Manmohan Singh leaves for Saudi Arabia with vast agenda

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New Delhi, Feb 27 (ANI): Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, who left for Saudi Arabia today on a three-day visit at the invitation of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, said that he has a vast agenda for discussions with the Saudi leadership.

Prior to his departure, Dr Singh said, "My visit carries special significance. I am conscious of the fact that this will be only the third visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Saudi Arabia. I, therefore, have a vast agenda for discussions with the Saudi leadership."

"My visit reflects the strong mutual desire of both countries to reinvigorate our relations, as manifested in His Majesty King Abdullah's historic visit to India in 2006 as the Chief Guest of our Republic Day celebrations," added Dr Singh.

"The Delhi Declaration that we signed on that occasion constitutes a valuable blueprint for our cooperation in the future," he claimed.

Dr Singh further said, "The Gulf region is an area of vital importance for India's security and prosperity. India and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have enjoyed special relations based on several millennia of civilizational and cultural linkages and people to people exchanges."

"The Kingdom is India's largest and most reliable supplier of our energy needs from the region. Saudi Arabia is home to an Indian community numbering about 1.8 million. As many as 165000 Indian pilgrims perform the Haj annually. Our trade and investment linkages have grown though they remain much below the potential of our two economies, and must be broad based," Dr Singh added.

"I will have the honour of holding talks with the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on how can we promote greater stability and security in the region, and impart a strategic character to our relations beyond the traditional areas of our cooperation." said Dr Singh.

"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," he added.

"I believe India and Saudi Arabia have much to gain by cooperating with each other in combating extremism and terrorism. I expect to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and other regional issues of mutual interest," claimed Dr Singh.

Dr Singh further said, "During my visit I look forward to addressing the distinguished members of the Majlis Al-Shura. A business delegation of CEOs is accompanying me, and I will address the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry. In addition, I will meet members of the Indian community."

During his three-day visit from February 27 to March 1, Dr Singh is accompanied by his wife Gursharan Kaur.

Other members of the Prime Minister's delegation include Minister of Health and Family Welfare Ghulam Nabi Azad, Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas Murli Deora, Minister of Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma, Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor and a number of senior officials. (ANI)

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