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PM departs after historic visit to Saudi Arabia

PM departs after historic visit to Saudi Arabia

Riyadh, March 1:  Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh left for home on Monday, March 1, after a historic three-day visit to Saudi Arabia that saw the two countries sign 10 bilateral agreements and issue a Riyadh Declaration for deepening their relationship.

The prime minister left the Saudi capital after attending a function at the Indian embassy where he met representatives of the 1.8 million Indian expatriate community.

The highlight of Manomohan Singh’s engagements Monday was his address to the Majlis-ash-Shura, the Saudi legislature, where he declared that India would grow 9-10 percent for the next 25 years and sought investments from the Islamic kingdom.

Addressing the Majlis is a rare honour accorded to a foreign dignitary.
After that he proceeded to the King Saud University where Manmohan Singh, an economist turned politician, was conferred an honorary doctorate.

Indian officials said the Saudi visit, the first by an Indian prime minister after Indira Gandhi’s in 1982, was aimed at forging a strategic relationship with one of the most influential Arabic Gulf nations.

The prime minister and Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz signed The ’Riyadh Declaration - A New Era of Strategic Partnership’ Sunday to put their seal on steadily growing ties. This is expected to cover security, economic, defence, technology and political areas as well as ways to combat terrorism. The two countries also signed an extradition treaty.

The Riyadh Declaration seeks to take forward the relationship between Saudi Arabia and India forged after the signing of the Delhi Declaration in 2006 when King Abdullah was India’s chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations.

"The two leaders reviewed the status of implementation of the historic Delhi Declaration signed in 2006, and expressed their satisfaction at the steady expansion of Saudi-India relations since the signing of the Delhi Declaration," the new declaration read.
The path-breaking extradition treaty was signed to further enhance the existing security cooperation between the two countries. It will help the authorities in apprehending wanted persons in each other’s country. Besides the king, Manmohan Singh also met Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister Ali Al-Naimi and Commerce and Industry Minister Zainal Alireza.

Manmohan Singh used his presence to say that India desired greater ties with Pakistan, which has close ties with Saudi Arabia, but Islamabad would have to stop fostering anti-India terrorists.

Another agreement signed by the two countries was on transfer of sentenced prisoners to their own country.

"We hope this treaty will facilitate the transfer of Indian prisoners back to India where they could serve the remaining (part of the) sentence (given by a Saudi court)," said Latha Reddy of the Indian external affairs ministry.

The third agreement was on cultural cooperation between the two ministries of culture.

The fourth memorandum of understanding was on cooperation on peaceful use of outer space. It was signed between India’s Department of Science and Technology (DST) and Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST).

Tata Motors has agreed to supply Saudi Arabia’s Hotil schoolbuses worth $80 million. A pact was also signed between the Gulf Bureau of Research and DFL, and another between India’s Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) and Saudi Arabia’s King Saud University.

On Saturday, the prime minister arrived to an unprecedented welcome in the Saudi capital when, setting aside protocol, the Saudi crown prince and the entire cabinet turned up at the airport to receive the Indian leader.

On Sunday, King Abdullah officially welcomed him at a grand ceremony where a guard of honour was presented and a state banquet thrown in his honour.
India is working to develop close relations with Saudi Arabia, which was one of only three countries to back the Taliban regime in Kabul when New Delhi supported the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance. The Saudi approach to Islamists underwent a radical change after 9/11.

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