With an aim of pushing India’s “Look East” policy, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday embarked on a three-nation tour of Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam whose highlight will be the announcements on conclusion of negotiations on trade-opening agreements.
Dr. Singh will be in Japan and Malaysia on bilateral visits and Vietnam for ASEAN-India and East Asia Summits. In Hanoi, he will also have a bilateral meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and some other leaders.
In the first leg of the seven-day tour, Dr. Singh will be in Tokyo for two days during which he will hold talks with his counterpart Naoto Kan on a range of issues, including civil nuclear energy cooperation, security cooperation and ways to enhance economic ties besides joint infrastructure projects being carried out in India.
In his departure statement, the Prime Minister said: “The tradition of Annual Summits with Japan has resulted in a strong, vibrant and multi-dimensional relationship between India and Japan.
“Strengthening of the India-Japan Strategic and Global Partnership enjoys fullest support across the political spectrum in both our countries and is a factor of peace, prosperity and stability in Asia and the world,” he said.
Noting that Japan is a major economic partner of India, Dr. Singh said the country has embarked upon mega infrastructure projects with Japanese assistance which have the potential of transforming the economy.
“Our trade and economic relationship is set to enter a new phase. I look forward to detailed discussions with Prime Minister Kan on bilateral, regional and global issues,” he said.
During the visit, an announcement will be made on conclusion of negotiations on Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), which India says will lead to a “win-win” situation.
The agreement will not be signed during the visit as Japan needs to complete certain internal processes, like clearance from its Parliament (Diet) which will take some time.
With regard to the proposed civil nuclear cooperation agreement, the two sides have held two rounds of negotiations and more would be required before it is signed. The next round will be held in November.
Dr. Singh and Mr. Kan will also discuss regional and international issues like U.N. reforms for which both the countries are pushing for their membership under the G-4 grouping.
In the second part of the visit, Dr. Singh will travel to Malaysia on October 26 and hold talks with Prime Minister Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak.
“I will seek new areas of understanding with Prime Minister Najib that reinforce the rich bonds of history and culture that unite us,” he said.
The Prime Minister said he expects that his visit will lead to greater integration of the two economies and cooperation in the areas of infrastructure development, railways, knowledge industries, energy, defence and greater people-to-people exchanges.
“In today’s unsettled world, it is all the more important for societies that are democratic, multi-religious and multicultural to work together. We share a special bond with Malaysia because it is home to one of the largest People of Indian Origin communities of over two million,” he said.
During the visit, the two sides will sign a number of pacts and announce conclusion of negotiations on Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), which covers range of trade aspects, including investment, services and customs.
The agreement is expected to be signed in March next year.
In Hanoi, Dr. Singh will attend the ASEAN-India Summit and East Asia Summit, which will look at ways to strengthen cooperation in various fields.
The issues that will figure include the broad-based trading agreement that will go beyond the Free Trade Agreement which was signed earlier this year covering goods and services.
“I will discuss with the ASEAN leaders a road map for our future cooperation which will be reflected in an India-ASEAN Plan of Action for 2010-2015,” Dr. Singh said.
The Prime Minister noted that in its short period of existence, the EAS process has made significant progress.
“This year’s Summit is expected to welcome the U.S. and Russia into the EAS process,” he said and added that he will update the EAS leaders on steps taken by India on the revival of the Nalanda University, which was endorsed by the Summit in 2009.
Other issues that will be discussed are energy cooperation, climate change and disaster mitigation.