In the first leg of his “historic” six-day tri-nation tour to West Asia, President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday held talks with Jordanian King Abdullah II in Amman on various bilateral issues including trade and investment, counter-terrorism and United Nations Security Council reforms.
Mr. Mukherjee, who arrived here on Saturday afternoon in a special Air India aircraft, was welcomed by the King at the al Husseinieh Palace in a colourful ceremony. The President was accorded a guard of honour in the forecourt of the palace after which both leaders got down to talks.
The King said that Jordan fully supported India’s bid for a permanent membership in a reformed United Nations Security Council. He has also offered long-term contracts for enhancing exports to India, and said that “an arrangement” would be created within the royal court to look into problems faced by Indian workers.
India, on its part, offered a $100-million line of credit to expand trade and investment relations between the two countries. The projects that would get funds from this loan would be worked out later, Anil Wadhwa, Secretary East, Ministry of External Affairs, told the accompanying media delegation here after the restricted meeting between the President and the King.
Mr. Mukherjee told King Abdullah that Jordan can play an enhanced role in India’s food and energy security. India is the largest importer of Jordanian phosphate. At present, around 20 Indian companies are operating in Jordan with $300 million investments. Both nations are planning to increase bilateral trade to $5 billion a year, from $2 billion now.
“Jordan has become a hub of financial services. Jordan also wants to enhance exports. The financial clime in the country is in favour of investments. Jordan already has free trade agreements with the E.U. and the U.S. There’s a favourable atmosphere for Indian companies to come in and invest in Jordan,” Prime Minister Abdullah Ensour said during the talks.
Mr. Mukherjee and King Abdullah also inaugurated a $860-million Indo-Jordanian joint venture fertilizer plant which will mainly manufacture sulphuric acid- and phosphoric acid-based plant nutrients. Jordan India Fertilizer Company (JIFCO) is 53 per cent owned by the Indian Farmers and Fertiliser Cooperative (IFFCO) and its affiliates.
Both leaders have reiterated the need for greater cooperation in counter-terrorism. The President noted that Jordan is in the forefront of fighting terrorism in West Asia.
This is the first time an Indian President is visiting the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had visited the country in 1988. Mr. Mukherjee’s visit comes at a time when India is seeking to strengthen ties with West Asian countries, both Arab nations and Israel, and the region is grappling with increasing terror threats. Parts of Jordan’s neighbouring country, Syria, have been occupied by the Islamic State terror group which is attracting extremists from around the world, including India, to join its “Caliphate”.
However, Mr. Wadhwa said the issue of the Islamic State did not come up in the meeting.
The President will visit Palestine and Israel. He will address the Israeli Parliament, the Knesset, in yet another sign of strengthening India-Israeli ties.