Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu left for a week-long visit to Serbia, Malta and Romania on Thursday to strengthen India’s relations with these Eastern European countries.

He is accompanied by Minister of State in Ministry of Finance Shiv Pratap Shukla, MPs Prasanna Acharya, Vijila Sathyananth, Saroj Pandey and Raghav Lakhanpal and senior officials.

“As the Chairman of Rajya Sabha, he is scheduled to hold delegation level talks with his counterparts and address their Parliaments. His visit is expected to strengthen India’s bilateral relations,” the statement said here, adding: “This visit will help the countries to exchange expertise and share knowledge in the fields of economy, environment, trade and culture.”

On the first leg of his three-nation tour, the Vice President will visit Serbia from 14-16 September.  India and Serbia have historic and special relations as co-founders of the Non-Aligned Movement. Both countries support each other on issues of core interest. This year, India and Serbia are also celebrating 70 years of establishment of diplomatic relations. Bilateral trade between India and Serbia stands at about USD 200 million.

Naidu will address the Indian diaspora at the Serbian capital Belgrade on Friday evening.

On Saturday, he will attend an official welcome ceremony and proceed to Serbia Palace to met President Aleksander Vucic. He will address a special session of the National Assembly of Serbia.

On Sunday, September 16, Naidu will offer floral tributes at the bust of Mahatma Gandhi and proceed to Mount Avala for a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

The Vice President will visit Malta from 16-18 September. India was one of the first countries to recognise Malta in 1964 and established diplomatic relations soon after its independence. He will meet top Serbian leaders and address the business representatives of India and Malta at a business forum, and the Indian community during the visit.

On September 18, the Vice President will visit the Cathedral of St. John’s and the Upper Barrakka Gardens in Malta before leaving for Romania.

Naidu will visit Romania from 18-20 September on the final leg of his visit.

The Vice President will hold delegation level talks with the President of the Senate of Romania, Calin Popescu-Tariceanu, meet President Klaus Werner Lohannis and address members of the Senate.

He will also meet Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila and address the India-Romania business forum meeting. He will address the Indian community.

India and Romania share deep historical and cultural linkages. Romanian philologist, philosophers and poets were influenced by their encounter with Indian thought, and this found reflection in their works. Rabindranath Tagore visited Romania in 1926 and was conferred a doctorate Honoris Causa from the University of Bucharest.

His visit will conclude on September 21.