President Patil begins maiden foreign visit Saturday


New Delhi : President Pratibha Patil embarks on her maiden foreign tour as head of state Saturday by visiting the Latin American countries Brazil, Mexico and Chile. She will be accompanied by a large business delegation.

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“The fact that the president has chosen to pay her first state visit to Latin America reflects the importance that India attaches to further strengthening its partnerships with countries of that dynamic continent,” Secretary (West) Ministry of External Affairs Nalin Surie told reporters here.

Patil will meet Brazilian President Lula da Silva, Mexican President Felipe de Jesus Calderon Hinojosa and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet during her 12-day visit. It will be Patil’s first foreign visit since she assumed office in July last year.

Pointing out that the trade and economic interaction between the Latin American countries and India was growing rapidly despite the impediments in physical connectivity, Surie said a number of agreements were expected to be signed during the visit.

The union cabinet Friday approved the signing of Air Services Agreements (ASA) with Chile and Mexico. Both sides will have the right to operate as many flights as they wish in the other’s country, the each agreement says.

Patil, the first woman president of India, begins her official visit to Brazil from Sao Paulo, where she arrives Tuesday. She will also visit Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia.

The president will spend four days in Mexico, during which she will visit Mexico City and Guadalajara province.

The president, who arrives in Santiago April 20 for a two-day visit, is scheduled to address the students and academicians at the University of Chile. Patil will have a stopover in Lisbon on her way to Brazil and halt in Cape Town while returning to India April 23.

Currently, India’s trade with Brazil stands at $3.2 billion, with Mexico it is $2 billion and $2.4 billion with Chile.

By 2010, New Delhi has set a trade target of $10 billion with Brazil and $5 billion with Mexico.