Jaishankar holds talks with Saudi counterpart, says 'very useful' exchange of views on Afghanistan
New Delhi, Sep 19: The developments in Afghanistan and ways to further expand bilateral ties in areas of defence, trade, investment and energy were the key focus of the wide-ranging talks between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and his visiting Saudi counterpart Faisal Bin Farhan Al Saud on Sunday.
After the talks, Jaishankar described the meeting as "cordial and productive" and he had a "very useful exchange" of views with Al Saud on Afghanistan, the Gulf region and the Indo-Pacific.
The external affairs minister said on Twitter that he urged early resumption of direct flights to Saudi Arabia and that it was agreed to work closely on all Covid-related challenges.
Al Saud arrived here on Saturday evening on a three-day visit, in the first ministerial trip from Saudi Arabia to India since the outbreak of the pandemic.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said the two sides deliberated on the developments in Afghanistan and explored ways to deepen ties in areas of defence, trade, investment and energy.
It said Jaishankar called for further relaxation in restrictions on travel from India to the Gulf nation while appreciating the country for the support provided to the Indian community during the Covid-19 pandemic.
"A cordial and productive meeting with Saudi FM HH @Faisalbinfarhan. Discussed our cooperation in the political, security and socio-cultural pillars of our strategic partnership," Jaishankar tweeted.
"Very useful exchange of views on Afghanistan, the Gulf and the Indo-Pacific," he said.
In a statement, the MEA said the ministers exchanged views on the developments in Afghanistan and discussed all matters related to their bilateral relationship and regional and international issues of mutual interest.
"The two ministers reviewed the implementation of the ''Strategic Partnership Council Agreement'' signed between the two sides during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Saudi Arabia in October 2019," the MEA said.
It said the two sides expressed satisfaction at the meetings held under the agreement and progress achieved.
"Both sides discussed further steps to strengthen their partnership in trade, investment, energy, defence, security, culture, consular issues, health care and human resources," the MEA said.
The MEA said the two sides also discussed bilateral cooperation in multilateral forums such as the United Nations, G-20 and Gulf Cooperation Council.
"The external affairs minister congratulated Saudi Arabia on its successful presidency of G-20 last year despite the Covid-19 pandemic," it said.
The Saudi foreign minister is scheduled to call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday.
The visit by the Saudi foreign minister to India came at a time India has been engaged with all leading powers on the developments in Afghanistan following its takeover by the Taliban.
It is learnt that the situation in Afghanistan was a major area of focus of the talks between Jaishankar and Al Saud.
Being a major regional player, Saudi Arabia''s position on the developments in Kabul assumes significance as several countries in the Gulf region including Qatar and Iran were playing a role in the Afghan peace process before the Taliban''s capture of power.
In the Gulf region, India has been in touch with United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran over the unfolding developments in Afghanistan.
In reflection of India''s views on the matter, Prime Minister Modi on Friday said the global community should decide "collectively" and "thoughtfully" on according recognition to the new set-up in Afghanistan in view of questions over its acceptability as the change of power was not "inclusive".
He made the remarks during a virtual address at a meeting on Afghanistan of the heads of state of the SCO and the Collective Security Treaty Organisation.
The defence and security ties between India and Saudi Arabia are witnessing gradual expansion.
Chief of Army Staff Gen MM Naravane visited Saudi Arabia in December last in the first-ever visit by a head of the 1.3 million-strong Army to the strategically important Gulf nation.
Gen Naravane held extensive talks with senior military officials of that country with an aim to enhance bilateral defence cooperation.