PM’s Visit to Russia: Singh to Meet Zardari among Other Leaders

Embarking on his first tour abroad in his second term, Indian premier Manmohan Singh has left on a three-day visit to Russia, saying that India is prepared to play its part in global endeavours to triumph over economic downturn.

During the visit, Singh is slated to meet world leaders including Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari while participating in Brazil-Russia-India-China (BRIC) and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summits in the Russian city Yekaterinburg.

“India is among the fastest growing BRIC economies, and we are ready to play our part in coordinating international efforts to overcome the ongoing financial and economic slowdown,” the Prime Minister said in a statement.

Highlighting BRIC grouping’s potential to lead global economic growth, he said that global economic recovery is in fact closely linked to the success of BRIC economies.

Singh’s scheduled meeting with Zardari in Russia marks the first top level contact between the two sides since 26/11 Mumbai terror attack.

“My decision to attend the Summit is a reflection of the high regard we have for Russia’s Presidency of the SCO,” Singh said referring to the SCO Summit which he would attend for the first time.

Singh also said that the decision to attend the SCO Summit also reflected India’s desire to “intensify our engagement with countries of our extended neighbourhood in Central Asia”.

On the issues concerning both India and the SCO, Prime Minister said that fight against terrorism and extremism and cooperation in areas of energy security, infrastructure development, agriculture, transportation, science and technology and education are areas of common concerns.

“India and the SCO stand to gain considerably from each other through such cooperation,” he said.

An important part of the prime minister’s visit in Indo-Pak context is the scheduled meeting between him and Zardari which may break the deadlock in bilateral ties. During the short interaction, the two leaders are supposed to talk about bilateral ties.

Given the Singh’s statement given in the parliament a few days ago that “there is no other alternative but to pursue the path of dialogue and it is in our vital interest to try again to make peace with Pakistan but it takes two hands to clap”, the resumption of bilateral dialogue may come up in the meeting.

It should be noted that Singh’s attendance at the SCO meet will mark the maiden participation by an Indian Prime Minister in the Summit of the six-nation grouping in which India is an observer.

The SCO comprises Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. India, Pakistan, Iran and Mongolia are Observers.

The BRIC Summit is expected to see the four nations discuss issues relating to immediate reform of international financial institutions.

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