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PM to embark on foreign tour from April 22

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Apr 16: Having successfully clinched the nuclear deal with US President George W Bush in March, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh leaves here for Germany and Uzbekistan on Saturday to garner support for the historic accord in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

Dr Singh, who will be accompanied by a high-level delegation, will hold crucial talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin besides meeting other top German officials.

Germany, a member of the 45-strong NSG, has not opposed the Indo-US accord on cooperation in the civilian nuclear energy field but expressed reservations about it.

Berlin's view is that the deal could make it difficult for the world to presure Iran to stop its nuclear programme.

According to official sources, Dr singh would use all his persuasive skills to convince the German leadership that the deal was in the larger interest of the international nuclear order and would also emphasise India's impeccable nuclear non- proliferation record.

As the Foreign Office gives final touches to the Prime Minister's itinerary, it is quite clear that a generous dose of nuclear diplomacy will be injected into the discussions with Germany. The two countries will also discuss ways and means to further enhance bilateral trade and commercial relations.

The sources said the Prime Minister, during his six-day overseas tour, will first visit Germany and then the Central Asian country of Uzbekistan.

The ostensible reason for Dr Singh's visit to Germany is that India is the partner country at the Hannover Trade Fair this year.

Showcasing India's innovative drive and potential in technology, the Hannover Fair, also known as the Hannover Messe, would be inaugurated by the Prime Minister on April 24.

As Partner Country, India has issued a special logo for the event.

Indian participation is expected to be maximum in the energy, research and development, subcontracting and automation sectors.

The display categories this year are process automation, factory automation, industrial building automation, energy, pipeline technology, digital factory, industrial facility management and services, micro technology and market research and technology.

Billed as the largest and the most important meeting ground for businesses around the world, the fair is expected to be witnessed by over 200,000 visitors this year.

The first Hannover Fair was organised in 1947 by the British government in order to test Germany's post-war economic advancement.

The event went global in 1950, with US participation.

The sources said the Prime Minister's visit to Uzbekistan would be reciprocal to Uzbek President Islam Karimov's visit to India in April last year. Both sides have signed a strategic partnership and agreed on key areas of bilateral cooperation, including in the military sphere. Recently, both sides concluded the meeting of the inter- governmental commission on economic matter.

The two countries are expected to sign a few agreements, including one on energy cooperation, during Dr Singh's visit.

Uzbekistan is a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which also includes China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. India is an observer in this regional grouping, formed in June 2001. India also has a joint working group with Uzbekistan on counter-terrorism.

Dr Singh's will be one of the few high-profile visits to Uzbekistan since 2005 when President Karimov ordered a crackdown on civilians in the province of Andijan, in a bid to quell what he termed as an Islamic rebellion.

As the West sought to isolate him, President Karimov responded by reorienting the country's foreign policy and ordered the closing down of US military bases.


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