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June 24, 1998


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India, Azerbaijan sign two pacts for bilateral ties

India and Azerbaijan have signed two agreements on regular foreign office consultations and economic and technical co-operation as part of efforts to step up bilateral relations, Indian officials said in Baku in Azerbaijan today.

The agreements were signed by Minister of State for External Affairs Vasundhara Raje and Azerbaijan Foreign Minister Tofiq Zulfugarov in Baku on Tuesday, they said.

Raje arrived in Baku on Monday night on the first leg of a tour aimed at explaining India's rationale for last month's nuclear tests.

Raje met Azerbaijan President Haider Aliyev and Prime Minister Arthur Rasihazade yesterday, apart from her talks with Zulfugarov, the officials said.

This is the first-ever visit by an Indian foreign minister to Baku and highlights India's intention to strengthen its ties with the Central Asian Republic, the officials said.

During his meeting with Raje, Aliyev warmly welcomed India's decision to open a resident mission in Baku. Till now, the Indian mission in Ankara, Turkey, handled India's interests in Azerbaijan.

Raje explained to Aliyev the reasons for India's nuclear tests and pointed out that India had offered to resume bilateral talks with Pakistan.

She said the prime ministers of India and Pakistan were likely to meet during the SAARC summit in Colombo.

Aliyev said Azerbaijan understood India's security concerns, but hoped the tests by India and Pakistan did not lead to instability in the region.

Raje said India had already announced a moratorium on further tests and was committed not to export nuclear technology to any other country. She said India would also make every effort to improve relations with both Pakistan and China.

Aliyev said India and Pakistan must solve all outstanding issues between them through dialogue. He expressed himself strongly against separatism, pointing out that it was a problem faced by Azerbaijan, too.

He was positive on the prospects of cooperation between India and Azerbaijan in the oil and gas sector. Petroleum Minister V K Ramamurthy had visited Baku recently for discussions on proposals for co-operation between the two countries in this area.

Aliyev said he looked forward to visiting India later this year. Indian Ambassador in Ankara, R M Abhyankar, who is concurrently accredited to Baku, said Raje was due to meet the Azerbaijan petroleum and trade ministers later. The chairman of India's Oil and Natural Gas Commission is also in Baku.

Raje will also attend the opening of the first-ever exclusive exhibition of Indian products and services in Baku.

More than 80 Indian companies are participating in the four-day show, organised by the India Trade Promotion Organisation in co-operation with the Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce. Rasihazade will inaugurate the exhibition.

Rasihazade explained to Raje the state of Azerbaijan's economy and called for greater interaction between the two countries.

Zulfugarov said Azerbaijan enjoyed political stability and was beginning to attract huge amounts of direct foreign investment.

The Indian delegation included Nareshwar Dayal, secretary (east), in the external affairs ministry.

"The visit has provided an excellent opportunity to emphasise India's commitment to disarmament and explain the circumstances under which it became necessary to conduct the nuclear tests," the officials said.

Indian singer Usha Uthup will stage two shows during the exhibition to lend a cultural dimension to the event.

Raje is due to leave Baku on June 25 for Rabat, Morocco, where she will hold talks with the Moroccan prime minister and Foreign Minister Abdel Latif Filali and other senior officials.

Apart from talks on various issues, the two sides will also sign a Memorandum of Understanding on foreign office consultations.

Morocco is an important trading partner for India and a major source of rock phosphate for the country. An Indian company is planning to invest 230 million dollars in a joint venture unit to produce phosphoric acid in Morocco.


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