Mukherjee terms visit to Kingdom ‘fruitful’ RIYADH: Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee discussed with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah the geopolitical situation in South Asia, particularly Afghanistan, in their meeting on Saturday. “I mentioned the need of lasting peace in Afghanistan,” where Saudi Arabia and India have interests, said Mukherjee. He added that his talks with Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, Minister of Commerce and Industry Abdullah Zainal Alireza, and his counterpart Ibrahim Al-Assaf, were very fruitful. The minister was speaking after signing the minutes of the Indo-Saudi Joint Commission meeting here on Saturday. Among regional and international issues discussed with Saudi officials, Mukherjee expressed concerns about the volatile situation in Afghanistan. “Unless economic development takes place, it will be extremely difficult to sustain the campaign against the Taleban ... They have to be totally isolated so that peace and tranquility can be restored on a permanent basis in that country and the region,” he said, while apparently referring to the deteriorating situation in Pakistan. Mukherjee, who wrapped up his two-day visit to the Saudi capital on Sunday, said that many countries, particularly India, have been affected by the US-led war against Afghanistan. There was initial hope that the war would stamp out the terrorism plaguing India but this was soon belied, and the Afghan situation remains highly unpredictable, he added. Mukherjee also discussed with Saudi officials ways to finalize the ambitious plan to set up a $750 million Saudi-Indian Joint Investment Fund. The fund will extend support in the form of seed money to boost investment relations between Riyadh and New Delhi. In his meetings with King Abdullah and other high-ranking Saudi officials, Mukherjee sought more Saudi participation in boosting commercial relations and more participation in the infrastructure sector besides changing the current buyer-seller relationship in the petroleum sector to a more participatory one. “Indian and Saudi businessmen would like to participate in the petrochemical industry,” he said. He added that “it was also decided earlier to have a joint fertilizer project that would be gas-based.” The minister said that Riyadh and New Delhi were looking for the allocation of gas for this project. Regarding the global financial crisis, he said that he shared information with Saudi officials in this regard, particularly with regard to the forthcoming G20 finance ministers meeting to be held in Scotland on Nov. 7. He also pointed out that the G20 finance ministers meeting would “work out an action plan, particularly with reference to the financing of climate change.” Asked about the new dates of the visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Saudi Arabia, the Indian minister said that the new sets of dates, in February and March next year, would be formally proposed and communicated through diplomatic channels to the Saudi side.