New Delhi, Oct 21: The global financial storm which has produced a sharp slowdown in economic activity will dominate Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's engagement with Asian and European leaders during his five-day visit to Japan and China. Prime Minister left on Tuesday, Oct 21 for Japan for the fourth annual summit-level exchange with his Japanese counterpart Taro Aso on Wednesday, Oct 22.
He was seen off at his official 7 Race Course road by UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Union Ministers and top bureaucrats and military officers. He will leave Tokyo for China on Oct 23 to attend the seventh Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM-7) at Beijing the next day. This will be India's first participation in ASEM at the summit level after it joined the grouping of 45 countries, which includes Pakistan. Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said Dr Singh's visit to Japan was attached with great importance in the light of growing ties between the two countries in recent years. This is his second visit to Japan as Prime Minister.
''India-Japan relations have undergone a significant and qualitative shift in recent years, propelled by the successful regular summit level exchanges since Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi visited India in April 2005.'' Mr Menon said the international economic situation would certainly figure at the discussion as ''it is a matter about which both of us have considerable interest.'' At the bilateral talks, Dr Singh and Mr Aso will review the progress of the initiatives already taken by both the countries and discuss measures to take them forward in a bid to broaden the bilateral relationship at all levels.
Dr Singh visited Japan in December 2006 and the third summit level meeting was held when Prime Minister Abe visited here in August 2007.
Both India and Japan had laid down a roadmap for "Strategic and Global Partnership" during the last summit meeting here in August 2007.
During his three-day stay in Tokyo, Dr Singh would call on Japanese Emperor Akhito and Empress Michiko on October 22.
He would have a breakfast meeting with former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori in the morning of October 23. He would later addresss a meeting of Japan-India Association and Japan-India Parliamentary Friendship Association.
Trade and investment between India and Japan is expected to touch 15 billion US dollars this year. Both the countries have set a target of 20 billion US dollars for 2010. India is the single largest recipient of Japanese Official Development Assistance (ODA), constituting 30 per cent of its total ODA.
Dr Singh will leave Tokyo for China in the evening of October 23.
India, along with Pakistan and Mongolia, Bulgaria and Romania, are participating in the biennial summit level meeting of ASEM for the first time.
Though the theme of the seventh ASEM in Beijing on October 24 was ''Vision and Action towards win-win solution,'' the international financial situation which shows the prospect of a prolonged recession in industrialised countries is likely to be high on the agenda of the meeting.
''This meeting is set against a special global condition in the areas of economy, energy, climate change and food security,'' Mr N Ravi, Joint Secretary (East) in the External Affairs Ministry, said, while adding that the summit was expected to achieve more consensus on these issues.
Mr Ravi said India's association with ASEM would help the country in many ways as 50 per cent of India's trade is with ASEM countries.
The population of the ASEM countries constituted 50 per cent of the total world population.
Asked if Dr Singh would hold discussions with Pakistan Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani on the sidelines of ASEM, Mr Ravi said no such meeting had been finalised so far. Since leaders from 40 countries are attending the summit, there were many requests for a meeting with Dr Singh.
Dr Singh would return here in the evening of October 25.