Foreign ministers of Aus, Lanka, Turkmenistan to visit India



New Delhi: India will host foreign ministers of three important countries -- Australia, Sri Lanka and Turkmenistan -- this week.

During his meeting with Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid is expected to discuss ways to enhance cooperation in key areas of trade and investment and review of civil nuclear cooperation pact negotiations.

Khurshid and Carr, who is here on a four-day visit, will hold talks on entire gamut of bilateral ties during the 8th India-Australia Framework Dialogue to be held tomorrow, officials said.

"The two ministers are expected to review outcomes of the visit of Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in October 2012 and chart the way ahead," an official said.

During Gillard's visit here, India and Australia agreed to launch negotiations on Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement.

The bilateral ties have been expanding in several areas, including trade and investment, energy and resources, science and technology, and education, the officials said.

Australia is an important trade partner of India. Trade in goods and services stood at USD 21 billion in 2011-12.

Education is another important sector with as many as 36,000 Indian students currently studying in Australia. Fifteen Australian universities also offer joint degrees with Indian varsities.

The week will also see a visit by Sri Lankan Foreign Minister GL Peiris, who will arrive here tomorrow to co-chair with Khurshid the 8th India-Sri Lanka Joint Commission Meeting on Tuesday.

In addition to trade and economic cooperation all aspects of bilateral cooperation between India and Sri Lanka will be discussed, officials said, adding that "These inter-alia include development cooperation, matters related to fisheries, cultural cooperation."

Asserting that India is a close and friendly neighbour with a strong stake in national reconciliation in Sri Lanka, they said, matters relating to "efforts at political reconciliation between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamils" are also likely to figure in bilateral discussions between Khurshid and his Lankan counterpart.

India is Sri Lanka's largest trade partner with bilateral trade in goods having crossed USD 5 billion in 2011-12, the officials noted, adding that India has also emerged as the largest foreign direct investor in that country.

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Turkmenistan Rashid Meredov will arrive here for the 4th meeting of the India-Turkmenistan Inter-Governmental Joint Commission on Trade, Eco, Scientific & Technological Cooperation to be held tomorrow. The Indian delegation will be led by Minister of State E Ahamed in the meeting.

The Turkmenistan leader will also meet Khurshid and Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Veerappa Moily. The Central Asian country has emerged as a potentially important partner in India's quest for energy security.

PTI