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Poland warms up to Delhi

New Delhi, Feb. 11: Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller will arrive here on Saturday on a four-day official visit as part of India’s policy to strengthen relations with modern democracies and emerging powers.

This will be the first prime ministerial visit between the two countries in 18 years. To mark the importance of the occasion, the countries have decided to sign five agreements during Miller’s trip.

These include two on defence cooperation and joint production, an extradition treaty and an agreement on combating organised crime.

Miller will kick off his India tour as a tourist on the first two days. On Saturday, he will visit the Taj Mahal, the Agra fort and Fatehpur Sikri. The next day, he will tour the Qutub Minar, Chhatarpur and some other sites in Delhi.

The same evening, the Polish embassy here will throw a reception for Miller where he will meet eminent people from various fields.

The highlight of Miller’s trip will be his discussions with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee next Monday on issues of bilateral, regional and international importance.

India’s relations with Pakistan, especially after the recent series of diplomatic expulsions, too, will come up for discussion.

Till the early 1990s, Poland was the main supplier of battle tanks to Pakistan. After India protested and lured the country with the prospect of a bigger Indian market, the Warsaw supply to Islamabad stopped.

Miller will attempt to probe the Indian market, now that the defence sector has been opened to private parties. Poland, whose expertise in ammunitions, thermal imaging and night vision equipment is well known, has expressed keenness to invest in the Indian defence sector.

Apart from an agreement with the defence ministry, a memorandum of agreement will be signed with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

CII sources said the deal’s thrust will be on technology transfer and joint production. The specific areas of cooperation, however, will be identified later.

Poland is one of the key countries in East Europe with a growing economy and political and military clout in the region. It is also one of the new members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) and will join the European Union next year. Both the factors have bolstered Poland’s image.

Miller is not only a liberal democrat, he is also known to be a close ally of US President George Bush. With Washington taking urgent steps to initiate armed action against Iraq, the Polish Prime Minister is likely to try and convince Delhi to be vocal in appreciating the US’ efforts to change the Baghdad regime.

“We expect the Polish Prime Minister to make a high pitch to convince us in supporting the US’ proposed military action in Iraq. But we will simply have to agree to disagree on the issue,” a senior South Block official said.

India has made it clear that it is against “unilateral” action on Iraq and wants the UN Security Council to take the final decision to resolve the crisis.

Though Iraq may be a topic for disagreement, both countries have identified several sectors of mutual interest and benefit where they want closer cooperation.

Poland, for one, has been supportive of India’s stand on Kashmir. During Miller’s visit, the two countries may forcefully articulate their resolve to fight global terrorism in “all its form and manifestation”.

The Centre also wants Poland to publicly announce its support to India’s candidature for the UN Security Council seat.

With India keen to take advantage of Poland’s leadership in coal mining and agriculture, Miller will try to boost economic ties between the countries. He will address the Indian business community in both Delhi and Bangalore, at programmes organised separately by the Ficci and CII, to lure Indian investors to Poland.

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