Visit to Myanmar, Mauritius 'very important': Kalam
Onboard Tanjore Aircraft, Mar 14: President APJ Abdul Kalam today (Mar 14, 2006) returned home after a successful six-day visit to Myanmar and Mauritius, during which India signed several important agreements with the two countries in the hydrocarbon and IT sectors and affirmed its unwavering support for building their economies passing through the rough and tumble of the post-WTO phase.
Describing the visit as ''very important'', Dr Kalam, who became the first Indian President to tour Myanmar, said while the South-East Asian country had become the ''Gateway to Asia'', the Indian Ocean nation of Mauritius was the ''Gateway to the African Continent'', and both of them were vital for India's interests.
The focus of his visit was extension of cooperation in the energy sector as India concluded two framework agreements for exploration of oil and gas in Mauritius' Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and for evacuation of gas from Arakan gas fields in Myanmar.
''Our Power Minister will visit Myanmar for ensuring further progress on the project,'' Dr Kalam told the reporters, who had accompanied him during the visit. India also announced 34.5 million dollar assistance for a number of developmental projects in that country.
The President, whose visit was aimed at giving a fillip to India's ''Look East Policy'', held wide-ranging talks with Myanmar Senior General Than Shwe and other leaders on the entire gamut of regional and bilateral relations.
The issue of restoration of democratic process in Myanmar and the well-being of Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi also came up for discussions as India offered to help its expertise for the democratic institution building in that country.
Further, India signed two other agreements on laying of optical fibre that would connect it with Myanmar and the other on promotion of Buddhist studies. New Delhi also extended 10 million dollars credit line for a multi-modal transport system which will connect Myanmar with India's North-East and a three million dollar assistance for developing that country's continental shelf.
Further, a trilateral highway project, involving India, Myanmar and Thailand was also discussed.
Dr Kalam, who was accompanied by Minister of State Kumari Selja and Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran, expressed confidence that his visit would help consolidate India's traditional ties with the two countries. While in Mauritius, Dr Kalam offered to import two million pieces of textiles to help that country overcome the crisis in the post-WTO phase and airlift five lakh doses of anti-mosquito repellant to control a dengue-like disease that is threatening to affect its tourism industry.
India also promised all possible help to the Indian Ocean country in overcoming crisis in the areas of textiles and fisheries and expressed readiness for providing financial assistance and technical expertise in building a new Cyber Tower to enable its transformation into a ''Cyber island.'' New Delhi also offered training for Mauritian fishermen.
Another landmark aspect of the Mauritian visit was the firming up of the Pan-African e-network, which would connect India with all the 53 members of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).
For the operation of the project, a brainchild of Dr Kalam himself, India would provide seamless and integrated satellite, fibre optics and wireless network material for connectivity. The project, expected to be ready by early 2007, will be supported by India for a period of five years and will be later continued by the OAU. Incidentally, Mauritius will be the first beneficiary of the Pan-African e-network.
Under the agreement, India and Mauritius decided to exchange information on telecommunications policy and regulation and technical issues. They also agreed to cooperate in the provisioning of rural telecommunications using appropriate technologies and exchange technologies and explore technical solutions to attain increased productivity in the telecommunication sector.
Commenting on the agreement between Mauritius and Telecommunications India Limited (TCIL), Dr Kalam said, ''I am very happy that tele-medicine connectivity has just been established at Port Louis and will be extended to other places. We have great missions for transforming our nations into economically developed nation; above all, our two countries have to join hands in the evolution of enlightened societies".
The Pan-African e-network will greatly help in improving the living conditions of the population, especially in fields of health and education, and also facilitate the growth of joint ventures, initiatives, technology development and markets in the IT sector.
The President, who was the chief guest at its Independence Day functions, held discussions with his counterpart Anerood Jugnauth, Prime Minister Navinchandra Ramgoolam and other leaders, taking bilateral ties to new heights.