Home India News Pranab Mukherjee heads for 4-nation tour Thursday

Pranab Mukherjee heads for 4-nation tour Thursday


New Delhi : External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee goes on a four-nation tour Thursday that starts with Cyprus and also takes him to Libya, Germany and Belgium – his first overseas trip after he suffered head injuries in a road accident in April.

In Cyprus, he will call on President Tassos Papadopoulos and meet his counterpart Yiorgos Lillikas and discuss with them a host of bilateral, regional and global issues, including bilateral trade, terrorism and UN reforms.

"This will be the first visit by an Indian foreign minister in over two decades," external affairs ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna said here while announcing Mukherjee's week-long transcontinental tour.

Then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visited Cyprus in 2002.

India and Cyprus are expected to sign an agreement on combating terrorism and illegal drug trafficking and organized crime and another pact on the abolition of visa requirement for holders of diplomatic and official passports

Indian companies have also expressed an interest in exploration blocks for oil and gas in the offshore waters in the Mediterranean, for which international bids have been invited in July 2007.

Mukherjee heads to Libya for a three-day visit Saturday – his first trip to a north African country after he became foreign minister late last year.

In Libya, which has a booming oil economy, will meet his counterpart Shalgem and hold extensive discussions on a wide array of bilateral issues, including intensified cooperation in energy, education, infrastructure and IT.

The minister's visit would be the most important visit from India to Libya and at the highest level in 22 years since the visit of late prime minister Indira Gandhi to Tripoli.

The visit will attempt to fabricate a framework, thereby enabling the elevation of our bilateral exchanges to move with the times where technology and training can bring greater benefits to both countries, Sarna said.

Indian companies have significant presence in the Libyan energy, hydrocarbon, power, IT sectors which has increased in the last three years.

Libya is keen to tap India's expertise in the small and medium enterprises sector which can be harnessed to boost economic reform process and entrepreneurship training in that country.

The minister goes to Hamburg May 28 to attend the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) where India has been invited for the first time at a gathering of foreign ministers of the forum formed 11 years ago to promote a dialogue between the two continents.

He will discuss with ASEM foreign ministers ways to deepen political, economic and cultural relations between the two continents and ways to revive stalled Doha round of multilateral trade negotiations.

India, along with Pakistan, Mongolia and the secretariat of the 10-nation ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) were admitted into ASEM in September last year. The ASEM summit held in Helsinki also admitted Bulgaria and Romania.

ASEM currently comprises 27 EU member states, 10 ASEAN counties, China, Japan, South Korea, India, Pakistan, Mongolia and the ASEAN secretariat.

The next stop for Mukherjee is Brussels where he will chair a meeting with India's ambassadors to the EU countries.

Mukherjee concludes his four-nation trip with a trip to Berlin for the ministerial meeting of the India-EU troika.

The troika comprises German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU, Portuguese Foreign Minister Luis Filipe Marques Amado, which takes over from Germany as the president of the EU in July, Secretary General and High Representative of the European Council for Common Foreign and Security Policy, Mr. Javier Solana and the Director General of the External Department of the European Commission.

The troika meeting will enable both sides to take stock of the development of the India-EU strategic partnership and preparations for the India-EU Summit later this year in India.

The two sides will also discuss a swathe of regional and global issues like developments in the EU, SAARC, Middle East, Afghanistan, energy security, climate change, counter terrorism etc.