Manmohan Singh touched by Saudi gestures

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New Delhi, Mar. 2 (ANI): The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, is deeply "touched and humbled" by the gestures extended to him during his three-day visit to Saudi Arabia, which concluded with the signing of more than 10 agreements and the inking of the historic Riyadh Declaration.

The Saudi kingdom made a point to make the Prime Minister feel special.

King Abdullah gave him a full ceremonial reception at the Al Rawdah Palace, which also included the rare honour of offering "Shaish", a felicitation that is normally meant for the Saudi royal family. The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, was the last to receive the honour.

The protocol division of the Ministry of External Affairs was taken by surprise, as it was not a planned event.

Saudi Arabia, which has strict laws for women, maintains that unaccompanied foreign women must abide by the laws, especially on the wearing the veil or Abaya.

The warmth towards India was visible during the visit to Riyadh. Locals recalled the visit of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1982, and said that during this visit, the level of enthusiasm and the paraphernalia was much greater.he Indian contingent was moved by the hospitality extended to them by the Saudi Arabian Government.

In earlier times, the Saudi kingdom viewed India as the labour capital of the world, owing to the low cost at which skilled and unskilled workers were available. More than a decade later, however, Riyadh has realized New Delhi's economic prowess and rising stature in the international arena.

This qualitative change in equations was most visible when the Saudi Arabian Government agreed to hear India's point of view on the Taliban threat, and the acceptance that it could play a role in neutralising the terrorist threat, albeit indirectly. By Naveen Kapoor (ANI)

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