President Mukherjee begins two-day visit to Finland

President Pranab Mukherjee Wednesday began his two-day state visit to Finland during which 15 agreements and Memorandum of Understanding will be signed between the two countries.

Helsinki: President Pranab Mukherjee Wednesday began his two-day state visit to Finland during which 15 agreements and Memorandum of Understanding will be signed between the two countries.

Mukherjee, who arrived here last night, inspected Guard of Honour before proceeding for a one-to-one meeting with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto.

The important agreements which would be signed include arrangement for cooperation between the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board of India and the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority of Finland, Indian Institutes of Technology and Finnish Higher Education Institutions, Department of Bio Technology, and Tekes, Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation for Cooperation in the field of Biotechnology among others.

Besides 15 agreements which would be signed during the visit, four other pacts would be announced.

"There will be meetings of the business delegation and the Indian community. There will be a visit to the Parliament of Finland where he meets the Speaker and other Parliamentarians. He will also lay a wreath at the Hietaniemi Cemetery which is a national monument for people who lost their lives in the wars," Secretary West Navtej Sarna said.

The President would also visit Rovaniemi town which is across the Arctic Circle and is known as official Santa Claus village. "This is an actual village. There is a Santa Claus post office, there is a Santa Claus house and various things," he said.

Sarna said Finland has been very supportive of India on the Nuclear Suppliers Group issue, in the IAEA, on UN Security Council reforms, as well as for India's entry into the Arctic Council.

The two sides hope to sign a number of pacts covering education, energy, fishing etc on government-to-government, business-to-business as well as institution-to-institution level.

"Finland is also one of the countries which has already been listed for waiver of diplomatic official passport holders for visa purposes," he said.

It will be the first visit by an Indian President to Finland in 26 years. Late President R Venkataraman had visited the country in 1988. Mukherjee had travelled to Finland as Commerce Minister in 1993.

In Helsinki, the President will address a business seminar and will also visit 'Arktikum' museum and Arctic Science Centre.

Mukherjee is accompanied by a high-level delegation that includes Union Minister P Radhakrishnan, senior officials and senior representatives of educational and academic institutions and the business community.

The President will return to India on October 17.

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