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Saudi visit will impart strategic character to ties: PM

New Delhi, Feb 27 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hoped his three-day visit to Saudi Arabia beginning Saturday will open up ‘new frontiers of cooperation’ and impart a ‘strategic character’ to the bilateral relationship.

In his departure statement, the prime minister said he will hold talks with the Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on ways to promote greater stability and security in the region, and ‘impart a strategic character to our relations beyond the traditional areas of our cooperation’.

‘There is great scope for opening new frontiers of cooperation in the areas of security, defence, science and technology, space, human resources development and knowledge-based industries,’ added Manmohan Singh.

He also said the discussions would cover the subject of combating extremism and terrorism, as well as Afghanistan.

Manmohan Singh said his was only the third visit by an Indian prime minister to the Gulf kingdom, and would provide ‘a vast agenda for discussions with the Saudi leadership’.

The prime minister said the reinvigoration of relations was a direct result of King Abdullah’s 2006 visit, when he was chief guest of India’s Republic Day celebrations and both countries had signed the Delhi Declaration, which charts out a path for expansion of bilateral ties across a wide range of fields.

Reflecting on the importance of the visit, the prime minister said that Saudi Arabia was India’s largest and ‘most reliable supplier of our energy needs from the region’.

‘Our trade and investment linkages have grown though they remain much below the potential of our two economies, and must be broad based,’ he added.

The prime minister is accompanied by a high-level delegation, which includes Minister for Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma, Minister for Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad and Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor.

He will address members of the Majlis Al-Shura, Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry and meet with members of the Indian community.

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