Modi to embark on three-nation tour on March 30

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New Delhi, March 22 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on March 30 embark on a three-nation tour during the course of which he will attend the 13th India-EU Summit in Brussels, Belgium, and the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) in Washington.

“The prime minister will pay his first official visit to Brussels on March 30, 2016, for the 13th India-EU Summit at the invitation of President of the European Council Donald Tusk and President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker,” external affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said at a media briefing here.

“The European Union (EU) is India’s leading trade and investment partner and biggest export destination,” Swarup said.

“India and EU are also strategic partners since 2004. The 13th India-EU Summit aims to deepen the India-EU strategic partnership and advance collaboration in priority areas for India’s growth and development.”

According to Swarup, Modi will also hold a bilateral summit meeting with Belgium at the invitation of Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel.

Stating that India and Belgium enjoyed close and friendly ties, he said: “Belgium is India’s second largest trade partner within the EU. The bilateral meeting between the two prime ministers will focus on further enhancing the economic partnership. The two prime ministers will also hold discussions on regional and global issues of mutual interest.”

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From Brussels, Modi will proceed to Washington D.C., US, to participate in the Fourth Nuclear Security Summit on March 31 and April 1.

The first NSS was held in Washington in April 2010 followed by the summits in Seoul in March 2012 and The Hague in March 2014.

“Fifty-two countries and four international organisations are expected to attend the 2016 summit,” Swarup said.

“The Nuclear Security Summit process has been instrumental in galvanising leaders’ level attention on the global threat posed by nuclear terrorism and urgent measures required to prevent terrorists and other non-state actors from gaining access to sensitive nuclear materials and technologies,” he said.

This year’s summit is expected to take stock of the progress of the previous NSS communiqués and work plan as also outline a future agenda.

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“As for past summits, a number of countries may project the respective steps taken by them to strengthen nuclear security since the last summit, including in the form of submissions of national progress reports,” the spokesman said, adding that India would also be doing the same.

He said that India has contributed constructively durting the NSS preparatory meetings from 2014 to 2016 at the level of sherpas.

According to Swarup, Modi will make some specific announcements and proposals with regard to nuclear security during his interventions at the NSS.

The prime minister is also scheduled to have bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the summit.

“India is committed to the success of the NSS process. India’s participation in all the NSSes from 2010 is a demonstration of our high-level commitment in this regard,” Swarup said.

From Washington, Modi will fly to Riyadh for a bilateral visit to Saudi Arabia on April 2 and 3.

He will be visiting the Gulf kingdom at the invitation of King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud.

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This is first prime ministerial visit from India to Saudi Arabia after the visit of then prime minister Manmohan Singh in 2010.

During the visit, Modi will hold discussions with King Salman on bilateral, regional and multilateral issues of mutual interest.

“India and Saudi Arabia share friendly relations based on close people-to-people contacts,” Swarup said.

“The ‘strategic partnership’ established through the Riyadh Declaration in 2010 envisions a deeper engagement in political, economic, security and defence areas. In recent years, there has been significant progress in bilateral cooperation in key sych areas of mutual interest,” he said.

Saudi Arabia is India’s fourth largest partner with bilateral trade exceeding $39 billion in 2014-15. It is also India’s largest crude oil supplier, accounting for about one-fifth of the country’s oil imports.

“Indians form the largest expatriate community in Saudi Arabia and their contribution in the progress and development of their host country is well recognized,” the spokesman said.

There are over 2.96 million expatriate Indians in Saudi Arabia, many of whom are blue collar workers.

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