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On the visit of a delegation from ECOWAS, various visits from US and response to a question on Nepal

April 04, 2006

Official Spokesperson: Good evening. I thought we should meet, we have been getting a lot of calls on various issues and I also wanted to inform you about a few other things.

Tomorrow, a high level delegation from Economic Community of West African States, that is ECOWAS, will be in Delhi. They will be here from April 4-9. This is a high level delegation consisting of Ministers from the ECOWAS countries and we will give you separately a list of the delegation.

{The list: 1. Mme Aichatou Mindaudou, Minister of Foreign Affairs and African Cooperation of Niger and Chairperson, Council of Ministers of ECOWAS – Leader; 2. Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Executive Secreatry, ECOWAS; 3. Senator Lawan Gana Guba, Minister of Integration and Cooperation in Africa of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; 4. Mr. Abdou Aziz Sow, Minister of Integration and NEPAD of Senegal; 5. Dr. Kofi Konadu Apraku, Minister of State for Regional Cooperation and NEPAD of Ghana; 6. Mr. Christian Adovelande, President, ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development; 7. Mr. Barthelemy Drabo, Managing Director, ECOWAS Regional Investment Bank; 8. Mr. Bachir IFO, Acting Managing Director, ECOWAS, Regional Development Fund, 9. Mr. Remi Gbaguidi, Protocol Assistant to Executive Secretary, ECOWAS.}

The program is essentially that they will call on Rashtrapatiji tomorrow and they will also hold delegation level talks with Minister of State Mr. Anand Sharma tomorrow evening at Hyderabad House at 5.30 pm. After that, if possible, the Minister and the leaders would come out and meet the media.

Just to give you some idea of ECOWAS, it was founded in 1975 by 15 West African countries. Its principal objective was to establish Customs Union and a common market to promote free movement of goods and people within West Africa. It also later on evolved into a forum which takes an interest in regional security issues. We have close ties with a number of countries in the ECOWAS region and this relationship has received a boost over last year through the implementation of a number of high profile projects funded through bilateral lines of credit under TEAM-9 and NEPAD initiatives. Bilateral trade with the ECOWAS region currently stands at 2.11 billion USD and it accounts for 27 percent of India's total exports to Africa and 18 percent of our total imports from the continent. India is an Observer to ECOWAS, we became Observer in 2004. Our High Commissioner in Nigeria is concurrently accredited.

So, it is the first high level visit from EWCOWAS and I think it would be very interesting visit in terms of defining the roadmap of future relations between India and the organization and West African states and possible development of initiatives for closer political cooperation, closer trade cooperation and of course cooperation in multilateral fora.

We have been a number of questions on various US visits like who is coming when. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher who heads the newly re-constituted State Department's Bureau for South and Central Asia would be visiting New Delhi for consultations from April 6-8 2005. During the visit he will hold meetings with his Indian counterpart Dr. S. Jaishankar, Joint Secretary (Americas) in the Ministry of External Affairs. The discussions will cover the entire gamut of our bilateral relations as well as bilateral consultations on regional issues.

A number of visits from the US Congress are also expected in the coming days. US Senator Chuck Hagel, the Republican Senior Senator from Nebraska would be visiting New Delhi and Mumbai from April 9-11.
{Senator Hagel is member of Senate committees on Foreign Relations; Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs; Intelligence and Rules. Hagel is Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Economic Policy, Export and Trade Promotion and the Senate Banking Securities and Investment Subcommittee. He is also a member of the Senate Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs.}

This would be followed by the visit of a delegation from the US House of Representatives led by House Speaker Dennis Hastert. The delegation would visit Agra, Jaipur and New Delhi from April 9-12.
{House Speaker Dennis Hastert (Republican-Illinois) would be accompanied by Representative Michael Oxley (Republican-Ohio), Chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services; Representative Sherwood Boehlert (Republican-New York), Chairman of the House Science Committee; Representative Frank Lucas (Republican-Oklahoma) who serves on the Agriculture, Financial Services, and Science Committees; Representative Ray LaHood (Republican-Illinois), Vice Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and a member of the House Appropriations Committee; Representative Paul Ryan (Republican-Wisconsin), who serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, House Budget Committee and the Joint Economic Committee; Representative Randy Neugebauer (Republican-Texas) who serves on House Committees on Agriculture and Financial Services; and Representative Dan Boren (Democrat-Oklahoma), who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the House Resources Committee.}

Another Congressional delegation led by Senator Michael Enzi (Republican-Wyoming), and including Senator Edward Kennedy (Democrat-Massachusetts), Senator Lamar Alexander (Republican- Tennessee) and Senator Johnny Isakson (Republican-Georgia) would be visiting Bangalore, Delhi and Agra from April 11-16. They would be accompanied also by the US Education Secretary Margaret Spellings.
{Senator Michael Enzi is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Senator Edward Kennedy is the Ranking Member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee in the Senate. He also serves on the Judiciary Committee and on the Armed Services Committee and is a member of the Congressional Joint Economic Committee. Senator Lamar Alexander is the former Education Secretary of the United States and Chairman of the Senate Education and Early Childhood Development Subcommittee and the Senate Energy Subcommittee. Senator Johnny Isakson is a member of Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works; Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs; and Senate Committee on Small Businesses and Entrepreneurship.}

Of course, appropriate meetings for all these delegations are being arranged.

Question: You mentioned about Mr. Boucher's visit? Are you aware of the draft that was circulated at the NSG meeting? Are you going to raise it?
Official Spokesperson: It is not the appropriate time for me to give you a briefing on the civil nuclear energy issues. We will try and arrange a separate briefing for that. At the moment I suggest you take Foreign Secretary's briefing in Washington as the last word. As these visits go on we will keep you regularly briefed, I know the interest in these issues.

Question: President Karzai's visit …
Official Spokesperson: I will let you know as soon as things are confirmed.

Question: Any reaction on Nepal ceasefire?
Official Spokesperson: We welcome the ceasefire, as you know India has always taken the position that violence is not the answer to the problems facing Nepal and that the Maoists should abandon violence as a political instrument. We trust that this ceasefire will be of a permanent nature and we continue to believe that the constitutional forces in Nepal should work together and find a lasting solution to the problems being faced by that country.

Question: There were reports that US does not want us to talk to Maoists? US is advocating differentiation…
Official Spokesperson: You know India's position on Nepal, but on this particular aspect of Maoists I have just given you our response that we have never believed that violence is the answer. We believe that Maoists should shun violence as an instrument of politics and following from that, naturally, we welcome the ceasefire.

Question: There are persistent reports in Washington about Iranian and Indian navy ships training together …
Official Spokesperson: I think this question was extensively answered by Foreign Secretary in Washington and if the reports persist I can do nothing better than refer you to Foreign Secretary's answer. If the reports are still persisting then they have not taken his answer into cognizance.

Question: On the IFS officer being investigated by CBI…
Official Spokesperson: Well, all I can say at the moment is that he has proceeded on leave and we will wait for the investigations to take their course.

Question: Is he back in India?
Official Spokesperson: I do not have details on that but he is on leave.

{The information in italics was circulated at the briefing}

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