India, Saudi Arabia plan multi-entry visas for businessmen

April 20th, 2008 - 10:44 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By Aroonim Bhuyan
Riyadh, April 20 (IANS) India and Saudi Arabia are planning to issue multi-entry visas to business people from both countries to boost bilateral investment, as External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his Saudi counterpart Saud Al-Faisal discussed the proposal here Sunday. “Both sides were keen that genuine businessmen from both sides be given multi-entry visas to boost bilateral investment,” external affairs ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna told reporters here after the meeting.

Stating that the two-hour meeting was held in a very warm, cordial and free atmosphere, the spokesperson said that it was a continuation of the discussions held during Al-Faisal’s visit to India.

The two sides also discussed setting up of a joint investment fund to encourage businessmen from both sides to start businesses and joint ventures in each other’s countries.

India had originally planned to set up such a fund.

“The Saudi minister said India’s idea of such a fund was worthy and suggested that a joint fund be set up by the two countries,” he said.

Apex chambers of commerce and industry from both countries will contribute to all these initiatives.

Both countries ratified the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) that was signed during Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz’s historic visit to India in January 2006.

Mukherjee told his Saudi counterpart that with the BIPPA, and the already ratified Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement now in place, the institutional arrangement are ready to promote investments across various sectors.

“The minister (Mukherjee) was of the view that with the institutional framework in place, the private sector should be pushed to generate investment,” the spokesman said.

Investment in the infrastructure sector came up for discussion and Mukherjee said India had the capacity to invest $500-600 billion in this sector.

Mukherjee also called for changing the existing buyer-seller relationship between the two countries in the oil sector into a more participatory one for mutual benefit.

“The Saudi minister welcomed Indian oil companies to come and explore possibilities of joint ventures with Saudi oil companies,” Sarna said.

The Middle East peace process also came up for discussion.

Al-Faisal gave an extensive overview of the Middle East peace process and developments on the Israeli-Palestinian issue and the post-Annapolis situation, according to Sarna.

On his part, Mukherjee briefed his counterpart about the Indo-Pakistani relationship with a new administration in Pakistan.

“He also briefed the Saudi minister about his forthcoming visit to Pakistan on May 20,” Sarna said.

The meeting, coming on the heels of the very warm and cordial meeting Mukherjee had with King Abdullah here Saturday, capped a very successful two-day visit by the Indian foreign minister to this largest and most influential Gulf nation.

Diplomatic sources here said the visit “couldn’t have gone better” and it laid the groundwork for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit here possibly later this year.

Mukherjee left for New Delhi Sunday afternoon immediately after his meeting with Al-Faisal.

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