Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived here on Tuesday evening after a three-day visit to Japan as part of a three-nation tour. The main agenda here will remain more or less the same as on the Japan leg. The focus will be on issues such as an economic pact, security and defence cooperation and stepped up two-way investments.

On the strategic front, if cooperation with Japan was outlined by a dialogue on civil nuclear cooperation and joint ventures in rare earth minerals, talks with Malaysia will include training of its pilots, upkeep of defence equipment and alliances in the petroleum sector.

In both cases, corporates, both from the public and private sectors, are expected to drive the decisions taken by the principals.

Of the half a dozen issues on the agenda, the foremost will be the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA). As was the case with Japan, it is not ready for the two Prime Ministers to sign. The CECA, as a single undertaking, will cover goods, investment and services besides other areas of cooperation.

India feels that though it is negotiating a Free Trade Agreement covering these subjects with the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean), of which Malaysia is a member, it would be beneficial to strike individual pacts too as they go much beyond a pact with a bloc.

From developing defence ties with a memorandum of understanding in 1993, Malaysia and India have come a long way. Soon after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, navies of both countries undertook joint-patrolling of the highly vulnerable Malacca Straits along with Indonesia and Singapore. India is now participating in the Cooperative Mechanism on the Straits of Malacca and Singapore for enhancement of navigational safety and environmental protection.

Cross visits by service chiefs have led to the deployment of an Indian Air Force training team to train Malaysian pilots on Sukhoi- 30SKM.

Education and welfare of expatriates are the other major issues that will be discussed. The first joint venture medical college has started, with the Manipal Academy of Higher Education as the Indian partner. The Salem-based Vinayaka Missions University is in the process of setting up the Penang International Dental College.

CEOs of Indian companies, who have entered into tie-ups or are exploring the prospects, are here in full strength for the first-ever meeting of the India-Malaysia CEOs Forum, which was mooted during Malaysian Prime Minister Mohammed Najib's visit to India in January.

The CEOs attending the meeting include Ashok Nayak of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, R.S. Butola of ONGC Videsh, Preetha Reddy of Apollo Hospitals, Malvinder Mohan Singh of Fortis Healthcare, Mohan Tiwari from IRCON, A.M. Naik of Larsen & Toubro and Biocon CMD Kiran Majumdar Shaw.

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