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Venkaiah Naidu to visit, Malta, Romania, Serbia

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    New Delhi, Sep 14: Vice President Venkaiah Naidu will embark on a three-nation tour to Serbia, Malta and Romania from September 14 to 20 to boost ties with the Central European countries, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said Thursday.

    Vice President Venkaiah Naidu

    In the first leg of his visit, Naidu will be visiting Serbia from September 14 to September 16, Anju Kumar, Joint Secretary (Central Europe) in the Ministry of External Affairs, told a media briefing.

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    The visit is at the invitation of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, she said.

    "And it is coming after a long gap. In fact, after the break-up of Yugoslavia, it is the first time that a dignitary (from India) is visiting the country," the official said.

    Serbia has an unconditional and open visa policy for India, Kumar said.

    During his visit, Naidu will hold talks with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, speaker of the national assembly and the prime minister of that country.

    Naidu will also address a special session of the National Assembly, Kumar said, adding the venue of the session will be the place where the first announcement of the historic Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) was made.

    Vucic had visited India to attend the Vibrant Gujarat Summit last year in the capacity of a prime minister.

    The MEA joint secretary said the focus of the visit will be on trade.

    Bilateral trade between India and Serbia stands at around USD 200 million with a focus on areas like agriculture and agricultural technologies, science and technology, education, tourism and pharmaceutical.

    In the second leg of the tour, Naidu will visit Malta from September 16 to September 18.

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    Malta, a country in the Mediterranean, lies on the crossroads of North Africa and Europe and is also a trans-shipment hub.

    During the visit, Naidu will visit Maltese President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, the speaker of the House of the Representatives and the acting prime minister of that country, the MEA said.

    The vice president will also have an interaction with the Indian diaspora and attend a business event where 180-200 companies are likely to participate.

    Last year, India had opened a permanent high commission in Malta. The country also actively cooperated in evacuation of Indians form Libya in 2011 and 2014.

    In the last leg, Naidu will visit Romania from September 18 to September 20, the ministry said.

    The visit coincides with 70th year of Indo-Romanian ties and the centenary year of Romania.

    During the visit, Naidu will meet Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, the president of Romanian Senate and the prime minister. He will also address a session of Chamber of Deputies in the Romanian Parliament.

    Naidu will also have a business meet and interact with the Indian diaspora, Kumar said.

    Several crucial pacts are expected to be signed during the visit to the three countries, the MEA official said.

    The vice president will be accompanied by Shiv Pratap Shukla, Minister of State in the finance ministry; Rajya Sabha MPs-- Prasanna Acharya (Biju Janata Dal-BJD), Vijila Sathyananth (All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam-AIADMK) and Saroj Pandey (Bharatiya Janata Party-BJP); and Lok Sabha MP Raghav Lakhanpal (BJP).

    Earlier this month, President Ram Nath Kovind visited Cyprus, Bulgaria and Czech Republic.

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