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India, Portugal sign 7 pacts, discuss China's stand on Masood Azhar

India and Portugal inked seven pacts on Saturday to expand bilateral engagement in a wide range of areas including defence and security, IT and renewable energy even as they took a veiled dig at China for blocking New Delhi’s move at the UN to list JeM Chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist.

In wide-ranging talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Portuguese counterpart Antonio Costa, while agreeing to deepen the ties, also called for tough global action against terror networks and States harbouring them stressing that there should not be any double standards in combating terrorism. Modi, in a statement to the media, said he and Costa discussed the need for the global community to take strong and urgent action against the rapidly growing and widely spreading threats of violence and terror.

“Recognising the importance of the Central role of UN in combating terrorism, they exhorted the international community to effectively implement the measures enumerated by the 1267 UN Sanctions Committee,” a joint statement issued after the talks said.

On December 30, China had blocked India’s move to list Pakistan-based Azhar as a global terrorist, at the 1267 Sanctions Committee of the UN Security Council. China was the only member on the 15-nation Committee to have opposed India’s move. The joint statement said both sides called for strengthening cooperation in combating terrorism in a spirit of ‘zero tolerance’, underlining that States should not support any terror entity including ‘non-State actors’ on any grounds.

The two leaders also called for eliminating terrorist safe havens and infrastructure, disrupting terrorist networks and their financing, and sought adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism by the UN. The Prime Minister said his talks with Costa, who traces his origin to Goa, covered full range of India Portugal ties across various sectors. “We agreed that the two countries must focus on action oriented approach to realize the full potential of economic opportunities in our partnership. The agreements signed today are just one indication of our shared resolve to do exactly that,” he said.

Modi also thanked Costa for Portugal’s support to India’s membership of the Missile Technology Control Regime, and for its continued support for India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group. The MoU on defence envisages cooperation meeting security challenges, including in the maritime domain and defence industries.

The joint statement said the two prime ministers looked forward to the signing of the Protocol amending the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement and to early ratification of the Social Security Agreement by Portugal to enable it to enter into force. Modi and Costa condemned extremism and terrorism in all their forms and manifestations, “irrespective of who the perpetrators are and of their motivations.” “They called for eliminating terrorist safe havens and infrastructure, disrupting terrorist networks and their financing,” the statement said.

It further said: “They underlined that States should not support any terror entity including ‘non-State actors’ on any grounds and that violent extremism fuelled by misuse of Internet and the social media needs to be countered.” Costa, who had lived in Goa, said he felt proud for being able to return to India as Portugal’s Prime Minister. “This may be your first state visit to India, but you are neither a stranger to India, nor is India unfamiliar to you. So, in addition to extending a warm welcome on this chilly evening, I must also say, Welcome Back!,” said Modi.

On defence cooperation, Modi invited Portuguese companies to participate in the ‘Make in India’ initiative and set up joint ventures and commercial partnerships based on joint production and technology transfer. Costa, who arrived in Delhi on Saturday on a 7-day visit, also said Portugal will continue to support India’s permanent membership of the UN Security Council along with Brazil and another country from the African continent.

The Portuguese PM will attend the Pravasi Bhartiya Divas in Bengaluru on Sunday and then will travel to Gandhinagar to attend the Vibrant Gujarat summit on January 10. He will also visit his ancestral home in Goa. Talking about UN’s role, he said protection of human rights, rule of law and peaceful resolution of conflicts must be priority for all.

Referring to India’s NSG bid, Portugal hoped that India will achieve its early membership. The other MoUs signed provided for cooperation in areas of information technology and electronics, agricultural trade including market access for agricultural products, deeper engagement in renewable energy and marine research.

Both sides also agreed to accord priority to boost start- ups and creating a favourable ecosystems for entrepreneurship. “In this context, the leaders welcomed the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding on start-ups and the roadmap therein and called for regular exchanges between Start-Up India and Start-Up Portugal to boost business and enterprise,” said the statement.

A commemorative stamp celebrating two dance forms of the two countries were released. Recognising the cultural and commercial significance of India’s film industry and its growing interest in Portugal, Costa agreed to facilitate enhanced collaboration to make Portugal a preferred filming destination for the industry.

In this context, the two leaders looked forward to early conclusion of an Audio-Visual Co-Production Agreement between the two countries, as a timely initiative to incentivize joint film production and boost cooperation in the vibrant film sector.

The two sides also decided to work together in strengthening bilateral economic and commercial ties in third countries, and issued a joint declaration in this regard. It said both sides intend to work together to identify and mutually support projects and economic activities closely coordinated with third country participants. “Both countries will encourage their private sector to undertake joint economic, commercial and industrial projects and investments in third countries to boost growth, jobs and development. Such projects should contribute to the local economy, regional connectivity and integration, in order to benefit third countries, by taking into account their priorities in terms of development and the needs of their people,” the joint declaration said.

It said cooperation will be complementary and mutually beneficial and strive to promote best practices in development of projects. “The two countries will identify sectors and develop projects in close consultation with the third country, where required. Cooperation may take any form, its modalities including, but not limited to, partnerships, joint investment, joint financing, not necessarily in matching proportions,” it said.