Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz is currently on a state visit to India, the first such visit by a Saudi king in more than 50 years.
The visit aims to expand energy cooperation and trade relations with India, one of Asia’s fastest growing economies.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh broke protocol by personally receiving King Abdullah at the airport January 22, a sign of how much importance India attaches to the royal visit, the Arab News reported.
King Abdullah was also the guest of honor at India’s Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi today.
King Abdullah, Prime Minister Singh and President Abdul Kalam at National Day
King Abdullah and the Prime Minister held official talks yesterday after a ceremonial reception at the presidential palace, which included a 21-gun salute.
King Abdullah and Prime Minister Singh
The talks focused on long-term security cooperation, including fighting terrorism, international crime and energy security.
The two nations signed a number of agreements, including a Memorandum of Understanding on fighting terrorism, an accord to avoid double-taxation, and a convention to promote bilateral investment.
Following their meeting, King Abdullah and the Prime Minister opened a Saudi business exhibition, where Saudi and Indian businessmen signed 10 economic agreements.
Yesterday evening, King Abdullah met with Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam at the presidential palace in New Delhi. In remarks, the King offered his thanks for the warm reception, and expressed optimism that his visit to India would be a vital step towards closer cooperation between the two nations.
“India’s economic growth has attracted world attention. We are happy that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will be one of India's major trade partners,” King Abdullah said.
“Moreover, the Kingdom is also happy to host more than 1.5 million Indians who are contributing to the progress, development and prosperity of the two countries.”
King Abdullah and President Abdul Kalam
King Abdullah also expressed the hope that India would continue its supporting international efforts to achieve a fair and comprehensive resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Speaking to Saudi reporters in New Delhi Monday, Indian Minister of State for External Affairs E. Ahamed described King Abdullah’s visit as “important and historic.” He said India attached great importance to the visit, which would further strengthen longstanding relations between India and Saudi Arabia, the Arab News reported.
King Abdullah discusses trade in India
Oil Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar said that India would extend an offer to Saudi Aramco to collaborate on a Hindustan Petroleum refinery project in Visakhapatnam in India’s southern Andhra Pradesh region.
Aiyar also said he hopes to discuss bilateral issues with Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi, who is part of King Abdullah’s delegation.
Aiyar also said that a 26 percent dependence on Saudi Arabia is optimal and that now there is a need to diversify oil sources. Saudi Arabia accounts for nearly a quarter of India’s total oil imports, which amount to around 1.9 million barrels per day.
| In an interview with India’s NDTV channel over the weekend, King Abdullah discussed bilateral relations between the two countries, as well as a number of regional and international issues of common interest, including energy and terrorism. |
The King underscored the friendly relations between Saudi Arabia and India, and said that he hopes India and Pakistan resolve their differences peacefully. Everything can be achieved through dialogue, he said.
King Abdullah at ceremonial reception
He also said he believes India can play a role in the Organization of the Islamic Conference, possibly as an observer, like Russia.
On oil, King Abdullah said that Saudi Arabia has the capability to meet the petroleum needs of India and other countries. He remarked that the Kingdom prefers lower oil prices because higher prices are not in the interest of developing countries.
In the interview, King Abdullah also said that Saudi Arabia’s friendly relations with China and India would not affect its good relations with the United States, which has been a friend of the Kingdom for over 60 years. In addition, he stressed Saudi Arabia’s staunch opposition to terrorism.