New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday left on a three-day visit to Russia, his first tour abroad in his new term, saying India was ready to play its role in global efforts to overcome the economic slowdown.
The Prime Minister will meet world leaders, including Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, during his visit to the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, where he will attend the Brazil- Russia-India-China (Bric) and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summits.
“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,” Singh said in a statement.
Singh said the Bric grouping has the potential to lead global economic growth.
“In fact, global economic recovery is closely linked to the success of BRIC economies,” the Prime Minister said.
The Prime Minister’s meeting with Zardari marks the first contact at top level between India and Pakistan since the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack.
Referring to the SCO Summit which he would attend for the first time, Singh said, “My decision to attend the Summit is a reflection of the high regard we have for Russia’s presidency of the SCO.”
Singh said 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”.
Observing there were several issues which concerned both India and the SCO, he said these included fight against terrorism and extremism and cooperation in areas of energy security, infrastructure development, agriculture, transportation, science and technology and education.
“India and the SCO stand to gain considerably from each other through such cooperation,” he said.
Singh said during his visit, which was at the invitation of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, he would look forward to meet and exchange views with world leaders present in Yekaterinburg.
On the Bic Summit, he said the four countries together account for 40% of the world population and 40% of the global GDP.
“The Bric countries have a role to play in promoting the principle of multilateralism in international affairs, and in the reform of the institutions of global governance, including the United Nations, to reflect contemporary realities,” he said.
The Prime Minister said from these points of view, the convening of the first standalone summit of Bric was a “significant development”. Its main agenda is expected to include the global financial crisis, terrorism and food security.
A significant aspect of the visit in India-Pakistan context would be a meeting between Singh and Zardari on the sidelines of the two summits which may break the ice in bilateral ties.
Singh and Zardari will have a brief interaction during which they are expected to talk about bilateral ties and the way forward.
This will be the first highest-level contact between the two countries since the Mumbai attacks last year as India has suspended dialogue till Pakistan takes “concrete” action against those behind the strikes and dismantles the terror infrastructure.
The meeting between Singh and Zardari, though informal with no structured agenda, may lead to resumption of bilateral dialogue at some level if the two leaders agree to it.
Earlier, Singh had said, “There is no other alternative but to pursue the path of dialogue. It is in our vital interest to try again to make peace with Pakistan but it takes two hands to clap.”
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.