President Patil leaves on nine-day visit to West Asia

New Delhi, Nov 21 (ANI): President Pratibha Devisingh Patil embarked on her nine-day State visit to United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Syrian Arab Republic on Sunday with the aim of increasing business and strengthening bilateral trade ties with both West Asian countries.

President Patil's November 21-25 visit to the UAE will be her first State Visit to a Gulf State while her November 26-29 visit to Syria will be the first ever visit by an Indian President to that country.

The Indian community in the UAE is 1.75 million strong and is the largest expatriate community of the region. The Gulf region is home to over five million-strong Indian Diaspora and the visit of President Patil will boost India's multi-faceted ties with the West Asia region.

"In the first leg of her visit, the President will go to Abu Dhabi in UAE. This is her first State visit to the Gulf region at the invitation of her counterpart in UAE, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan," said Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs, Vijaya Latha Reddy.

The UAE is a significant trading and energy security partner, and bilateral trade was valued at 43.4 billion dollar in 2009-10. In 2009-10, the UAE had emerged as India's top export destination, accounting for 13.41 per cent of the country's total exports. The country is also among the top five suppliers of crude oil to India.

Patil will spend two days in Abu Dhabi before moving onto Dubai and Sharjah. She will also visit the Abu Dhabi and Dubai chambers of commerce.

Minister of State for Power Bharatsinh Solanki, Rajya Sabha MP K A Ismael, Lok Sabha MP Vijay Bahadur Singh will accompany the President.

The business delegation accompanying her includes members of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India.

In the second leg from November 26 to 29, President Patil will visit Syria at the invitation of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad. This will be first Presidential visit to Syria from India.

In Syria, President Patil will hold talks with her counterpart Bashar al Assad, who had paid a State Visit to India in June 2008.

"The President's visit to Syria will provide the opportunity to carry forward our dialogue and engagement with the Syrian President and the leadership of Syria in all areas," Reddy said.

She said the discussions would cover political, economic and cultural issues. "The two sides will also explore investment opportunities in each other's country. The Middle East Peace Process (MEPP) and Syria's relations with its neighbours will also be an important segment of the talks," Reddy said. By Praful Kumar Singh (ANI)

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