PM Manmohan Singh to visit Cambodia on Sunday

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will travel to Cambodia on Sunday to attend the ASEAN and East Asia Summits.

New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will travel to Cambodia on Sunday to attend the ASEAN and East Asia Summits on the sidelines of which he is expected to meet leaders of some other countries, including China.

Singh, who was initially scheduled to visit Japan also before it was cancelled, will be in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh for three days.

The three-day visit to Japan from November 15 was cancelled just a day ahead in view of sudden political developments there with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda deciding to announce early elections.

During his visit to Cambodia, Singh is expected to pitch for increased trade and investment between India and ASEAN, a grouping of 10 South East Asian countries, against the backdrop of economic crisis hitting Europe and other parts of the western world.

India and ASEAN are holding negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement in Services and Investment and are keen to conclude these before the Summit on November 19. The two sides have already signed FTA in Goods.

During the last India-ASEAN Summit held in Bali in Indonesia, Singh had cited the global economic downturn to push for conclusion of a "commercially-meaningful" Services and Investment pact by March this year to create a positive atmosphere for implementation of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement.

He had also highlighted the need for greater connectivity and cooperation on security issues, including maritime security, counter-terrorism, training, exercises and disaster management.

Addressing the Summit, Singh had described India`s partnership with ASEAN as "one of the cornerstones" of foreign policy and the foundation of our `Look East` Policy.

India-ASEAN trade has been increasing at rapid pace over last few years and has already crossed the USD 70 billion target set for 2012. It currently stands at USD 79 billion.

India`s trade with ASEAN was over USD 50 billion in 2011-12 after a 30 per cent jump over the previous financial year.

The Prime Minister is also expected to update the ASEAN leaders on the progress made on revival of the centre of learning at Nalanda, Bihar.

On the sidelines of the ASEAN and EAS Summits, Singh is expected to meet Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao besides leaders of some other countries.

US President Barack Obama will also be in Phnom Penh but it is not yet clear whether there will be meeting between Singh and him because of paucity of time.