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Benin President Boni Yayi arrives on India visit
President Boni Yayi of Benin was given a ceremonial welcome here today at the start of a four-day state visit to India during which the two countries are expected to sign several agreements for institutionalising bilateral cooperation in various fields.
President Pratibha Devisingh Patil received Mr Yayi and Mrs Chantal de Souza-Yayi in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and other dignitaries were also present. Mr Yayi inspected a guard of honour before interacting briefly with the media. Later, he and the First Lady drove to Raj Ghat to offer floral tributes at the "samadhi" of Mahatma Gandhi. Mr Yayi is accompanied on the visit by a 34-member delegation, which includes three ministers, senior officials, businessmen and mediapersons, an official statement said yesterday. The visit, after a gap of more than 25 years, represents a significant landmark in India-Benin relations, the statement said. The Beninese president will call on President Pratibha Patil and hold officials talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Vice-President M Hamid Ansari, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Leader of Opposition L K Advani will call on him. The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) have jointly organised an interaction with the Indian business community for the visiting Beninese delegation here during the visit. The delegation will also travel to Agra, Mumbai and Bangalore. In Mumbai, the Indo-African Chamber of Commerce and Industry has organised one-to-one business meetings. In Bangalore, the delegation will be visiting IT major Infosys and Avasthagen, a biotech company, the statement said. A multi-religious, multi-ethnic society and a multi-party democracy, Benin, home to 9.3 million people is located in West Africa and borders Nigeria, Togo, Burkina Faso and Niger. Members of NAM, India and Benin have traditionally enjoyed friendly relations. Both countries share a commonality of views on major international issues such as UN Reforms and combating international terrorism. Benin has supported India’s candidature for permanent membership on an expanded UNSC. It outrightly condemned the terrorist attacks on Mumbai in November 2008. India has in the past gifted 100 tractors and agricultural implements, as well as, extended a US$18.8 million Line of Credit for rural electrification to Benin. The country regularly avails of training facilities under the ITEC programme in various fields. It has also subscribed to the Duty Free Tariff Preference (DFTP) Scheme announced by India in April 2008. India’s bilateral trade with Benin is currently US$350 million. Benin was included in the first group of countries in the Government of India’s Pan-African e-network project, which was officially inaugurated by the External Affairs Minister last week. INT