Saudi crown prince to visit India Feb 26

Last Updated: Tue, Feb 11, 2014 12:30 hrs

New Delhi, Feb 11 (IANS) Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin-Abdul Aziz's visit to India Feb 26-28 is set to give a major boost to bilateral ties as the two countries are expected to sign various agreements in defence, trade and investment, and energy sectors.

Prince Salman, 79, is the second important person in the wealthy, oil-rich kingdom after King Abdullah. He is also the Arab kingdom's first deputy prime minister and defence minister and will be accompanied by a high-level delegation and a large contingent of businessmen to explore possibilities of investing in tourism, oil and gas exploration and infrastructure fields.

Saudi Arabia feels that India is an investment hub for its businesses in Asia. It is because of this that Saudi investors are showing keen interest in the emerging Indian market which, in their assessment, provides opportunity of huge investment in multilateral sectors.

During his visit, Prince Salman will hold wide-ranging talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other Indian leaders on expanding bilateral cooperation, besides on many international issues like developments in Afghanistan, and the situation in Syria and other parts of the Middle East.

He will also meet President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice President Hamid Ansari and Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid, besides other leaders. This is his second visit to India after becoming crown prince.

Finance Minister P Chidambaram recently visited the Kingdom and extended an invitation to Prince Sultan to visit India, which was immediately accepted. The crown prince is highly impressed with India's development in various sectors, say knowledgeable officials.

India and Saudi Arabia are also expected to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on defence, which envisages exchange of defence-related information, and training and cooperation in areas varying from hydrocarbons and security to its logistics. When Defence Minister A.K. Antony visited Saudi Arabia in 2012, it was agreed by both sides to step up cooperation in the defence field. A joint panel was then constituted to prepare a draft pact.

The two countries are also eager to work together in curbing money laundering and drug trafficking. Indo-Saudi bilateral trade exceeded $43.19 billion in 2012-13. There are more than 2.5 million Indian expatriates in Saudi Arabia who contribute immensely to the socio-economic development of the oil-rich kingdom.

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