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Manmohan arrives in Mauritius

By Anthony D'Costa in Port Louis
Last updated on: March 30, 2005 19:00 IST
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Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh arrived in Mauritius on Wednesday evening on a four-day visit.

Dr Singh arrived at the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport in Port Louis at around 1630 IST. The visit is mainly to inaugurate an 11-storeyed state-of-the-art Cyber Tower, which has been built with Indian assistance.

Earlier, on board Air-India carrier Khajuraho, Dr Singh at a media briefing, said when two politicians meet, ''they do not discuss the state of the weather.''

He was referring to Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf's visit to India next month. Musharraf is scheduled to arrive in India on April 16 to watch an India-Pakistan one-day game in the ongoing cricket series.

The prime minister said talks between India and Pakistan will help strengthen ties and added that a warm welcome awaits Musharraf in Delhi.

Dr Singh described his visit to Mauritius as a sentimental journey. He said he will hold wide-ranging talks with a host of leaders in Port-Louis.

"India will stand by Mauritius. The relationship is deeply rooted. Emotional links between India and Mauritius will be strengthened," he said.

On Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao's visit to India April 9 to 12, he said, ''The whole world will be watching us. Development of closer ties [between India and China] will have an impact not only on Asia but the world. It [Wen's visit] will lead to further development of economic ties."

Dr Singh said he hoped the process of clarifying positions will move forward, and added, "It is an opportunity to carry forward wide-ranging talks. Efforts will be made find common ground. Everybody knows our stated position on peace with China, but we have to find ways to move forward."

Also see: Saran in China March 30-31

He said the sale of F-16s by the United States to Pakistan had come at a time when Delhi and Islamabad were engaged in talks. He said he was disappointed with the US move, but "we have to move forward and resolve outstanding issues."

Later, National Security Adviser N K Narayanan, in his first interaction with the media, said India has not asked the US for F18s, but the US has indicated an interest in discussing the sale to India.

He said India is on the lookout for a multipurpose fighter aircraft.

When asked about US Ambassador to India David Mulford's statement that Washington had made an offer India could not refuse, Narayanan said the question should be directed to the ambassador on what the offer was.

Programmes lined up for Dr Singh in Mauritius later in the day include the laying of a wreath and planting of a sapling at the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Memorial (Pamplemousses Garden) and a banquet hosted by his Mauritian counterpart Paul Raymond Berenger.

On Thursday morning, Dr Singh has a meeting scheduled with Berenger at the prime minister's chamber. It will be followed by delegation level talks and the signing of four agreements.

The prime minister will also meet Mauritius National Assembly Speaker Premnath Ramnah and address a special session of the assembly.

He will then call on Mauritius President Sir Anerood Jugnauth, followed by a lunch.

At night, there will be a reception hosted by High Commissioner of India to Mauritius P S Haer.

On April 1, Dr Singh will lay a wreath and unveil a plaque at the Aapravasi Ghat.

He will visit the Swami Vivekananda International Convention Centre to unveil a plaque in the presence of Berenger. It will be followed by a civic reception hosted by the People of Indian Origin Coordination Committee.

Then will come the highlight of Dr Singh visit: the inauguration of the Cyber Tower.

In the evening, there will be meetings with Mauritius Deputy Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, Leader of the Opposition Dr Navin Ramgoolam and Mauritius Chief Justice G Ariranga.

Dr Singh will return to India on April 2.

Also see: Progress on Kashmir vital -- Musharraf

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Anthony D'Costa in Port Louis