PM Manmohan Singh off to China, Kazakhstan
New Delhi: Beset by problems at home, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday embarks on a five-day visit to China and Kazakhstan where he meets global leaders and engages in economic diplomacy that is his forte.
In China, besides attending a five-nation summit of emerging economies in the coastal city of Sanya, he is also expected to hold bilateral talks with President Hu Jintao on political affairs, trade and security.
Manmohan Singh is expected to meet Hu on the margins of the third summit of BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) in Sanya, on the southern tip of the Chinese Hainan Island.
BRICS nations account for 40 percent of the global population and 20 percent of the global Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
At the BRICS summit, its leaders - Manmohan Singh, Hu, Brazil's Dilma Rousseff, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and South Africa's Jacob Zuma - will discuss their concerns on the international situation, financial, development and security issues and outline future cooperation. The event is the third since the grouping was formed in 2009.
Manmohan Singh will be in Sanya for three days and will fly from there to Astana, the Kazakhstan capital, Thursday where he will hold talks with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
With the focus on energy and trade, India and Kazakhstan are expected to sign at least six agreements, including the one on their civil nuclear cooperation. The two sides will ink an inter-governmental framework pact on non-military atomic cooperation.
Manmohan Singh's visit to China comes at a time when a host of pending issues dog relations between the two Asian powers that are ambitiously looking to turn their clout into a major force in global affairs.
A senior Indian Army officer earlier this month raised fresh concerns saying China's presence in Pakistan-administered Kashmir was "increasing steadily" and its troops were "actually present" along the Line of Control (LoC) - the de facto border that divides Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan.
Beijing dismissed this as it has done whenever India has conveyed its concerns over Chinese projects in Gilgit-Baltistan, a part of the disputed Kashmir territory under Pakistani control.
Bilateral trade will be among the priorities amid India's concerns about the increasing trade imbalance between neighbours. India-China trade last year touched a record USD 61.7 billion, but China's exports crossed over USD 40 billion, increasing the trade imbalance between the two.
The two countries have however seen a thaw in relations in recent years. During Wen's visit last year, the two countries set a trade target of USD 100 billion by 2015.