India may offer Saudi Arabia its expertise in key areas like IT and pharmaceuticals during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s three-day visit to the kingdom beginning on Saturday.

Dr. Singh, who is scheduled to arrive here this evening, would hold discussions with Saudi King Abdullah on Sunday and address the ‘Shoura’ Council on Monday.

He will also meet Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister Ali Al-Naimi and Commerce and Industry Minister Zainal Alireza.

According to ‘Saudi Okaz’, India may offer Saudi Arabia its expertise in important areas like IT and pharmaceuticals.

It noted that Saudi oil flow to India was a mere trickle in 2006 when King Abdullah paid a landmark visit to New Delhi to launch his path-breaking ‘Look East’ policy of engaging the powerful emerging economies of Asia in Saudi Arabia’s quest to reduce its dependence on oil through economic diversification.

The Delhi Declaration signed by the King and Dr. Singh paved the way for enhanced bilateral relations in political, economic, security and cultural fields.

The King’s visit resulted in Saudi Arabia replacing the UAE as India’s number one source of crude oil, with exports jumping from USD 500 million to USD 23 billion in 2008.

India imports about 30 per cent of its oil from Saudi Arabia.

Trade between the two countries in 2009 reached about 103 billion Saudi riyals (USD 27.5 billion).

Dr. Singh will also address the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry on Sunday .

Noting that his visit carries “special significance”, Dr. Singh earlier said in his departure statement that the Gulf region is an area of vital importance for New Delhi’s security and prosperity.

“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 said.

The Prime Minister said he will hold talks with King Abdullah on “how we can promote greater stability and security in the region, and impart a strategic character to our relations beyond the traditional areas of our cooperation”.

The Prime Minister said he believed 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,” he said, adding he has a “vast agenda” for discussions with the Saudi leadership.

Observing that his visit reflected the strong mutual desire of both countries to reinvigorate the ties, Dr. Singh said India and Saudi Arabia have enjoyed special relations based on several millennia of civilisational and cultural linkages and people to people exchanges.

The Kingdom is India’s largest and “most reliable” supplier of energy needs from the region, he said, adding Saudi Arabia is home to about 1.8 million Indian community people. As many as 1,65,000 Indian pilgrims perform the Haj annually, he said.

Though the trade and investment linkages have grown, they remain much below the potential of two economies and must be broad—based, said Singh, heading a high—level business delegation of CEOs including Mukesh Ambani of RIL, Essar’s Shashi Ruia and IT poster boys Azim Premji and S Ramadorai.

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