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PM: Pacts on Siachen, Sir Creek far away
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

On Board PM’s Special Aircraft, January 15
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today indicated that India and Pakistan were still some distance away from signing an agreement on resolving the Siachen and Sir Creek disputes.

Dr Singh’s candid observation assumes significance in the light of External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s just concluded visit to Islamabad during which he met Pakistan’s top leadership including President Pervez Musharraf.

The Prime Minister’s averment also suggests that the two neighbours are still to synchronise their positions formally to clinch a deal on the two bilateral disputes — Siachen and Sir Creek — where an agreement has been in the air for over a year now.

In response to a question from this correspondent during his press conference aboard Air India One while returning home from the Phillipines, Dr said that he will be meeting Mr Mukherjee soon after he reaches New Delhi.

“When I go back I will talk to Mr Mukherjee who has just had a useful and successful visit to Pakistan. Future course of action will be determined after I have had a briefing from him.”

Elaborating, Dr Singh observed: “We have to take a holistic view of our relations with Pakistan. We have had several rounds of the compositive dialogue in which Siachen and Sir Creek figured. We are making progress. It will be premature for me to say that we have reached a stage where we can say that an agreement is signed. It will be my effort to sustain the momentum.”

The Prime Minister disclosed that he could be visiting China in the later half of this year to take forward the improvement and further strengthen Sino-Indian relations.

The PM summed up his visit to the fifth India-ASEAN summit and the second East Asia summit as “purposeful, productive and the one which achieved solid results.”

He said there was considerable support to the option afforded by nuclear energy and energy efficiency strategies which would have no environmental damages.

He said the East Asia summit highlighted attention in the interests of financial stability, preparation of early warning systems, networking of national systems, promotion of competitiveness, HRD, environmental production and science and technology.

Asked about the Indo-US nuclear deal, the Prime Minister revealed that negotiations pertaining to the 123 bilateral agreement between India and the US will begin shortly.

“There are concerns. There are several issues. We hope that these concerns of India will be met when we begin bilateral negotiations with the US on the 123 Agreement.”

Dr Singh arrived in Kolkata from the Philippines this evening and is scheduled to visit Assam tomorrow.

Asked about his message for the people of Assam in the wake of the spate of killings of those from the Hindi heartland in the Northeastern state, Dr Singh said, “The GOI is firm in its resolve to work with the state government and the people of Assam to ensure that terrorist groups do not succeed in their nefarious designs. There will be no compromise with these insurgent groups and at the same time I would emphasise that all problems of any group can be sorted out through dialogue and peaceful means. Therefore, there is no scope for any group to take resource to violence to express its point of view. We will work with the government of Assam to ensure that all people in Assam, whether Hindi speaking or other language speakers, feel safe and secure.”

On the question whether the government is inclined to reduce the prices of petrol and diesel in the wake of the reduction of international crude prices, Dr Singh ruled out such an exercise.

“It all depends on what happens to international crude prices. When international prices come down, there will be scope for reducing. I am not an astrologer. I cannot predict. We have reduced prices of petrol and diesel only a few weeks back.”

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16 nations join for energy security
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

Cebu (Philippines), January 15
The second East Asia Summit, the nascent but powerful grouping of ASEAN plus six countries - Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea - today took the first step towards the ultimate goal of creating an open energy market for the energy-hungry region.

Leaders of the 16 EAS countries signed the Cebu Declaration on Energy Security this afternoon at the Cebu International Convention Center in Mandaue City.

The leaders also agreed to pay close attention to security, environmental, health and safety dimensions of the energy sector and tasked their respective officials concerned to look into regional nuclear safety regime.

The agreement aims to help the countries in the region reduce their dependence on conventional fuels through intensified energy efficiency programs, expansion of renewable energy systems and biofuel production and utilisation.

With the high cost of energy continuing to cast a shadow over the economies of the region, leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) had yesterday agreed to strengthen regional cooperation on energy security to ensure a stable and affordable supply over the long term.

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