs Gursharan Kaur to the White House, Mr Obama said the Prime Minister's was the first official state visit of his presidency, and it was fitting that he and India be so recognised.

"This visit reflects the high esteem in which I and the American people hold your wise leadership. It reflects the abiding bonds of respect and friendship between our people, including our friends in the Indian American community who join us here today," he said.

"But above all, your visit, at this pivotal moment in history, speaks to the opportunity before us -- to build the relationship between our nations, born in the last century, into one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century," he said.

Mr Obama said that while the two nations had taken different paths to reach this moment, theirs was a common story.

"It's the story of two proud people who struggled to break free from an empire and declare their independence. Two bold experiments in democracy with constitutions that begin with the same simple words: 'We the people.'Two great republics dedicated to the ideals of liberty, justice, equality, and the never-ending work of perfecting their union.
Mrs. Gursharan Kaur seen with Mrs. Michelle Obama at the White house on November 24, 2009.
Mrs. Gursharan Kaur seen with Mrs. Michelle Obama at the White house on November 24, 2009.

"It's the story of two economic marvels fueled by an ethic of hard work and innovation. And today, our nations are two global leaders, driven not to dominate other nations but to build a future of security and prosperity for all nations.

"Mr. Prime Minister, as we work to build that future, India is indispensable," he remarked.

"This is the India that America welcomes today -- a leader in Asia and around the world. These are the challenges we are summoned to meet in partnership. This is the progress that is possible -- today and in the days and years ahead."

Mr Obama recalled that exactly 60 years ago, an American President had welcomed to the White House Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India.

"And while the decades that followed were not without their challenges, the spirit of that first visit is with us today -- the same sense of possibility, the same hope for the future.

"So as President Truman said of Prime Minister Nehru, 'it is my privilege to welcome the respected leader of a great nation of free people', " he said.

"And as Prime Minister Nehru said of the work before them, may our two great nations 'find many ways of working together in friendly and fruitful cooperation to our mutual advantage, and for the good of humanity"," Mr Obama added.

Dr Singh said he brought with him the friendly greetings of the one billion people of India. "India and America are separated by distance, but bound together by the values of democracy, pluralism, rule of law, and respect for fundamental human freedoms. Over the years, we have built upon these values and created a partnership that is based upon both principle and pragmatism. Our relations have been transformed, and today they encompass cooperation in all areas of human activity," he said.

The Prime Minister said his visit was aimed at building upon these successes and to strengthen the multi-faceted relationship.

"We seek to broaden and deepen our strategic partnership, and to work with the United States to meet these challenges of a fast-changing world in this 21st century," he said.

Dr Singh said India deeply appreciated Mr Obama's strong personal commitment to the bilateral relationship. "God bless America. God bless India," he added.

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PM says India-US partnership important for global peace, security

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that the India-US partnership could promote global cooperation in dealing with issues that the world has to face together.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing the U. S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington DC on the 23rd of November, 2009.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressing the U. S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington DC on the 23rd of November, 2009.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that the India-United States partnership could promote global cooperation in dealing with issues that the world has to face together, whether it is hunger, global security and terrorism, nuclear disarmament, climate change or the spread of pandemics.

He also said that the partnership could contribute to an orderly transition to the new order and be an important factor for global peace and security.

Addressing the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington on Monday on the second day of his four-day visit to the US, Dr Singh said that in his interactions with US President Barack Obama, he had found shared thinking on the moral imperative of putting the poor at the forefront of the global agenda.

"In Africa, Asia and elsewhere, they must have access to education that gives them bankable skills, to nutrition and to health-care," he said.

Stressing that peace, security and prosperity are indivisible, Dr Singh said the evolution of Afghanistan as a stable and moderate nation was vital for the region and the world.

"The road to peace in Afghanistan will be long and hard. But, given the high stakes involved, the commitment of the international community must be sustained by firm resolve and unity of purpose," he observed.

He said India had enduring civilisational links with Afghanistan and did not see the country as a theatre of influence. He said India's interest was in building a region of peace and stability and it would continue to assist Afghanistan in building its institutions and its human resources.

"Democracy in an ancient land like Afghanistan will take time to take root and to come to terms with the country’s history and tribal traditions. It is vitally important that all major regional and international players put their weight behind the government of Afghanistan. This is the only way Afghanistan can meet the daunting challenges it faces," he emphasised.

The Prime Minister said his Government had invested heavily over the past few years in normalising relations with Pakistan. He said the two sides had made considerable progress on the road to a durable and permanent settlement of all outstanding issues. He recalled that he had said that India was ready to pick up the threads of the dialogue, including on issues related to Jammu and Kashmir.

He said India sought a South Asia of peace, friendship and prosperity, where its borders would be energised by the flow of people, goods and ideas.

"For this to happen, Pakistan must make a break with the past, abjure terrorism and come to the table with good faith and sincerity. It is my solemn hope that India and Pakistan can together move forward to write a new chapter in the history of the sub-continent," he said.

Dr Singh told the gathering that India was three days away from the first anniversary of the heinous and barbaric November 26, 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai.

"The trauma of that attack continues to haunt us. Terrorism poses an existential threat to the civilized world and must be defeated. We should not harbour any illusions that a selective approach to terrorism, tackling it in one place while ignoring it in others, will work," he said.

He said the present generation had an opportunity, given to few, to make a new global equilibrium after the irreversible changes brought about by the rapid geopolitical and economic shifts of the recent past.

"Nowhere are the changes more visible than in Asia. India and the United States can work together with other countries in the region to create an open and inclusive regional architecture in the Asia-Pacific," he said.

"Both India and the United States draw strength from their common values of respect for cultural diversity, democracy, freedom of expression and the rule of law. Our two nations have been shaped by the thoughts and ideals of two apostles of peace of the 20th century, Mahatma Gandhi and the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. We should advance these ideals as fundamental rights of all people," he said.

He said that while some progress had been made in moving towards a more representative mechanism to manage global economic and financial issues, the same could not be said about governance of the political and security order. "There is a need to reform the United Nations and its Security Council," he stressed.

The Prime Minister said he saw the future of the India-US partnership with confidence and optimism, pointing out that there was a growing convergence in the national interests of the two countries, both within the bilateral framework and on regional and global issues.

He said the changes in the global economic and political structures and the growing interdependence among nations today offered the two countries the opportunity to look beyond their bilateral engagement to establish a strategic partnership of global dimensions.

"If we are to effectively tackle the multiple challenges that confront the world, India and the United States, as two leading democracies, must work together. The immediate challenge before us is to bring the world to full recovery from the global economic and financial crisis," he said.

Dr Singh said he had no doubt that the creative and entrepreneurial genius of the American people would ensure that the US economy emerged from the present global economic and financial crisis stronger and well-placed to contribute to global economic growth.

He said India was playing its own part in the process of global recovery, with its economy, despite the slowdown, growing by 6.7% last year and expected to grow by 6.5% in the current year.

"India and the United States have strong compulsions to work towards an open and liberal regime for transfers of goods, services, investments and technology. This will stimulate recovery in the global economy, create jobs and spur growth in our own economies," he said.

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PM assures foreign investors that economic reforms will continue

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured foreign investors on Monday that the process of economic reforms in India would continue and said they need not have any doubts on that score.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Thomas J. Donohue, President and CEO U. S Chamber of Commerce, Indra K Nooyi, Chairman and CEO PepsiCo and the Chairman, U. S - India Business Council and Ambassador Meera Shankar after the PM's address to the U. S. Chamber of Commerce at Washington, DC on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Thomas J. Donohue, President and CEO U. S Chamber of Commerce, Indra K Nooyi, Chairman and CEO PepsiCo and the Chairman, U. S - India Business Council and Ambassador Meera Shankar after the PM's address to the U. S. Chamber of Commerce at Washington, DC on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today assured foreign investors that the process of economic reforms in India would continue and said they need not have any doubts on that score.

"The economic reforms of the past have brought us advantages and I can assure you that we will continue down the road," he told members of the United States-India Business Council (USIBC) in Washington on the second day of a four-day visit to the US.

"We might do it gradually, and in a manner which builds a consensus for economic and social change. But I assure you we will persevere," he said.

Dr Singh said his Government planned to push ahead on key reforms in several areas, especially those aimed at bringing the deficit under control while ensuring a strong expansion in investment in infrastructure.

He said tax reforms, especially the introduction of a Goods and Services Tax, were a very important part of the agenda, as were financial sector reforms.

The Prime Minister said his Government was also committed to major reforms in education and skill development. He told the gathering, consisting of leading American businessmen and officials, that the Government had started a programme to raise resources by sale of equity in public sector reforms. Legal reforms aimed at reducing delays were another key priority, he said.

He said the Governments of the two countries attached a high importance to the role of the private sector. US President Barack Obama and he had reconstituted the Indo-US CEOs' Forum, with Mr David Cote and Mr Ratan Tata as co-chairs, he said.

According to him, the forum would provide a platform where representatives of the private sectors of the two countries could submit joint recommendations to the two governments on ways of enhancing private sector cooperation between the two countries.

Dr Singh said American business had played a vital role in transforming the Indo-US relationship into a strategic partnership between the world's oldest democracy and the world's largest democracy.

He invited American businessmen to stay engaged with India as it transformed itself from a low income country into a vibrant market of over a billion people, with steadily growing purchasing power.

Dr Singh, who is due to meet President Obama for formal talks on Tuesday, said he was looking forward to the discussions.

He said that, in today's economically integrated world, economic relationships were the bedrock on which social, cultural and political relationships were built. He also said that a strategic relationship that was not underpinned by a strong economic relationship was unlikely to prosper.

"On the other hand, a web of economic relationships intensifies both business-to-business and people to people contacts, promoting a deeper and better understanding between countries. That is the kind of relationship we wish to see with this great country, the United States," he said.

The Prime Minister said India's new and evolving relationship with the United States was in many ways the natural consequence of changes in economic policies and business practices that had occurred as countries responded to the process of global economic integration.

He said India’s policies had also changed in the process, making its economy much more open to trade and investment, and more closely integrated with the world economy. He said there was no doubt that these policies had yielded handsome benefits for India.

He said that in the five years before the global crisis of 2008, India's economy was growing at an unprecedented rate of 9 per cent per year on average in the last five years. India began to be perceived as one of the fastest growing emerging market economies and became an attractive destination for foreign investment as well, he said.

Dr Singh said most of the large American corporations were now present in India as foreign direct investors. Many were engaged in high technology work, with their Indian operations forming part of their global supply chains and US business in India had also groomed managerial and technical talent which they have liberally used for their global operations, he said.

Similarly, he said, several companies had located their research facilities in India, attracted by the availability of high quality scientific talent at relatively competitive costs. In recent years Indian companies in sectors ranging from automobile components, tractors, pharmaceuticals and software have also been investing in the US and creating thousands of jobs in that country, he said.

"This two-way flow illustrates the mutually beneficial nature of our evolving and growing relationship," he remarked.

Dr Singh said India's engagement with the US had been expanding on many fronts, throwing up new business opportunities. He said the civil nuclear cooperation agreement was a landmark in Indo-US relations and acknowledged the very supportive role American business played in persuading US Congress to support this important initiative.

"We are currently finalizing the details that will make the agreement fully operational. Once that is done, it will remove restrictions on the flow of technology in nuclear and many other areas. This will open a large area of commercial opportunities for US business in India. We have an expanding area of defence collaboration including the possibility of procurement of defence equipment from the US," he said.

He pointed out India's domestic private sector defence suppliers were now allowed to have upto 26 per cent foreign investment, opening a new avenue for Indo-US collaboration in defence-related activities.

He said India was not only working with other countries to meet the challenge of climate change but also addressing the problem domestically through a National Action Plan for Climate Change, which outlined many new initiatives in energy efficiency and clean energy.

"These are areas where your companies are leaders in the industry, and we should explore possible areas of cooperation. We plan to sign with the US Government tomorrow a Memorandum of Understanding on Energy Security, Clean Energy and Climate Change. This will provide a framework for pursuing bilateral cooperation in specific areas," he said.

Referring to the global economic and financial crisis, he said there were two fallouts which had implications for Indo-US relations.

"The first arises from the recognition that managing a highly integrated global economy requires coordinated and collective action on a global scale. After the Pittsburgh Summit, the G-20 has become the premier forum for international consultation and dialogue. As members of this group, our two countries will have the opportunity to cooperate in addressing all the critical issues now facing the world economy.

"The second is the recognition that the large dynamic emerging market economies of the world are now significant players in the global economy. They are expected to grow faster than the industrialized countries in the years that lie ahead. This will gradually increase their share in the world economy and also increase their contribution to global growth. India today is the second largest of the dynamic emerging economies," he said.

He said the crisis had affected India, with its growth rate decelerating to 6.7 per cent in 2008-09 and likely to remain at around 6.5 per cent in the current fiscal year. He said the country expected to accelerate from this level and get back to a growth of around 9 per cent per annum within two years.

"There are a number of reasons why I believe the Indian economy will resume rapid growth despite the fact that slower growth in industrialized countries will limit our export possibilities. Our domestic savings rate has increased very substantially and supported an investment rate of 39% of our GDP in 2007-08, most of it being in private investment. We have ample human resources in terms of labour skills, scientific talent, and management capability.

"Looking ahead we enjoy a demographic dividend in terms of a growing working age populations in a world that is aging very rapidly. We have a vibrant and innovative private sector, which operates independently of our government. Rapid and inclusive growth in the years ahead will enable us to achieve our social objectives. It will also result in a few hundred million people entering the Indian market for a wide range of consumer goods," he said.

According to him, American companies interested in global markets would be well advised to look at the emerging possibilities on the horizon in India.

He said that a major weakness that limited India's growth possibilities was inadequacy of hard infrastructure. He said the country needed massive investment in energy, transport and urban infrastructure to be able to support a high rate of economic growth. Expanded investment in these areas will help offset weak export demand by providing a domestic demand impetus to support higher rates of economic growth.

The Prime Minister said the Government had taken a number of steps to improve the processes of project approval and implementation. He invited American business to look at the large number of public private partnership projects in infrastructure being promoted by the Central Government and individual State governments in India.

He said India welcomed investment in other areas also, including agriculture-based businesses such as post-harvest segments, including cold chains, agricultural marketing and food processing, manufacturing and mining and services such as financial services, retailing and tourism.

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PM in Washington, aims to consolidate India's Strategic Partnership with US

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has arrived in Washington on a State Visit during which the two countries will aim to take their Strategic Partnership to a new high.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Smt. Gursharan Kaur at Andrews Air Force Air Port in Washington on November 22, 2009.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Smt. Gursharan Kaur at Andrews Air Force Air Port in Washington on November 22, 2009.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has arrived in Washington on a State Visit during which the two countries will aim to take their Strategic Partnership to a new high and enhance cooperation in areas such as civil nuclear energy, education and health.

Dr Singh, who is accompanied by his wife Gursharan Kaur, will also travel to Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) before flying back home.

The Prime Minister will meet US President Barack Obama on November 24 for wide-ranging talks that are expected to cover the major global threats and challenges of the times, such as international terrorism, climate change, the global economic slowdown, the Doha round of trade negotiations, and nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. The situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as other regional issues will also figure in the talks.

He will also be looking at ways of ensuring that the landmark India-US Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement is operationalised at the earliest.

In particular, he is expected to urge the US to use the full force of its influence to persuade Pakistan to act against terror groups acting against India from Pakistani territory.

Later that evening, Mr Obama will host Dr Singh and Mrs Gursharan Kaur at a reception and a state dinner at the White House, the first since he assumed office as President in January this year.

"India attaches high priority to its relations with the USA. Our bilateral agenda covers almost all areas of human endeavour," Dr Singh had said in a pre-departure statement on Saturday.

He had said that the last several years had witnessed a transformation in India-US relations and these were characterised today by greater maturity, depth and convergence of interests. He said he looked forward to building on this momentum during his four-day visit.

"A sustained and dynamic India-US partnership is essential if we are to meet the global challenges of the 21st century. At the bilateral level, we look forward to building upon our Strategic Dialogue by adding greater substance to our cooperation in areas such as trade and investment, services, energy, science and technology, defence, high technology trade, education, agriculture and health," he said.

During the visit, the Prime Minister will meet senior members of the US Cabinet and Senators and Congressmen. He will attend a business event jointly hosted by the US Chamber of Commerce and the US-India Business Council where members of the India-US CEOs Forum will also be present.

He will address the Council of Foreign Relations and Woodrow Wilson Centre, where he will get a chance to interact with leading opinion makers of the US.

He will also meet members of the Indian American community who, he said, are playing an important role in fostering closer ties between the two countries.

In Washington, Dr Singh will stay at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel, located some three blocks away from the White House, instead of the historic Blair House, the designated guest house where all state guests of the US president normally stay. Dr Singh had stayed at Blair House, across the street from the White House, during his July, 2005 visit to Washington when the historic India-US Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement was signed.

Ahead of his visit, Dr Singh had also said that he hoped to persuade the US to be more liberal when it came to transfer of dual use technologies to India.

"Now that we are strategic partners these restrictions make no sense. India has an impeccable record of not participating in any proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. So, that is my number one concern," he said in an interview to Elizabeth G Weymouth, Editor-at-Large and Senior Diplomatic Correspondent of Newsweek, ahead of the visit.

The interview was carried in the latest issue of the American news magazine and the transcript was made available on the website of the Ministry of External Affairs.

Dr Singh also said that India would like to operationalise the landmark civil nuclear cooperation agreement with the US and ensure that its objectives were realised in full merit.

He was referring to the consent agreement that Mr Obama would have to sign and send to Congress. On India's part, he said he was confident Parliament would pass the required liability agreement.

"We will do that. Our Cabinet will be taking a decision. I do not see any difficulties in honouring our commitments," he said.

He hastened to add that India had no worries about whether the US would honour the consent agreement. "We have no worries, but we would like a positive reaffirmation of this Administration to carry forward that process," he said, referring to the civil nuclear deal.

The Prime Minister also said that the relations between India and the US were a partnership for sustained and sustainable development of India and the new global order which was in search of a new equilibrium.

"India and the United States could be partners in refocusing our attention on an equitable, balanced, global order," he said.

Asked to specify what that meant exactly, Dr Singh said there were several components of sustained development.

"There is the energy cooperation - we would like to strengthen energy cooperation with the United States - clean coal technologies, renewable energy resources. Similarly there is concern for food security. We would like to have a second green revolution in our country. In the first green revolution technologies which were by-products of the US public sector played a major role in transforming Indian agriculture. We need another green revolution to carry forward that process still further. Therefore, cooperation in the field of agriculture, cooperation in the field of science and technology, cooperation in the field of health, ensuring cooperation between our two countries in dealing with pandemics, these are all the concerns that I have, and I propose to share these concerns with President Obama and hope that we both can reaffirm our commitment to carry forward these processes," he explained.

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Incredible India film wins CIFFT Grand Prix in Vienna

Click on the image to view the video.
Click on the image to view the Incredible India film.

Incredible India, a new promotional film for India's successful tourism campaign of the same name that showcases the country's diverse attractions, has won the Grand Prix at the 21st CIFFT in Vienna, Austria.

The film shared the top honours with Turismo de Segovia: de todo para todos of Spain.

CIFFT is the Comite International des Festivals du Film Touristique (the International Committee of Tourism Film Festivals) and its main objective is to provide an international platform to encourage global tourism through the audio-visual media.

The Grand Prix CIFFT is determined on a points system, and points are gained by winning placements at individual CIFFT festivals. The overall winner is determined at the end of the year and is announced at the Festival of Festivals in Vienna.

The award for the Incredible India film was received in Vienna yesterday by Tourism Minister Kumari Selja, who said the film had been used extensively in the Government's global marketing campaigns and had received worldwide recognition. She said the film had won awards in Germany, Poland, Romania, France, Portugal, the Czech Republic and Croatia before winning the Grand Prix.

Ms Selja said the story of the campaign started in 2002 when the Ministry of Tourism took the initiative to brand the country, with the primary objective of establishing a unique and single identity – "Incredible India". The campaign has generated huge interest about Indian tourism products globally and contributed significantly in the growth of tourism in India, she said.

"We have been working in close association and coordination with stakeholders in the tourism industry who have all contributed to the building of the Incredible India brand line. This film which has been awarded today has also been produced in collaboration with the Experience India Society – a successful public-private sector initiative working towards the promotion of tourism to our beautiful country. The film successfully showcases, India’s diverse tourism product in order to attract international traveler to our country," she added.

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Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki to visit India Nov 16-17

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki will pay a two-day official visit to India from November 16-17 for talks aimed at strengthening the bilateral relations.

"His visit carries forward the sequence of regular high-level contacts between India and Iran. The visit will provide an opportunity for both sides to discuss issues of mutual interest and further strengthen the civilisational and historical ties between India and Iran," a statement from the Ministry of External Affairs said.

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Canadian PM Stephen Harper to visit India Nov 15-18

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper will arrive here on November 15 on a four-day official visit to India that is aimed at boosting bilateral relations between the two countries.

Mr Harper will be accompanied by his wife Laureen Harper, Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon, International Trade Minister Stockwell Day and a Parliamentary delegation, an official press release said here today.

During his visit, Mr Harper will call on President Pratibha Patil and Vice-President M Hamid Ansari and hold discussions with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Among others, he will also meet External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and Leader of the Opposition Lal Krishna Advani.

According to the release, Mr Harper's discussions with Dr Singh will include a review of the bilateral agenda and an exchange of views on regional and global issues of common interest.

India and Canada share a commonality of values, including an abiding commitment to democracy, pluralism and the rule of law, it stressed.

In recent years, the India-Canada bilateral agenda has diversified to include new areas of cooperation such as science and technology, agriculture and space. Bilateral trade has been increasing steadily, reaching $ 4.6 billion in 2008.

India and Canada are negotiating the institutional framework for enhancing bilateral trade and investment, including a Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement and a Social Security Agreement, and are currenttly considering the possibility of a Free Trade Agreement.

There is a large community of non-resident Indias and people of Indian origin in Canada, which has strengthened people-to-people linkages between the two countries, the release added.

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India, Japan decide to boost defence cooperation

India and Japan today expressed their firm determination to take forward their bilateral defence exchanges and cooperation in a meaningfulway and to work together in the fight against terrorism.

In a Joint Press Statement issued in Tokyo after talks between visiting Defence Minister A K Antony and his Japanese counterpart Toshimi Kitazawa, the two sides also voiced their commitment to contribute to bilateral and regional cooperation, in fora such as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), in the field of peace-keeping, peace-building and disaster relief operations.

The two Ministers conducted a comprehensive review of defence cooperation issues and discussed defence exchanges. The regional and international security situation also came up for discussion at the meeting.

The two sides condemned terrorist activities and expressed their determination to enhance cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

They also recognised their mutual interest in the safety of sea-lines of communications and welcomed the recent reinforcement of cooperation in the field of maritime security between the two defence authorities as well as the inauguration of the Japan-India Maritime Security Dialogue which was held in India last month.

The two Ministers shared international concerns on piracy off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden and expressed their support for international anti-piracy efforts.

They also expressed their determination to accelerate bilateral discussions on various measures to further promote defence exchanges and cooperation through a Defence Action Plan, as envisaged between the Prime Ministers of the two countries in October last year.

The statement said the two sides would develop such an action plan and hoped that it would be signed during the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to India for the annual India-Japan Summit.

According to it, the two Ministers expressed their desire to hold annual meetings and expressed their expectation that the Second Defence Policy Dialogue will be held at the earliest mutually convenient time in India next year.

The two sides also reiterated the importance of strengthening Service-to-Service exchanges such as Staff Talks including Navy-to-Navy and Ground-to-Ground Staff Talks, as well as bilateral exercises between Japan Self Defence Forces and the Indian Armed Forces to enhance cooperation and core ability for maritime security operation and disaster relief.

Mr Antony was accompanied by a high-level delegation including the Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar, Scientific Adviser to Raksha Mantri V K Saraswat and the Vice Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral D K Dewan.

Mr Antony's visit to Tokyo is the first by an Indian Cabinet Minister after the new Government led by the Democratic Party of Japan assumed office in that country after the recent elections. He is due to return to the capital tomorrow.

Bilateral security and defence cooperation between India and Japan are guided by the Joint Statement issued by the Defence Ministers of both sides during the visit of then Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee to Japan in May 2006 and the Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation between Japan and India which was issued during the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Japan in October last year.

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India hands over Dhruv helicopter to Mauritius

India has handed over a Dhruv Advanced Light Helicopter to Mauritius, which has been inducted into the country's police force.

The helicopter was handed over by Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor to Dr Navichandra Ramgoolam, Prime Minister of Mauritius, at a function in Port Louis yesterday during a three-day visit to that country.

An official press release said the helicopter into the Mauritius Police Helicopter Squadron would allow patrolling, search and rescue operations and participation in disaster relief and emergency medical missions. The helicopter is ideally suited for VIP transport, it said.

Dr Ramgoolam and Dr Tharoor, accompanied by Mauritian Foreign Minister Arvin Boolell took a short ride in the helicopter after the function.

The release said an Inter-Governmental Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the two sides in the presence of Dr Tharoor and Dr Ramgoolam for the supply of the Coastal Surveillance Radar System from India to Mauritius.

An agreement was also signed between the Mauritian government and the public sector Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) for the supply, installation and commissioning of the system.

The MoU provides for the setting up of eight of the systems in Mauritius, five of them on the main island and one each on the islands of Rodrigues, Agalega and St Brandon. BEL will offer training and technical support to Mauritian personnel.

An India-Mauritius Joint Monitoring Committee will be set up with members from the two Governments and BEL to facilitate the implementation of the project and review the progress of work.

During Dr Ramgoolam's State Visit to India in October, 2005, India had agreed to the request of Mauritius to provide a Line of Credit of $ 100 million with a grant component of $ 25 million. The Dhruv helicopter costing $ 10.4 million and the Coastal Surveillance Radar System worth Euro 2.4 million are both covered under the grant element of the Line of Credit, the release said.

Dr Tharoor was the Chief Guest at the celebrations commemorating the 175th anniversary of the arrival of the indentured labourers from India in Mauritius on Monday.

The annual function, Aapravasi Divas, is held at the historic Aapravasi Ghat where the first indentured labourers from India landed on November 2, 1834.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Tharoor recalled the difficulties which would have been encountered by the forebears of current Mauritians to make the country what it is today.

He noted that India and Mauritius enjoyed traditional bonds of friendship and kinship founded on a historical and shared cultural heritage and assured that India is ready to share its experience with Mauritius and move towards consolidation and expansion of its multi-dimensional partnership and remain committed to a mutually beneficial comprehensive engagement.

During the visit, Dr Tharoor called on Mauritian President Anerood Jugnauth and Dr Ramgoolam. He also met Dr Boolell. Bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest were discussed at these meetings. They also reviewed the strength and content of bilateral cooperation.

While in Mauritius, Dr. Tharoor delivered an address to a 80-member audience in the University of Mauritius on the subject "India-Africa: Partners in Development". He also visited the Secretariat of the Indian Ocean Rim – Association for Regional Co-operation (IOR-ARC).

During the course of his visit, Dr. Tharoor visited SSR Botanic Garden, Pamplemousses and laid the wreath at the Samadhi of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam, the Father of the Nation of Mauritius. He visited the Le Morne World Heritage Site, a site in memory of the slaves who arrived in Mauritius over two centuries ago. He also visited Ganga Talao, where he was received by Mr. Anil Bachoo, Minister of Public Infrastructure, Land Transport and Shipping. He also interacted with various socio-cultural organisations in Mauritius. Dr. Tharoor also met members of the Mauritius Writers Association.

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India-Nepal Home Secretary-level talks on Nov 6-7

India and Nepal will hold Home Secretary-level talks in Kathmandu on November 6-7, during which the two sides will discuss various issues of bilateral concern.

An official statement said that the meeting would in particular discuss issues relating to security and border management.

Union Home Secretary G K Pillai will lead the Indian team to the talks while the Nepalese side would be headed by his counterpart Govind Prasad Kusum.

During his stay in Kathmandu, Mr Pillai is also likely to call on the Prime Minister and the Home Minister of Nepal.

The last round of Home Secretary-level talks between the two countries was held on October 31-November 1, 2008 in New Delhi.

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India House in Singapore wins Architectural Heritage Award

The newly-renovated India House, which is the residence of the Indian High Commissioner in Singapore, is among eight restoration projects chosen for Architectural Heritage Awards for 2009 by Singapore's Urban Redevelopment Authority.

The house was purchased by the Government of India in 1948. It was dilapidated and was also severely damaged by a fallen repair.

The restoration of the original tropical black and white bungalow, constructed in 1911, lasted nearly two years and was funded and monitored by the Ministry of External Affairs here, an official press release added.

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Sharma calls for India-Egypt economic partnership

Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma meeting the Egyptian Prime Minister Dr. Ahmed Nazif at Cairo, Egypt on October 29, 2009.
Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma meeting the Egyptian Prime Minister Dr. Ahmed Nazif at Cairo, Egypt on October 29, 2009.

Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma today urged the business leaders of India and Egypt to work together for building a comprehensive economic partnership between the two countries.

Mr Sharma was speaking at a meeting of the Business Forum organised by the Egyptian Ministry of Trade and Industry in Cairo.

The Minister was in Cairo at the invitation of Egyptian Minister for Trade and Industry Rachid Mohamed Rachid to attend an Informal African WTO Trade Ministerial Brainstorming Session on "Consolidating the Development Dimension".

India had hosted a similar Informal Ministerial Meeting on the Doha Round of WTO in Delhi, which Mr Rachid had attended.

Earlier this morning, Mr Sharma met Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif and discussed with him a wide range of bilateral issues as well as global developments of mutual interest.

Mr Sharma briefed Dr Nazif about developments in India that have taken place since Egyptian Preident Hosni Mubarak's visit in November last year and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Cairo for the XVth Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) in July this year.

Dr Nazif invited Indian businessmen to set up joint ventures with Egyptian companies in an exclusive India investment zone that he has proposed to set up.

He also suggested that companies in both countries should explore the possibilities of establishing joint ventures in third countries. He said he was personally committed to taking Egypt's economic engagement with India to a higher level.

The Informal African WTO Trade Ministerial Brainstorming Session was attended by 22 other Ministers and the Director General of the WTO. The meeting focused on finding the ways and means of ensuring closer cooperation among the participating countries for adopting a common approach to the major issues coming up for discussions in WTO. It was felt that cooperation was the only way of protecting the interest of the developing countries in a forum like WTO.

At his bilateral meeting with Mr Rachid, the Indian Minister discussed ways of boosting economic and commercial relations between the two countries.

Bilateral trade between India and Egypt has been growing steadily and crossed the $ 3 billion mark for the first time in 2007-08. India has made significant investments in Egypt and there are some 40 projects in areas such as chemicals, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and garments which have received of a total of $ 750 million in Indian.

In addition, ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) and Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC) have met investment commitments of $ 300 to 500 million in the oil exploration sector.

At the end of the talks, the two Ministers signed a Joint Action Plan for cooperation between the Egyptian Ministry of Trade and Industry and India's Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs). A Joint Committee will be constituted soon for implementation of the plan.

Mr Sharma was accompanied on the trip by a 16-member delegation from the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII).

The delegation called on Dr. Mahmoud Safwat Mohyee El-Din, Minister for Investment of Egypt and had very productive meetings at Egyptian Ministry of Electricity & Energy, Federation of Egyptian Industries (FEI) and Egyptian Businessmen Association (EBA).

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India, Belarus discuss military and technical cooperation

India and Belarus have held talks to find ways of strengthening their bilateral relationship, especially in the area of military and technical cooperation.

Minister of State for Defence M M Pallam Raju, who is on a four-day visit to Belarus, held wide-ranging discussions with the country's Defence Minister Colonel-General Leonid Semenovich in Minsk yesterday.

Mr Raju was briefed on the ongoing cooperation by Maj Gen Petr I Rogozhevsky, First Deputy Chairman of the State Military and Industrial Committee of Belarus this morning. Maj Gen Rogozhevsky is also the co-Chairman of the India-Belarus Joint Commission on Military Technical Cooperation.

Mr Raju, who is leading a four-member delegation, was due to call on Belarus President Alexander G. Lukashenko later today.

The Indian delegation includes Lt. General D. Bharadwaj, Director-General Mechanized Forces, Mr V. Somasundram, Joint Secretary (Ordnance Factories) and Major General (Retired) Ravi Khetrapal, Chairman-and-Managing Director, Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL).

According to an official press release, supplies of defence equipment and spares, refurbishment of missile systems and joint development of military hardware, including opto-electronics and gunpowder, are high on the agenda of Mr Raju’s visit.

India has sought from the erstwhile Soviet Republic supplies of opto-electronics for armament systems for tanks and combat vehicles, upgradation of BMP-2, T-72 and T-90 tanks including Fire Control Systems, Commander Panoramic Sights, Digital Ballistic Computer and missile firing capability.

BDL is holding talks with Teatradr for technology, equipment and spares for refurbishing the OSA-AK missiles for the IAF.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) signed a memorandum with the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus in December last year to set up a Joint R&D Centre in Minsk.

The release said DRDO had also signed contracts worth $ 2.6 million with various institutes under the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus for joint R&D of technologies in Laser and Powder Metallurgy.

During the October 24-28 visit, Mr Raju will visit Agat, the state scientific research enterprise, which has been collaborating with the DRDO for over 15 years and the two institutions are likely to enter into a long-term agreement soon. Twelve personnel from Belarus have undergone joint training in defence related programmes in India under the ITEC programme since last year.

India and Belarus have consolidated their defence ties with the holding of Joint Commission meetings on Military Technical Cooperation (MTC), on the pattern of a similar arrangement with Russia. The first meeting was held in Minsk in May, 2008, followed by the second in New Delhi in May this year. The two countries have had close defence ties since the signing of an MoU on Defence Cooperation in 1993, the release added.

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Singh calls for concerted response to terrorism, extremism

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday said the growing threats from non-traditional sources of terrorism, such as piracy and extremist ideologies, needed a concerted response by all countries.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with leaders of the other East Asia Summit countries at their meeting in Hua Hin, Thailand on October 25, 2009.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with leaders of the other East Asia Summit countries at their meeting in Hua Hin, Thailand on October 25, 2009.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said the growing threats from non-traditional sources of terrorism, such as piracy, transnational groups and extremist ideologies, would increasingly require a concerted and cooperative response by all countries.

Addressing the 4th East Asia Summit (EAS) in its retreat session in the Thai resort town of Hua Hin, Dr Singh said the world would also have to pay greater attention to issues of social exclusion and regional imbalances in development.

"The fight against pandemics and collaboration in disaster management are other areas which will need our attention," he said.

Dr Singh also said that climate change was a major challenge facing the world, but it was particularly so for the developing and fast-growing economies in Asia.

He said the EAS process should come up with a workable model of sustainable development, with financing and technology transfers as its key elements.

"The challenge before us is to find a global mechanism which, while safeguarding the incentives for innovation and development of environment friendly technologies in the private sector, also simultaneously ensures the availability of such technology to developing countries at an affordable cost," he said.

The Prime Minister noted that the Summit was being held against the backdrop of the global economic and financial slowdown. He said the G-20 leaders had met thrice and the coordinated response to address the crisis that had emerged from the G-20 had had some effect.

However, he felt it was still too early to say whether the world was completely out of trouble. He said he supported Australian's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's suggestion for a meeting of EAS Finance Ministers to examine sources of growth in the region.

Dr Singh said the launching of the EAS in 2005 in Kuala Lumpur was an act of foresight and an act of faith in the collective potential of the 16 member-countries.

The EAS comprises the 10 ASEAN countries and Australia, New Zealand, India, China, Japan and South Korea.

The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) groups Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Phillipines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Dr Singh said that today the world's eyes were on Asia as the region which could lead the global economic revival from the front.

"The Asian tigers captured the world’s attention a few decades ago. Today, six of the twenty members of the G-20 belong to the East Asia Summit," he said.

He said there were lessons to be learnt from the global economic crisis, including the need to ensure coordination in growth policies and to keep the real economy strong and sound. He said he agreed with Japan that greater emphasis had to be laid on growth of domestic demand.

He said it was also important to keep the flows of trade, technology and investment open, orderly and predictable.

The Prime Minister said the evolution of the EAS process should conform to its first declaration issued in Kuala Lumpur which called for the grouping to be an open, inclusive, transparent and outward looking forum.

"We need to move forward in this direction, and exhibit the requisite political will. Economic integration among us could generate billions of dollars of additional output," he said.

The Prime Minister said the vision of Asian economic integration by coalescing the Free Trade Agreements among member Asian countries into an Asian Regional Trade Agreement was a pivotal step towards the integration of Asia into a common unit.

This could lead to the creation of a broader Asian Economic Community, he said, stressing that the focus should be on generation of stronger domestic demand in Asian economies through investment in infrastructure, creation and strengthening of the social welfare net, skill development of the workforce and environmentally sustainable and inclusive growth.

He said India welcomed the recommendations of the Phase II Report on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership in East Asia with regard to the three pillars of economic cooperation, facilitation and liberalisation. An early realisation of its roadmap for economic and financial integration would be the right step forward for our grouping, he said.

Dr Singh pointed out that India was playing its part in this process. It had signed Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements with Singapore and Korea and recently a Trade in Good Agreements with the ASEAN. It was in discussions with Japan, China, Thailand and Malaysia and other countries to conclude agreements of a similar nature, he said.

He said the proposals generated by the Economic Research Institute of ASEAN and East Asia [ERIA] to develop a blueprint for financial and economic integration of the EAS region, especially in the area of infrastructure development and connectivity, were promising, and deserved encouragement. India would contribute $ 1 million over a period of ten years for enlarging the activities of ERIA, he said.

He also expressed happiness over the statement adopted by the Summit on the establishment of the Nalanda University in Bihar in India.

"This has been the product of many months of hard work put in by the Nalanda Mentor Group, and will be a shining example of cooperative action in the field of education," he added.

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