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India inks defence cooperation pact with Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar: Giving a fillip to its ties with Mongolia, India today signed a defence cooperation agreement with the northeast Asian country and announced that it would extend a USD 20 million Line of Credit for a joint IT, education and outsourcing centre to be set up here.

India and Mongolia also inked two pacts on media exchanges and cooperation between their planning commissions in the presence of President Pratibha Patil, who is here on a three-day visit.

Patil is the first Indian President to visit Mongolia in 23 years.

After her half-an-hour restricted talks with this country`s leadership, Patil said her parleys with President Tsakhia Elbegdorj were held in a warm, friendly and cordial atmosphere.

"My visit seeks to strengthen our relationship, building upon the momentum generated by the visit of President Elbegdorj to India in September 2009, when our ties were expanded to a comprehensive partnership," she said.

"We have signed an agreement of cooperation between the Planning Commission of India and its Mongolian counterpart.

There is considerable expertise on plan formulation and implementation in India. We look forward to sharing our experience in this area with Mongolia," Patil said.

A bilateral defence cooperation agreement was also signed, she said. "…India is willing and ready to expand collaboration in this sphere."

Besides, she said that New Delhi will extend a Line of Credit of USD 20 million for the `India?Mongolia Joint Information Technology, Education and Outsourcing Centre` to be established here.

The two countries also discussed ways to further cooperation in the peaceful use of radioactive minerals and nuclear energy.

"We also agreed to explore the possibilities of improving air connectivity between our two countries so as to enhance contacts between our peoples, including through tourism," Patil said.

With an MoU on media exchanges signed between the two governments, "we can now hope to see more media persons from Mongolia in India. We will also send more Indian journalists here," she said.

The agreements were signed in a grand hall at the National Assembly.

Patil, who arrived here yesterday following her three-day visit to South Korea, visited the historic Sukhbaatar square today and offered floral tributes to a statue of Mahatma Gandhi here. Members of the Indian community sang a song in praise of the Father of the Nation.

The President was given a ceremonial welcome by the Mongolian security services personnel at the Sukhbaatar square, which has a grand statue of Genghis Khan.

She took salute from the force during the grand ceremony and said `thank you` in Mongolian language, which was applauded by a number of people present at the event, including politicians and officials.

Mongolia is celebrating the "Year of Anniversaries", including the 805th anniversary of the establishment of the Great Mongolian State under the leadership of the legendary Genghis Khan and 90th anniversary of the Mongolian Independence and Sovereignty.

Patil stressed on reviving Mongolia`s contacts with Nalanda University, which is being rejuvenated as a regional seat of learning and excellence, in particular of Buddhist studies.

"It is encouraging that we also share other values such as democracy, rule of law and upholding the rights of the individual. This forms the bedrock of our bilateral cooperation," Patil said.

"My discussions with President Elbegdorj today were wide-ranging and covered the entire gamut of our bilateral relations as well regional and global issues of mutual interest," she said.

India will also upgrade and modernise the Rajiv Gandhi Art and Production School as well as the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Centre of Excellence in Information and Communication Technology here.

"We will complete this work soon. Further, we have agreed to work together on a joint India?Mongolia School," Patil said.

Mongolia is spread in an area of 1.565 million square km and has a population of about 2.7 million. About 92 per cent of its population follows Buddhism and the country shares its border with China and Russia.

India and Mongolia are good trading partners. India exports pharma products, veterinary medicines, automobiles and their parts to this country and the bilateral trade has touched USD 16.9 million.

India has also decided to increase the number of slots available to Mongolia under the Indian Technical Education Cooperation (ITEC) Programme to 150.

"The number of Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) scholarships available to Mongolia will be increased to 50. India will assist in human resource development and capacity building efforts of Mongolia," Patil said.

Extending her support to Mongolia "in any way," she thanked the country for backing India`s bid for the permanent membership of an expanded United Nations Security Council.

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