New Delhi : External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee stepped in for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to receive the Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev at a ceremonial reception at Rashtrapati Bhavan Saturday morning.
Manmohan Singh was undergoing a bypass surgery in a Delhi hospital and will take a few weeks to recover. Mukherjee, who is officiating in his place, has taken on the prime minister’s protocol duties.
Nazarbayev, who arrived Friday night on a four-day state visit, will also be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade.
Receiving the visiting dignitary, Mukherjee explained that the prime minister was indisposed. “Our prime minister is indisposed, hence I am receiving you,” he said.
After Nazarbayev inspected the guard of honour, Mukherjee introduced him to the members of the Indian cabinet.
Mukherjee will also lead the delegation-level talks with the Kazakh president, which is usually co-chaired by the prime minister. The venue of the talks have also been shifted from Hyderabad House to Rashtrapati Bhawan.
A civil nuclear agreement and other pacts will be signed Saturday at Rashtrapati Bhavan in the presence of President Pratibha Patil and Nazarbayev.
The nuclear deal will not just be confined to uranium supply but may also include joint exploration of nuclear fuel and setting up of atomic plants.
Kazakhstan will be the fourth country after the US, France and Russia to sign a civil nuclear pact with India.
Kazakhstan has the world’s second largest uranium reserves and is the third largest producer of nuclear fuel.
Later in the afternoon, Nazarbayev will address a business meet organised jointly by all the apex industry chambers.