PM in Seoul next week for n-security summit




By IANS,

New Delhi : Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will join 57 world leaders next week in Seoul for the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) to discuss the global threat posed

by nuclear terrorism and the measures required to prevent terrorists from gaining access to sensitive nuclear material and technologies.

"While nuclear security is a national responsibility, there is scope for international cooperation. The IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) has a central role in strengthening the international nuclear security framework," Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told reporters here Wednesday ahead of the March 26-27 summit.

The NSS is intended to take stock of progress in implementing the Communique and Work Plan of the first summit at Washington in 2010 "as well as agree on new measures that would be reflected in the Summit Communique", Mathai said.

"A number of countries are expected to speak on steps taken to strengthen nuclear security after the Washington summit in the form of national progress reports. These will be made public during the Summit," Mathai added.

Noting that India was "committed" to the success of the NSS process, Mathai said the prime minister's participation in the Seoul summit, as also the Washington summit, "is demonstration of our high-level commitment".

He noted in this context that the Global Centre on Nuclear Energy Partnership that Manmohan Singh had proposed was in the process of being created on the outskirts of the national capital.

"A number of countries have expressed interest in this initiative," Mathai added.

Prior to the summit, Manmohan Singh will pay a two-day official visit to South Korea, the second by an Indian prime minister since 1993.

During the visit, Manmohan Singh will hold talks with President Lee Myung-bak in restricted and delegation-level formats, while the two countries will sign an agreement on simplifying the issusnce of visas. A joint statement will also be issued. An interaction with leading CEOs of South Korean corporations is scheduled for March 26 morning.

"India and South Korea have a strategic partnership since 2010. The architecture of bilateral political discussions is well established," Mathai noted.

"Our economic relationship anchors our strong ties. Bilateral trade has picked up considerably since the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between the two countries came into effect in January 2010."

In the last two years, bilateral trade has grown 65 percent to reach $20.5 billion last year. The two countries have targeted $30 billion by 2014, "which is achievable", the foreign secretary said.

Over 300 South Korean companies are present in India, with an investment of $2.3 billion. Indian investment in South Korea is also substantial with Tata Motors and the Mahindra Group having made important strategic investments there.

Noting that the India-South Korea agreement on civil nuclear cooperation is "progressing steadily", Mathai said the country was "active" in India's defence equipment market.

The prime minister's visit "aims to give depth and greater meaning to our strategic partnership and the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, strengthen people-to-people contacts between our two countries, strengthen cooperation in the field of science and technology, and also coordinate our thinking in matters relating to regional security, international events", Mathai said.

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