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India among first countries Saudi will ink extradition pact with: Envoy

New Delhi, Feb 21 (IANS) India will be among the first countries Saudi Arabia will sign an extradition treaty with when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visits that country later this month, according to Saudi Ambassador to India Faisal Hassan Trad.

Manmohan Singh’s visit will be the first by an Indian prime minister to Saudi Arabia since Indira Gandhi’s visit 28 years ago.

Stating that bilateral cooperation in security and counter-terrorism measures will assume immense importance during the prime minister’s visit Feb 27-March 1, Trad told IANS in an interview: ‘India is among the first major countries we are having an extradition agreement with. We did not have these agreement with all countries, especially extradition treaty.’

According to him, though Saudi Arabia has similar agreements with its neighbouring countries in the Arabian Gulf, India would be among the first countries outside that region his country would sign such a treaty with.

‘Both Saudi Arabia and India are countries that have supported peace, have supported security, have supported each other and worked hard to beat terrorism,’ he said, adding that the agreement on extradition of wanted people ‘is a very, very important agreement that will help in combating terrorism on both sides’.

According to reports, the modalities of this treaty are being finalised ahead of the visit.

Saudi Arabia, the biggest and most influential among the six Gulf nations, is among the few countries the Western community is banking on to neutralise the Taliban. The country is also a very influential friend of Pakistan.

Stating that both India and Saudi Arabia were victims of terrorism, the ambassador said: ‘Definitely, we in Saudi Arabia have always condemned and denounced acts of terrorism, including the loss of lives (in the Feb 13 terror blast) in Pune. My government in Saudi Arabia is definitely against terrorism and will continue to combat terrorism.’

Trad also said that there have been very good cooperation between his country and India on this front.

‘We have security links, we do have visits, we do have direct communication.’

He said that the meeting between Manmohan Singh and King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz was coming ‘at a momentous time and would assume immense significance from the perspective of the regional surroundings of East Asia, South Asia and West Asia.

‘I believe that the upcoming visit of the prime Minister of India to Saudi Arabia will add a new chapter to the new era of our relationship that started from the historical visit of King Abdullah to India in 2006.’

It was during that visit, when King Abdullah was honoured as the chief guest at the Republic Day parade in New Delhi, that the Delhi Declaration, charting out a new path for enhanced cooperation between the two sides across a plethora of fields, including security cooperation, was signed.

According to Trad, the sky is the limit for India-Saudi Arabia ties. India is home to the second largest Muslim population – 170 million – in the world after Indonesia.

‘The relationship of friendship and respect that exist between the two leaders – Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh – is something important to this relationship (between India and Saudi Arabia). This is the kind of friendship that will give the energy needed for this relationship,’ he asserted.

(Aroonim Bhuyan can be contacted at aroonim.b@ians.in)

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