PM leaves for France, Egypt

Prime minister Manmohan Singh today left for France, where he will be the chief gust at the French National Day celebrations, ahead of leaving for Egypt to attend the summit of non-aligned countries.

"At the invitation of President Nicolas Sarkozy, I am leaving today for Paris to participate in the National Day celebrations of the Republic of France on July 14," the PM said.

India and France, he said, enjoy a close and wide ranging strategic partnership. "Our relations with France encompass a large number of areas, and have served our national interests well. We would like to build upon our partnership in the areas of trade and investment, high technology, space, nuclear energy, defence, education, culture, tourism and scientific research and development," he added.

The prime minister will later fly to Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt to participate in the Fifteenth Summit of the Non-aligned Movement (NAM), which will be held under the chairmanship of President Hosny Mubarak.

Non-alignment has been the bedrock of India's foreign policy since it was enunciated by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Non-alignment remains an article of faith for us. In the post-Cold War era, when the world is no longer divided into two military blocs, the Non-aligned Movement has a renewed role to play in the emerging world order, the prime minister said.

"The diversity and universality of the movement offers NAM a unique opportunity to address the challenges of today. India will play its part in helping NAM to regain its moral high ground to address issues which are of direct concern and relevance to developing countries such as sustainable development, climate change, food security, energy security, terrorism and reform of the architecture of international governance," he said.

Manmohan said he is looking forward to holding bilateral meetings with other leaders, including those of Bangladesh, Egypt, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.