By Syed Akbar
New Delhi, Feb 26: Terrorism, peace on earth and outer space, exchange of convicted prisoners, business and diplomatic expansion, a mega common investment fund, regional and global issues, and information technology will dominate the Indo-Saudi talks during the three-day tour of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Saudi Arabia.
Dr Manmohan Singh will leave for Saudi Arabian capital city of Riyadh on Saturday with a high level official and business delegation to boost bilateral ties and commerce between the two countries. New Delhi and Riyadh will sign as many as nine agreements which include an extradition treaty and creation of a $ 680 million joint investment fund. The
extradition treaty has been pending for long. Labour issues will also be discussed, since Indians make a large chunk of workforce in the oil-rich Arab nation.
Incidentally, this is the first visit by an Indian premier to Saudi Arabia in nearly three decades. Indira Gandhi visited Saudi Arabia 28 years ago, in 1982. Dr Manmohan Singh will address Saudi Arabia's highest legislative body, the Shura council, on the last day of his trip on March 1, a rare honour for a foreign dignitary. The prime minister is likely to throw light on the long relation between India and the Arab world, dating back to thousands of years.
Both the countries will look forward to new investment opportunities during Dr Manmohan Singh's visit. The prime minister will also address the Council of Saudi Chamber, which is likely to give a fillip to trade and commerce between the two nations. He will also address the local Indian community in Riyadh.
According to Vijaya Latha Reddy, secretary (east) in the ministry of external affairs, the visit provides an opportunity for the two leaders to review bilateral relations and also to discuss regional and global issues in the spirit of “Delhi Declaration” which was signed in 2006.
“The visit aims at reinforcing the strategic partnership between the two countries. Several agreements and MoUs representing a broad range of cooperation in the areas of security, science and technology, culture, media etc will be signed which will further enrich and institutionalise the strategic objectives and cooperation between India and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” she said.
The prime minister will discuss wide ranging issues with Saudi king Abdullah during the talks, including terrorism and security. Indian has historic ties with the Arab world and the both the nations will look forward to further boosting it. Palestine as also Afghanistan is likely to figure during the discussions. There’s also a possibility of India seeking increase in the Haj quota.
India and Saudi Arabia have both been victims of global terrorism and extremism, and Dr Manmohan Singh's visit will help the two nations in devising strategies to fight against the menace.
On the economic front, Saudi Arabia is an important trading and energy security partner. The bilateral trade between India and Saudi Arabia during 2008-09 exceeded 25 billion US dollars. Many Indian companies are active in various sectors. A 25-member CEOs delegation is also visiting Saudi Arabia and it will have interactions with their Saudi counterparts
to establish mutually beneficial business partnerships, she said. Saudi Arabia meets 20 per cent of India”s energy needs.
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