Pranab to break Riyadh jinx April 19

April 10th, 2008 - 4:10 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, April 10 (IANS) External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee looks set to break the Riyadh jinx when he goes to Saudi Arabia April 19 for two days, a long-planned trip that was postponed more than once due to last-minute hitches. This will be the first high-level Indian visit to the most influential Gulf nation, home to 1.6 million-strong Indian diaspora, after King Abdullah came here in 2006 on a landmark trip.

Mukherjee’s visit will focus on intensifying economic and energy ties between the two countries and build upon the strategic partnership forged during the Saudi monarch’s visit.

Mukherjee will meet his counterpart Saud Al Faisal and top functionaries of the Saudi government and discuss with them a wide array of bilateral, regional and global issues, including cooperation in combating terrorism and the situation in the Middle East in the wake of the stepped-up violence in Gaza last month.

The two countries are likely to sign economic and education-related pacts during Mukherjee’s two-day visit.

The two ministers will discuss a faster implementation of the Delhi Declaration, signed during King Abdullah’s visit to India, and explore the possibility of setting up a coordinating agency to spur mutual investment.

Mukherjee will return the visit by his Saudi counterpart in February that focused on intensifying trade and increased investment by Saudi Arabia in India in the fields of infrastructure, chemicals, petrochemicals and energy.

Mukherjee was all set to go to Riyadh in January but had to cancel his visit at the last minute. In April last year, he met with an accident a day before his scheduled departure to the Saudi capital.

Since then, the visit was planned a couple of times, but no dates that suited both sides could be arranged.

Mukherjee’s visit is likely to set the stage for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s journey to Saudi Arabia later this year, an official source said.

India-Saudi bilateral trade is growing and is estimated to be over $5.5 billion. Saudi Arabia is increasingly looking at India as a knowledge power and is keen to expand cooperation in technical, medical and related education fields.

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