PM Begins Three-nation Tour Today

New Delhi, Nov 10: | Updated: Nov 11 2003, 05:30am hrs
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee will be leaving on Tuesday for a three-nation tour of Russia, Tajikistan and Syria.

Mr Vajpayee will have a one-to-one dinner meeting with President Putin in Moscow on Tuesday before getting into delegation-level talks on Wednesday. The two countries will sign several agreements during the three-day visit.

Accords to be signed include cooperation in science and technology, space, industry, establishment of an Indo-Russian centre for earthquake research, joint publication of bilateral archival documents and inter-banking arrangements. Foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal said the stress would be on economic matters. Mr Vajpayee will be accompanied by a 90-member business delegation, which will include the heads of Ficci, CII and Fieo.

Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov and defence minister Sergei Ivanov will also call on the Prime Minister.

Mr Sibal said the focus during the parleys would be for giving a greater thrust to trade and investments. Listing some of the steps taken in this direction, he said a conducive visa regime was being put in place and CII was resuming its operations in Russia.

The two sides would also review the work of the joint taskforce on the rupee-rouble trade issue. A balance of Rs 2,792 crore as on September 12 on this account still has to be reconciled.

Responding to a question about the issue of civilian nuclear cooperation in the field of energy, Mr Sibal said both sides were interested in stepping up ties in this area.

Matters regarding banking will also be discussed. India does not recognise bank guarantees of Russian banks. This problem is going to be discussed, Mr Sibal said.

The Commercial Bank of India, a joint venture between the State Bank of India and the Canara Bank, is expected to begin operation in Russia by year-end and Russian banks will open offices in India soon.

Mr Vajpayee will also address a joint meeting of Indian and Russian captains of industry in an effort to give a fillip to bilateral trade and economic cooperation.

On defence ties, he said the two countries were already working on development of Brahmos, the worlds first supersonic cruise missiles. India has recently bought three Russian frigates besides holding joint exercises in the Arabian Sea in May.

On Thursday, Mr Vajpayee will fly to Tajikistan, his first visit to that country. Two agreements will be signed on cooperation in combating terrorism and a protocol on exchanging instruments of ratification for encouraging and protecting investments.

He will call on Tajikistan President Emomali Sharifovich Rakhmanov.

During his three-day state visit to Syria from November 14, the Prime Minister will hold talks with President Basher al-Assad on several important matters including the Iraq situation.