Issues of security and combating extremism in the region are likely to dominate parleys between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and leaders of Saudi Arabia, who are also expected to sign an extradition treaty during the former’s three-day visit to this country later this week.
Mr. Singh will lead a high-level delegation of senior ministers, officials and businessmen to Saudi Arabia on February 27, and will hold talks with King Abdullah on a number of bilateral and regional matters of mutual concern.
Indian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Talmiz Ahmad told the media that the talks will also focus on Palestine, besides the situation in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen.
“Security cooperation will constitute the basis of our dialogue. Both countries are extremely concerned about the rise of extremism and violence, directly threatening our security,” he said.
Mr. Ahmed said both India and Saudi Arabia are aware of the connectivity of extremist forces that have sanctuary and safe haven in the AfPak border area and are seeking to penetrate other countries of the region, the envoy said.
“India is concerned about the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia is concerned about the situation in Yemen,” he said.
The two countries will sign an extradition treaty, a number of MoUs and agreements on transfer of sentenced persons, scientific and technological cooperation, peaceful use of outer space and cooperation in the IT sector, he said.
Mr. Ahmed said the two countries hoped to put in place an “institutionalised dialogue” to promote mutual interest in foreign affairs, intelligence, defence, energy and other areas of immediate and direct interest to the two nations.
Some other bilateral agreements are under negotiation and will be signed at a later date, he said.
During his visit Singh will address the Shoura Council or the Consultative Assembly of Saudi Arabia on March 1, a rare honour for a visiting foreign dignitary.
“Dr Singh will highlight the important and constructive role played by Majlis Al-Shoura in the political and economic development of Saudi Arabia,” he added.
In his address Mr. Singh will also share his perspectives on India-Saudi ties, and the political and economic challenges facing the regional and international communities, he said.
Mr. Singh’s visit comes four years after the visit of King Abdullah to India in January 2006.
“It was a landmark visit because it put in place the vision of a joint partnership between India and Saudi Arabia based on substantial political and cultural exchanges,” the ambassador said.
Mr. Singh will also address the Indian community before leaving Saudi Arabia on March 1.
Heads of private and PSU refiners, including Mukesh Ambani of RIL and Essar’s Shashi Ruia, and IT poster boys Azim Premji and S. Ramadorai figure in the business delegation accompanying Mr. Singh on his maiden visit to Saudi Arabia.