New Delhi, May 31: President Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday embarked on a five-day state visit to Sweden and Belarus, the first ever by any Indian head of state, during which a number of key agreements are likely to be signed.
He was given a ceremonial send-off at Rashtrapati Bhavan by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and the three Service Chiefs. [Great potential for business, academic links with Sweden, Belarus: Pranab]
Mukherjee's visit to Sweden, where he is headed first, comes on the back of a controversy that broke out over reported remarks made by him to a Swedish daily. [President Pranab Mukherjee ignites Bofors scandal row; what's the controversy all about: Explained]
But the External Affairs Ministry had firmly shot down speculation that the issue could have an adverse impact on the tour of the Scandinavian nation.
After arrival at Swedish capital Stockholm, the President will meet the King and Queen as well as Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, the Speaker of the Swedish Parliament, and the Leader of Opposition, Anna Kinberg Batra.
He will be received at Arlanda Airport by Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel. The King and Queen will receive the President at the Royal Mews for a horse-drawn cortège to the Royal Palace, where the traditional welcoming ceremony will take place.
During the three-day visit to the country, Mukherjee would be visiting the renowned Karolinska Institute and Uppsala University, the oldest university in Europe which was started in 1477.
The visit will focus on innovation, sustainable development, urban development and scientific research with both countries exploring ways to enhance mutual exchange in the areas of trade and science.
The President will also interact with the members of the Indian community, which comprises 18,000 People of Indian Origin (PIO) and Overseas Citizens of India card holders and Indian Passport holders working in the hospitality industry and IT sector.
Sweden is the third-largest contributor of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to India besides being the country's third- largest trade partner after China and Japan.
Mukherjee is accompanied by Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilisers, Hansraj Gangaram Ahir, as well as Members of Parliament Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ashwani Kumar.
About seven Vice Chancellors, Directors of leading Indian universities and over 60 business leaders, too, are headed to Sweden to take part in a bilateral business forum. The President will also be visiting a Swedish smart city, where he will be briefed about its functioning and on the different aspects of civic governance.
"At the moment, there is fortuitous and very potentially fruitful matching of the economic requirements of India in terms of several programmes that have been launched by the government like 'Make in India', skill development, 'Swachh Bharat', 'Digital India' and the smart city urbanisation programme," Secretary (West) Navtej Sarna had said.
The MEA Secretary had said that a number of agreements are likely to be signed during Mukherjee'e visit at the government level and at the educational institution and business level.
On the second leg of the visit, Mukherjee will travel to Belarus on June 2. He will jointly address a business conference along with his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko and also unveil a statue of Mahatma Gandhi.
A refurbished power project, for which the work has been done by BHEL, too, will be inaugurated by the President.
Also, agreements covering SEBI and Ministry of Finance, Bureau of Indian Standards as well as information between Prasar Bharti and national state television are expected to be effected.
Belarus, which is being considered as assembly line for heavy vehicles, continues to maintain its tradition after the break up of USSR.