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Manmohan Singh to visit Germany with 5 cabinet ministers

New Delhi, April 8 (IANS) India and Germany are likely to sign a series of pacts in education, science and technology and green energy during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Berlin April 10-12 with as many as five cabinet ministers.

The prime minister, who will be in Germany at the invitation of Chancellor Angela Merkel, is also set to co-chair with her the second meeting of inter-governmental consultations launched in 2011 to discuss all possible areas of cooperation.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, Renewable Energy Minister Farooq Abdullah, Human Resource Development Minister M.M. Pallam Raju and Science and Technology Minister S. Jaipal Reddy are part of the delegation.

Briefing the media ahead of the visit, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said several pacts were likely to be signed during the high-profile visit, which also includes National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon and himself.

"The ministers of the two countries will also meet and discuss possible areas of cooperation," Mathai said, adding that their recommendations will be forwarded to the leaders to take the process forward.

"Defence and other areas are also high on priority," he said. "We do have a very substantive cooperation in defence, even though our defence minister (A.K. Antony) is not visiting this time."

The prime minister's engagements include a cultural ceremony to bring to a close the "Days of India in Germany" that was launched in May last year to mark the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Various events under the Days of India in Germany were held from May 2012 to March 2013, under the four themes: "Connecting Minds", "Connecting Capabilities", "Connecting Ideas" and "Connecting Cultures".

The prime minister's visit include a series of such high-level engagements between the two sides in the past few years. He had last visited Germany in December 2010.

The German chancellor had visited India previously in October-November, 2007 and then in May 2011. During her 2011 visit, she was conferred the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding for the year 2009 .

Germany is India's largest trading partner in Europe and bilateral trade with the country had registered an 18.4 percent increase to touch 18.37 billion euro in 2011. Germany is also the 8th largest foreign direct investor in India.

According to German Ambassador to India Michael Steiner, the prime minister's visit was expected to further boost trade and investments between the most populous countries in South Asia and Europe.

"Germany is the only country with which India has such a format of high-level discussion," the ambassador said, referring to the inter-governmental consultations that covers a host of areas - urban development to nuclear safety.

According to India's foreign office, Germany has a vibrant Indian community of 110,000 people with 43,175 holding Indian passports and 67,029 of them being nationals of that country.

This apart, some 4,500 Indian students are pursuing various courses in Germany, while around students from the European country are pursuing similar courses in India.

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