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Foreign policy on top of PM’s agenda
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 5
Irrespective of whether Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appoints a full-fledged External Affairs Minister in near future or not, foreign policy will be on top of his agenda from this weekend till the year end.

The Prime Minister, who has been holding the portfolio of Foreign Minister ever since Mr Natwar Singh’s resignation more than nine months ago, is to embark on four foreign tours in the next three months and visit five countries -- Brazil, Cuba, South Africa, Finland and Japan. Except for Japan, all other visits of the Prime Minister will be driven either by multilateral agenda -- IBSA summit in Brasilia, NAM summit in Havana, 7the India-EU summit in Helsinki-- or for marking a particular event -- 100the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s ‘satyagraha’ in South Africa against colonial oppression.

Dr Manmohan Singh will be away to Brazil and Cuba from September 10 to 18. In Cuba his primary engagement will be Non Aligned Movement summit. His Brazil visit too is loaded with multilateral agenda.

It is for the first time that the IBSA Dialogue Forum spanning three continents, a multi-trillion dollar power block involving India, Brazil and South Africa, is going to have a summit meeting. It only shows that the grouping has gathered steam and the three major developing nations are veering towards having a strategic relationship.

The Prime Minister will go to South Africa on October 1 for two days during which he would visit Durban, Johannesburg and Pretoria. A global celebration on satyagraha is planned in South Africa for marking the historic event.

Just about a week after he returns from South Africa, the Prime Minister will be travelling to Helsinki for attending the seventh India-EU summit which begins on October 12. India attaches a lot of importance to its summit with the European Union which has recognised New Delhi as a strategic partner.

India’s yet another strategic partnership is flowering with Japan. Tokyo has told New Delhi about its keenness for having an institutionalised mechanism of an yearly summit meeting, though it has not been formalised. Dr Manmohan Singh’s visit to Japan towards the year-end may just announce that.

Moreover, Chinese President Hu Jintao is expected to visit India in November. China is extremely important in New Delhi’s scheme of things not just because of trade and economy but also because of rapidly changing geo-political scene in the region and the world. Trade between India and China has already crossed $ 20 billion.

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Menon gets ACC nod
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 5
The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet has approved the appointment of Shivshankar Menon as new Foreign Secretary, succeeding Shyam Saran.

An official press note today said Mr Menon’s appointment as Foreign Secretary would be with effect from October 1 after the present incumbent retires.

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