India to foster ties with African, Latin American countries

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New Delhi, Oct 19 (UNI) Setting an "ambitious agenda" to expand and develop relations with African and Latin American countries, India has begun efforts to make its trilateral cooperation with Brazil and South Africa as a base to expand cooperation with other countries in the two continents.

''We are discussing a trading arrangement between India and SACU and MERCOSUR. If that comes about, I think our three country cooperation (IBSA) will become a base to expand cooperation with other countries of Africa and Latin America,'' Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told mediapersons last night on board his special aircraft on his way back home after attending the India-Brazil-South Africa Summit in Tshwane (Pretoria).

He said the IBSA had emerged as a model for trilateral cooperation which had immense potentialities. ''IBSA is a new model of the trilateral cooperation. It is an important innovative mechanism to promote South-South cooperation and our intention is to become a model of economic cooperation among the largest democracies in the three continents.'' The third IBSA Summit would be held here next year.

Ahead of the summit, India has promised to convene an India-Africa Summit here in April next year.

In fact, Dr Singh began his two-nation African tour with his visit to Nigeria, in an apparent indication that India would seek to step up its engagement with the African country as part of its effort to promote energy security. ''I attach great importance to work with Nigeria, an energy rich country,'' he said about his visit to Nigeria, the first by an Indian Prime Minister in 45 years.

The fact that India and Nigeria had signed eight agreements on different fields during his visit has clearly indicated that both countries would soon become close partners.

Nigerian President Alhaji Umar Musa Yar' Adua is visiting India ''very soon,'' Dr Singh said, while confirming that the national oil companies of both the countries would work together to widen and deepen their interaction, both in upstream and downstream activities.

At present, 11 per cent of India's petroleum requirements are met by Nigeria, one of the largest economies of Africa.

Dr Singh said he had reviewed with South African President Thabo Mbeki the situation in Africa with regard to peace keeping operations in Darfur, in Somalia, and what is happening in Congo.

On easing Visa regulations between IBSA countries, Dr Singh said there was a lot of pressure on the government to ease visa restrictions. ''We have set an ambitious target for trade and business. This will be an incentive for governments to look at all the obstacles that come in the way of expanding trade and make them find ways to remove the obstacles''.

UNI

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