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President Kovind to visit Iceland, Switzerland and Slovenia; Swiss govt says Kashmir on agenda

twitter-logoPTI | September 6, 2019 | Updated 21:42 IST

(Eds: Updating, combining related stories) New Delhi, Sep 6 (PTI) President Ram Nath Kovind will embark on a visit to Iceland, Switzerland and Slovenia from Monday during which he is expected to brief the top leadership in those countries on India's "national concerns", especially in view of terror incidents this year, including the Pulwama attack. Asked if President Kovind during his talks with the leaders there will also brief them on Kashmir, Ministry of External Affairs Secretary (West) A Gitesh Sarma did not give a direct reply and said "when leaders meet, there is a structure in which regional, international, global, multilateral and issues of national concern" are discussed. Ahead of the presidential visit, the Swiss government in a release said the situation in Kashmir will be among the issues that will be on the agenda during the meetings between the top leadership and Kovind. Briefing reporters on the nine-day visit, Sarma said,"we always use these opportunities to brief each other. Just as we have issues, each of these countries have their own concerns. So this is a very good setting to hear it at the highest level what our perspective is and what is theirs. So, we will certainly use these opportunities as we can to acquaint them of our concerns." On J&K, these countries are very sympathetic to India with respect to the terror incidents earlier in this year, he said and added that they all understand that we all need to work together. "This year also in the context of the Pulwama attack, their sympathies have been with India. Even though they have themselves not faced such challenges as we continue to face, they are nevertheless aware that they need to work closely with india," he said. There is a very good understanding on most of these issues, he said. President Kovind will first arrive in Iceland on September 9 and will hold talks with Iceland President Gudni Johannesson and Iceland Prime minister Katrín Jakobsdottir. He will also deliver a lecture at University of Iceland on India-Iceland partnership toward making a greener planet. The visit will further boost India's relationship with Iceland, which is the chair of Arctic Council of which India is an observer. Sarma said there is a lot of interest in geothermal, energy, fisheries, tourism, and cultural cooperation with Iceland. The President's next stop will Switzerland from September 11-15 where he will meet President Ueli Maurer and members of the Swiss cabinet, Sarma said. The Swiss statement said discussions will include the envisaged free trade agreement that the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and India have been negotiating since 2008. "Cooperation between Switzerland and India on energy and transport will also be addressed. Other items on the agenda include climate change, global security issues and human rights, the situation in Kashmir and India’s regional situation," it said. Sarma also said the India-Swiss collaboration on economic issues was also significant especially after the automatic exchange of information regime having come into force between the two countries this month which would make available banking details of Indians having Swiss accounts to tax authorities. Sarma said that the visit to Switzerland will have an important business component with the Indian business delegation engaging with its counterpart there under the aegis of India-Swiss business forum. President Kovind will also unveil a bust of Mahatma Gandhi besides addressing students of the Univerity of Bern on India-Switzerland New Age Partnership: Connecting Himalayas to Alps and will also attend an Indian community reception. On the final leg of his visit, Sarma will arrive in Slovenia on September 15. During his visit there, Kovind will hold extensive discussions with Slovenian President Borut Pahor and Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Šarec. Kovind will also participate in a business forum event and an Indian community reception. Sarma said during the visit to the three countries MoUs and agreements could be inked, particularly in the area of climate change. PTI ASK PYK PYK

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