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India, Japan group to firm up ties

VIENTIANE (LAOS), NOV. 29. India and Japan today agreed to set up a multi-disciplinary group to enhance economic ties focussing on trade, investment and information technology.

The decision was taken at a meeting here between the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, and his Japanese counterpart, Junichiro Koizumi. Disclosing this, the Secretary in the External Affairs Ministry, Veena Sikri, said the composition would be ``carefully'' decided.

Officials said the group was likely to be set up in early 2005.

`Arc of prosperity'

Dr. Singh also had bilateral meetings with the Singapore Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong. India and Singapore agreed for a detailed discussion on the proposal for forming the ``Asian arc of prosperity'' made in response to Dr. Singh's idea of an Asian Economic Community at the recent India-ASEAN Business summit held in Delhi and Mumbai.

Dr. Singh's meeting with Mr. Loong was marked by ``enormous cordiality.''

Assistance to Laos

India offered assistance to Laos in information technology and other areas, and assured Vietnam of help in joining the World Trade Organisation.

The offer was made by the Prime Minister in separate meetings with the Laos President, Khamtay Siphandone, and the Vietnamese Prime Minister, Phan Van Khai, where they discussed bilateral and other matters of mutual interest, the External Affairs Minister, K. Natwar Singh, told reporters.

During the 45-minute meeting on the second day of Dr. Singh's three-day visit here to attend the third India-ASEAN summit tomorrow, the Laos President reiterated his country's support for India's bid for a permanent seat in the U.N. Security Council.

Mr. Natwar Singh also met his Filipino counterpart, Alberto Romulus, and discussed bilateral matters.

PTI, UNI

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