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Cooperation to top PM's agenda in Brazil

Written by: Staff

Frankfurt, Sep 11: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will head for Brasilia today on a three-day visit during which he will hold bilateral talks with the Brazilian leadership and attend the first summit of the India-Brazil-South Africa (IBSA) Summit aimed at taking cooperation among the three largest democracies of Asia, Latin America and Africa to new heights.

Dr Singh, who arrived here from Delhi last night, will leave for Brasilia around 1100 hours local time (1430 IST) and will reach there around 1730 hours local time (0200 IST on Tuesday).

Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath and Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma have already left for Brazil. National Security Adviser M K Narayanan will join the delegation here.

The Prime Minister will have bilateral meetings with President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and other Brazilian leaders tomorrow and the two sides will sign as many as eight agreements in different areas.

Dr Singh will be joined by the Brazilian President and South African President Thabo Mbeki at the IBSA summit to be held on Wednesday at the end of which the three countries will sign five trilateral documents designed to bring them closer to each other, especially in the areas of agriculture, biofuels, information technology and trade.

On Thurday, the Prime Minister will fly to Havana for the 14th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit on September 15-16.

Dr Singh will leave the Cuban capital on September 17 and, after an overnight stay in Frankfurt, reach home on the night of September 18.

This will be the first bilateral visit to Brazil by an Indian Prime Minister in 38 years after Mrs Indira Gandhi had visited the country in 1968.

India attaches great importance to its relations with Brazil, which has emerged as one of the most dynamic economies in the world, with which it has developed a close partnership in recent years.

Bilateral trade has touched 2.3 billion dollars and there has been an encouraging trend of cross-investments.

ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL), for instance, has already invested 500 million dollars in an offshore petroleum exploration project in Brazil and its Brazilian counterpart, Petrobraz, is looking at a major investment in an offshore venture in India.

Many Indian pharmaceutical companies have set up base in Brazil and are using those facilities to access the Latin American market.

Other areas in which the two countries are cooperating include biofuels, with India making known its intention to join the International Ethanol Initiative launched by Brazil. Commercial agriculture and aviation are other fields in which the two countries are looking at working together more closely.

Major Indian exports to Brazil include diesel oil, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, polyester filament yarn, polyethylene terephthalate and naphtha. Indian imports from Brazil include cane sugar, crude soya bean oil, aircraft, ethyl alcohol, petroleum oils, copper ore and chemicals.

On the political front, Brazil has been on the same side as India on many issues such as terrorism, UN Security Council reforms, disarmament and global trade negotiations.

Both countries are part of the G-4 initiative on UN Security Council reforms and are aspirants for a permanent seat in the body.

The agreements that the two sides are slated to sign will cover cooperation in the areas of science and technology, aviation, human settlements, standards, culture, manufacture of railway wagons, petroleum and gas and plant health. The Brazilian President had visited India in January, 2004, when he was the Chief Guest at the Republic Day Parade.

There is great interest in Brazil in India's culture, religions, performing arts and philosophy. A Festival of India was held in Brazil in 1998. There are several centres teaching yoga in the country. The University of Londrina has a specialisation on India in its Afro-Asian studies department. There is a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in in a prominent square of Rio de Janeiro.

The IBSA summit will reflect the growth in the partnership among India, Brazil and South Africa since the trilateral initiative was launched three years ago. Though it will be their first summit, the leaders of the group have met informally on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in the last two years.

The meeting will look at a more active role for IBSA in South- South cooperation, pooling of their vast resources and harmonisation of their positions in international fora.

Alongside the summit, there will also be an IBSA CEOs' Summit in Brasilia to promote greater interaction among the private sectors of the three countries.

Among the specific topics that will come up at the IBSA Summit, international terrorism will be a major theme. Both Brazil and South Africa had condemned the July 11 serial blasts in Mumbai which had claimed over 180 lives and are conscious of the need for a global effort to eliminate the evil.

The leaders of the three countries will also discuss human rights, the situation in West Asia, particularly Lebanon, and economic and trade issues. On the WTO talks, the three countries are of the view that development must be at the centre of negotiations to create a truly multi-lateral, non-discriminatory and rule-based system.

The peaceful uses of nuclear energy will be another important issue that will come up at the summit. Brazil is the current head of the Nuclear Suppliers Group and India is counting on it to help adjust NSG guidelines to enable member-countries to cooperate with it in the area of civil nuclear energy.

The discussions will also focus on disarmament so that the issue is brought back on the global agenda.

The three countries will especially look at areas in which they can work together in the trilateral framework, particularly at removing barriers to the energising of their trade relations.

These include transportation, especially shipping and air links, without which it would be difficult to realise the full potential of cooperation among the three countries.

India is also examining the possibility of setting up a preferential trade area with Mercosur and the South African Customs Union. A study group will be set up to look at the possibility of a free trade area among the three countries.

Energy security is a major concern for all three countries and will figure prominently at the talks. They will also look at ways of bringing their vast science and technology resources together, addressing public health issues and taking up poverty alleviation projects in third countries, especially in Africa.

At the summit, the three countries will sign agreements on cooperation in agriculture and the setting up of an IBSA dialogue forum for the development of biofuels.


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