Indo- Saudi Relations

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India, Saudi Arabia to ink extradition treaty during Manmohan visit

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.

Keywords: Manmohan Singh, King Abdullah, Riyadh visit, extradition treaty
 

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PM to offer crude storage facilities to Saudi Arabia

India will offer Saudi Arabia and other oil-rich countries such as Kuwait, Sudan and Oman facilities for strategic storage of crude and petroleum products in the country.

The proposal will figure prominently between India and Arab nations during the three-day visit of prime minister Manmohan Singh to Saudi Arabia beginning Saturday. Petroleum minister Murli Deora and honchos of the country’s upstream and oil marketing companies will be part of the prime minister’s delegation. India will offer land in Rajasthan for the gulf nations to set up their storage stations, said a petroleum ministry official.

The volume and products to be stored can be at their discretion. Engineers India Limited (EIL) will help with required consultancy needs, he added. The countries can use India as a transit point to supply oil to south Asian nations. These projects will help India to build strong bilateral relationship with the countries along with securing an emergency backup of crude and petroleum products. The facilities in Rajasthan will be connected through Kandla port.

India, which imports close to 80 per cent of its crude oil, is building storage terminals similar to those in countries such as the US, Japan and China. Petroleum secretary S Sundareshan had earlier said that the first storage terminal would be completed by mid-2011 and two others will be operational in the following year.

The first terminal will be built at Visakhapatnam with a capacity of 1.33 million tonnes. The other two terminals will be constructed at Mangalore that will take India’s total storage capacity close to 5 million tonnes. India is planning for emergency oil storage capacity up to 15 million tonnes. This will be achieved in phases.

Recently, India offered world’s third-largest oil rich country, Iraq, to use some of the space in these terminals. This will help India secure long-term energy contracts. India’s crude oil import in the first nine months of this financial year rose by 12 per cent to 109.32 million tonnes.
 

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Interview of our Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh by Faheem Al-Hamid of Saudi Gazette. Covers among others India’s relations with Saudia Arabia, GCC and the Arab world
Support for Palestine is an article of faith for us

Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh immediately recognized me and greeted me warmly when I met him for this interview at his office in New Delhi’s Race Course Road last Monday. Greeting me warmly, he recalled my earlier interview with him during the visit of King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, to New Delhi four years ago. Dr. Singh remarked that he has fond memories of that visit by the King, which he described as historic by any measure.
Dr. Singh is the first Indian prime minister since Jawaharlal Nehru to be returned to power after completing a full five-year term. He is widely credited with being the architect of India’s economic reforms; as finance minister from 1991 to 1996, he steered India on to the path of economic reforms in 1991, ending the country’s infamous License Raj system and opening up its vast economy and market to the world.
Manmohan Singh was born in Gah, Punjab (now in Chakwal District, Pakistan) on Sept, 26, 1932. After the partition of British India, he migrated to Amritsar, India. He attained his bachelor’s and master’s degrees as a topper from Punjab University, Chandigarh, and went on to read Economics at Cambridge and completed his D.Phil at Oxford in Britain. In 1997, the University of Alberta presented him with an Honorary Doctor of Laws.
The University of Oxford awarded him an honorary Doctor of Civil Law degree in June 2006, and in October 2006, the University of Cambridge followed with the same honor. St. John’s College further honored him by naming a PhD Scholarship after him, the Dr. Manmohan Singh Scholarship.
During both our meetings, I was impressed by Dr. Singh’s courtesy, calm and steely confidence, no matter what the many challenges facing his country, internally or externally. Answering questions he is precise and to the point, reflecting his clear vision of India in the 21st century. And that for me is what makes Dr. Singh so refreshing a leader to interview.

By Faheem Al-Hamid

Q: Both India and Saudi Arabia have hailed the visit of King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, to New Delhi in January 2006 as a landmark development marking the start of strategic relations between the two countries. Today, four years later, what is your assessment of the progress made in this reinvigorated partnership that was initiated as part of King Abdullah’s ‘Look East’ policy? What are the most significant achievements so far?
A: The visit of King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, to India as Chief Guest at our Republic Day in January 2006 was a landmark event. This was the first visit of a Saudi ruler to India after 50 years. The Delhi Declaration signed by His Majesty King Abdullah and me enshrined our commitment to pursue a common strategic vision for promoting regional peace and security and for the enhancement of our relations in the political, economic, security and cultural fields.
My return visit to Saudi Arabia will give us an occasion to once again reaffirm our commitment to work together to restore peace and stability in the Gulf; to promote economic development; to move forward in specific areas where there are immense opportunities – in energy cooperation, in pharmaceuticals, in many other areas where India needs the help of Saudi industry. In the same way we have capabilities in important areas like IT and pharmaceuticals, etc. We can jointly work together to promote mutually beneficial cooperation.
The Gulf is our extended neighborhood. Five million people from India are working in the Gulf. Saudi Arabia is a very important destination for our citizens. And we are very grateful to His Majesty and the government and the people of Saudi Arabia for the warm welcome they have extended to the people from India in Saudi Arabia.
For us, Saudi Arabia is a key strategic partner. We need to cooperate at the bilateral level. I have mentioned the possibilities of beneficial economic cooperation. At the same time, we seek the help of Saudi Arabia in tackling the problem of global terrorism, which is our common enemy. We also can cooperate to promote human resource development. We are living in a world where science and technology have emerged as the major determinants of power and wealth of nation. Therefore, our two countries can work together in promoting human resource development, in promoting research and development. I look upon my visit as an opportunity to upgrade our partnership to a new level of strategic partnership in which India and Saudi Arabia can work together to bring peace and prosperity to our region.
We have made considerable progress in realizing our vision to strengthen our bilateral partnership. There have been regular high-level ministerial exchanges as well as intensified interaction among the business community, academia and other sections of society. The meeting of the India-Saudi Arabia Joint Commission took place in November 2009, which has put in place an ambitious agenda for bilateral cooperation. Saudi Arabia is India’s fourth largest trading partner with two-way trade of over $25 billion. The number of joint ventures in the Kingdom is over 500 with an estimated investment of over $2 billion (about SR7.5b). We welcome increased investments from Saudi Arabia into India especially in the infrastructure sector where mutually beneficial opportunities exist.

Q: Please give a brief synopsis of the talks that you intend to have with King Abdullah and other senior Saudi officials during your visit to Saudi Arabia this month. The visit is very significant since an Indian PM will be visiting the Kingdom after 28 years.
A: India and Saudi Arabia belong to the same extended neighborhood. In the Delhi Declaration, we had pledged to work together not just for our bilateral benefit, but also to promote peace, stability and security in the region and the world. Both King Abdullah and I reject the notion that any cause justifies wanton violence against innocent people. We are strong allies against the scourge of extremism and terrorism that affects global peace and security.
During my visit, I propose to discuss with King Abdullah how can we promote greater stability and security in the region. We also have a substantial agenda for the advancement of bilateral relations in diverse areas such as trade and investment, energy, defense and security, social and cultural cooperation, and people-to-people exchanges. I look forward to interacting with the members of the business community in Saudi Arabia and inviting them to be a partner in India’s rapid socio-economic transformation through major infrastructure, energy, industry and services related projects.

Q: Which are the agreements or MoUs that India will sign with the Kingdom during your visit?
A: Several cooperation agreements are likely to be signed during my visit which will represent a broad range of Indo-Saudi cooperation in the fields of economic cooperation, culture, science and technology and information technology. I am confident these will further enrich our close relations.

Q: Your visit takes place in the midst of regional tension in Iran and also in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the US and the Western countries continuing to exert pressure on Iran over the nuclear issue. What role do you foresee India playing in this context in partnership with the Kingdom?
A: We are witnessing significant geo-political developments, which will directly impact on the peace and stability in the region. All these issues need to be addressed through sustained efforts. I believe that India and Saudi Arabia, as two major countries in the region, have an important stake and responsibility in this regard. In my dialogue with the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, I propose to review the regional scenario, and discuss how we can work together to address the complex issues at hand.
I sincerely believe that diplomacy is the best instrument to resolve tensions in the Gulf region including the problems that have arisen in dealing with the nuclear program of Iran. Diplomacy should be given its chance. I still hope that the world community can work together to find a peaceful way of resolving the differences that have arisen. Our own view has been that Iran is a signatory to the NPT; it is entitled to all the rights that go with its membership of the NPT; and it must also observe all the obligations that go as part of the membership of NPT.

Q: How do you assess India’s partnership with the Gulf states, especially Saudi Arabia, when it comes to fighting terrorism? What are the collective measures India is taking with the SAARC states and the Gulf states to combat this evil?
A: Terrorism remains the single biggest threat to peace, stability and to our progress. Global efforts are needed to defend the values of pluralism, peaceful coexistence and the rule of law. All the member countries of the GCC share India’s concerns relating to extremism and terrorism. We reject the idea that any religion or cause can be used to justify violence against innocent people. We have institutionalized our cooperation with the Gulf countries by putting in place various security cooperation agreements, including extradition treaties.
SAARC as an organization has committed itself to fighting terrorism. The SAARC Council of Ministers Meeting in February 2009 issued a Ministerial Declaration on Cooperation in Combating Terrorism. Given the fact that today extremist and terrorist activities straddle South Asia and West Asia and constitute a grave threat to our peoples, I agree that the SAARC and GCC anti-terrorism efforts should be more effectively coordinated.
Q: Does India intend to conclude a defense pact with the Kingdom?
A: We do not have a defense agreement with Saudi Arabia. Since King Abdullah’s visit to India four years ago, our defense ties have, however, diversified and become more substantial. We have exchanged visits of our service chiefs and naval ships, and Saudi officers have participated in our training programs, including at the prestigious National Defense College. We look forward to deepening our defense cooperation with Saudi Arabia.

Q: There is concern in the Mideast about growing Indo-Israeli defense cooperation in recent times, which many fear could be at the expense of India’s traditional support for Arab causes. How do you address this concern?
A: I would submit that this concern is misplaced. Our relationship with no single country is at the expense of our relations with any other country. Indeed, India’s relations with the countries in West Asia give us the opportunity to interact in diverse ways with this very important region.
As far as India’s support for Palestine is concerned, this is an article of faith for us. Our solidarity with the people of Palestine predates our independence. India supports a peaceful solution that would result in a sovereign, independent, viable and united State of Palestine living within secure and recognized borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, side by side at peace with Israel as endorsed in the Quartet Road Map and the relevant Security Council Resolutions. We also support the Arab Peace Plan.
I recently had the pleasure of hosting President Mahmoud Abbas and reiterating to him our steadfast support for Palestine and its people.

Q: How do you see the future relationship of India with the Arab world?
A: India’s ties with the Arab world go back several millennia. While we recall our historic ties with great pride, we do recognize that relationships have to be constantly nourished and revitalized so that they respond to new realities and aspirations. India and the Arab world are witnessing a rapid modernization of their societies and economies. The India of today is vastly different from what we were at the time of our independence. The same is true of the Arab world.
There is no conflict of interest between us. To the contrary, our destinies are tied together and we have much to gain by intensifying our cooperation with each other. We have a huge stake in each other’s success, and to that extent ours is a relationship that is of strategic importance.
I would like to see a much greater integration of our economies, higher flow of trade and investment, better connectivity and freer flow of ideas and people. This has in fact been our historical legacy, and we should revive that legacy. From our side, there are no impediments to a rapid, sustained and comprehensive expansion of relations between India and the Arab world.

Q: How can India play a more active role in enhancing the dialogue between East and West? How do you view King Abdullah’s initiative for the interfaith dialogue, which started in Madrid? What role can Indian Muslims play to enhance the interfaith dialogue?
A: India is a 5,000-year-old civilization that today represents a confluence of religions, languages and cultures. We deeply value the principles of peaceful co-existence and harmony among nations. We will continue to work with all like-minded countries to create a just and equitable international order that is conducive to meeting the challenges of poverty, illiteracy and hunger.
We deeply appreciate and support the idea of an inter-faith dialogue. The knowledge of religious beliefs and practices of other people is important and can foster greater understanding and tolerance. We have experience of this in our own country. Islam is an integral part of India’s democratic and secular fabric. Muslims in India are part of our national mosaic, and have enriched our society. Like all other Indians, they enjoy the full protection of our laws, and the full rights guaranteed to every Indian under our Constitution.
His Majesty has done a great deal to promote the dialogue among civilizations. And I look forward to renewing my discussions with him, which I enjoyed very much when talking to him.

Q: Some 1.6 million Indians live and work in Saudi Arabia. What steps your government is taking for their welfare?
A: We are extremely proud of the fact that the Indian community in the Gulf region has been contributing to the socio-economic development of the region. There are over five million Indian workers in the Gulf, of which almost two million live and work in Saudi Arabia alone. We are very grateful for the warm welcome they have received throughout the region.
The welfare of such a large overseas Indian community is a matter of high priority for my government. The Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs, which we had set up six years ago, has worked tirelessly for the welfare of the Indian community in consultation with the host governments. The governments of several GCC countries have themselves set up mechanisms such as grievance redressal bodies and labor courts that are working closely with our officials. In addition, we have signed MoUs on labor and manpower with most of the GCC countries.
At the Indian end, we are in the process of reforming our own procedures, including better regulation of the recruitment process.
We have also put in place arrangements in all Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia, to respond to workers’ grievances. These include a 24-hour helpline, temporary shelters, counseling centers, and strengthened Community Welfare Wings in our diplomatic missions.

Q: It takes a lot of courage for a democratic setup like India to try and bring the India-Pakistan talks back on track, especially when you are suffering from the scourge of terrorism. Is the resumption of dialogue at the secretaries’ level a change in the government stand? Your stated position is that while India is ready to keep talking to Pakistan, the stalled peace process can resume only if Islamabad acts against the alleged planners of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
A: There is no change in our position. We seek a peaceful and normal relationship with Pakistan. We should be good neighbors. In that quest we have consistently sought to engage those in Pakistan who are ready to work with us. There is no alternative to dialogue to resolve the issues that divide us. Today the primary issue is terrorism.

Q: How serious is the Pakistan Taliban threat to India, especially to Jammu & Kashmir which has bubbled up again. How could the Kashmir issue be solved once and for all?
A: As a neighbor, we cannot remain immune to the rise of extremism and terrorism in Pakistan, or on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Extremism and terrorism are major threats not only to India, but also to Pakistan, and all its other neighbors. It is in our collective interest that we resolutely oppose, resist and overcome terrorism and all those who nurture, sustain and give sanctuary to terrorists and extremist elements.
It is a fact that Jammu and Kashmir and its people have suffered repeatedly at the hands of terrorism from across the border. This has militated against the will of the people of the state, who have time and again voted in large numbers in democratic elections to unambiguously reject violence. We have taken several measures for the development of Jammu and Kashmir, and for its people to live in peace and harmony, as in the rest of the country. In so far as our dialogue with Pakistan is concerned, we are ready to discuss all issues with them in an atmosphere free from terrorism.

Q: How can Saudi Arabia and India work together and cooperate to find solutions to climate change and global warming?
A: The world needs a new energy paradigm in which renewable sources of energy will acquire an increasingly important role. I suggest that our two countries can work together to promote renewable sources of energy. We have the capabilities: Saudis have also the capabilities. And our two countries can work together to promote nuclear and renewable sources of energy as a major component of the new energy paradigm that the world sees. Also, the Copenhagen meet did not produce the desired results. I think before we go to Mexico there is need for increased collaboration, consultation between all like-minded countries, and Saudi Arabia is a very important player in G-20 as well as in international fora.
Therefore, we would be very happy to collaborate with Saudi Arabia in exchanging views and ideas on how the Mexico Conference can be a success story. – Okaz/SG
 

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Af-Pak concerns fuel India-Saudi ties on PM's visit

An Indian prime minister is visiting Saudi Arabia after 28 years




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With 1.8 million Indian workers, $29 billion two-way trade and the assured supply of 20 per cent of India’s petroleum needs, the relationship between India and Saudi Arabia should have been on top of the radar.

Instead, as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived in the Saudi capital today, the first Indian prime minister since Indira Gandhi visited the oil kingdom in 1982, a slew of largely opaque briefings from the Delhi establishment masked what is promising to be a turning point in India’s ties with the Arab world.

The PM will address the Majlis-e-Shura, the 150-member Shura Council made up of Saudi Arabia’s princely and intellectual elite, itself a singular honour. He is accompanied by a delegation of major Indian business hoping to garner a slice of the $600 billion that Riyadh has put aside for its own modernisation.

And significantly, senior diplomat Latha Reddy, in charge of Saudi Arabia as well as the rest of the Arab world in the Foreign Office, will not wear the ‘abaya’, the all-black, floor-length caftan or the ‘hijab,’ a black veil that covers the head, when she accompanies the PM on his visit that lasts till March 1.

The Saudi concession to the Indian woman diplomat is, admittedly, largely symbolic in nature, but it is a sign of the changing times, both in Riyadh and in Delhi. On the eve of the PM’s trip, government sources said India had agreed to offer 10 per cent equity to Saudi Aramco, the Saudi petroleum company which holds the world’s largest oil reserves, in a refinery being built in Paradip in Orissa.

Saudi Arabia has been one the major suppliers of India’s crude oil needs for the last 25 years, but after King Abdullah’s visit as chief guest on the 2006 Republic Day celebrations, it became the number one supplier, overtaking Iran. The change occurred after India voted against Iran at the IAEA in 2005, and sought to diversify its oil relationships. Delhi is keen that the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC), a leading manufacturer of fertilisers, plastics and metals, invest in several petro-chemical projects in India.

And during the visit itself — apart from a slew of agreements which include an extradition treaty, exchange of sentenced prisoners, cooperation in outer space — a Saudi investment fund is also expected to be set up.

Abdul Rahman A Al Rabiah, a Saudi businessman also the head of the India-Saudi Business Council, said, “Saudi Arabia was very keen on dynamic business ties with Indian businessmen, in fact there is a convergence of interests between both countries.”

But added, somewhat sorrowfully, that Indian businessmen didn’t want to reciprocate Saudi Arabia’s attention, because they were often consumed with doing business with the Western world. It is clear, however, that profit is not the most important motive that is driving the rapidly warming economic relationship. As the custodian of the two Holy Mosques in Mecca and Medina, King Abdullah is keenly aware that Saudi Arabia must play a stabilising role in a region being radically altered by the growing threat of terrorism and the larger-than-life presence of the Americans.

The presence of Talmiz Ahmad, hand-picked by Delhi to return to Saudi Arabia as India’s ambassador, his second such assignment to that country, is another signal that Delhi wants the relationship to be invigorated.

“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,” Ahmad told journalists on the eve of the PM’s visit. Ahmad said he hoped an “institutionalised dialogue” that ran the gamut of intelligence, defence, energy security and trade would be put into place.

It is rumoured that the head of Saudi intelligence visited India after the Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008.

With the Af-Pak frontier being widely acknowledged as the epicenter of jehad, the PM is keenly aware that political and religious heavyweights like King Abdullah must play on the front foot to push reconciliation between the moderate Taliban and the Hamid Karzai government.

For India, stability in Afghanistan is close to the bone. For the third time in three years, Taliban attacks in the heart of Kabul have targetted Indians. The Friday attack on the Safi Landmark hotel in Kabul killed nine Indians, but no Taliban group has so far claimed responsibility. Afghan sources had earlier confirmed that the first attack against the Indiann embassy in 2008 was the handiwork of the Sirajuddin Haqqani group based in North Waziristan in Pakistan, while the second attack in 2009, also against the Indian embassy, was planned and executed by the Lashkar-e-Toiba, also based in Pakistan.

India is keen that Saudi Arabia, with its decades-old ties with Pakistan and Afghanistan – it was one of the three countries in the world, along with Pakistan and the UAE which recognized the Taliban regime in Kabul – can help Islamabad to see that it’s continued linkages with the Taliban are not really in its own strategic interest.

Afghan president Hamid Karzai made much the same request when he was in Riyadh some weeks ago. Karzai’s brother led the first delegation of moderate Afghan Taliban to talks during the Ramzan period in September 2008, upon a request from the Saudi king.

India believes that King Abdullah’s enormous influence in Pakistan, cutting across political lines as well as across the army and civil society, can only positively impact ties between India and Pakistan, recently re-started after a 14-month gap.

At home, thousands of madrassas and several Indian Islamic organisations are said to have received huge finances from Saudi Arabia, notably the Sunni sect, the Ahl-e-Hadith. India’s 170 million Muslim population means that relations with the kingdom are very close, but several observers say they are concerned that the Saudi state’s Wahabi ideology has a profound impact on the more easygoing strains of South Asian Islam.

The observers argued that that was why the PM’s visit to such an influential country was so important. “There’s no point eating lunch with someone who agrees with you on everything. The Saudis are hugely conservative, while India is a raucous democracy, but when both sides find commonalities, it is bound to make a difference to the region,” said an observer who sought anonymity.
 

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Saudi-Indian ties

The three-day visit of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the Kingdom is as welcome as it is overdue.

Both countries have much in common. Each has been undergoing far-reaching changes and each has set out to assert a high-profile role on the world stage, for instance as members of the G20. Meanwhile, since the end of the Cold War, the world around us has changed, offering new challenges, not least the evil of terrorism, as well as new opportunities, in terms of both trade and diplomacy.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah’s 2006 visit to India was designed to lay the foundation of a new relationship, which would dispel past suspicions and explore ways in which India and the Kingdom could work together. Now Premier Singh is visiting us and the significance of his trip is underlined by the fact that it is the first time in 28 years that an Indian leader has made the journey to Riyadh.

Therefore, high hopes rest on the renewal of what has been a historic relationship reaching back several centuries. Saudi Arabia’s trading importance to India extends beyond the fact that we supply a quarter of India’s oil needs. Our non-oil exports have grown strongly in recent years. As India’s spectacular economic growth continues, Saudi capital can help finance new ventures.

Indian exports to the Kingdom have, meanwhile, been coming close to doubling year on year and at the end of 2008 stood at more than $3.7 billion. Clearly we have much to gain from India’s burgeoning IT and high technology sector. With world-class facilities such as King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), the opportunities for much closer cooperation, not least on advanced research, are obvious. Boosting trade and technology exchanges between friendly nations is, however, relatively simple. Creating trust at a diplomatic level requires something more. Both India and Saudi Arabia have experienced the scourge of international terror and are watching with concern as the region now grapples with the hydra of extremism. A stable Pakistan is a key to wider regional security and indeed prosperity. The inconclusive end to last week’s talks between India and Pakistan was, therefore, a disappointment to all parties. The important factor is, however, that both New Delhi and Islamabad are talking again and in doing so recognize that it is only through negotiations, however long and hard, that a lasting settlement of their differences will be ironed out.

It is certain that during his visit Manmohan Singh will be offered by the king and his government whatever help they can to ease this difficult but extremely important rapprochement.

Whatever other agreements come out of the Indian leader’s visit to us, it must be hoped that he will leave with the conviction that Saudi Arabia really is willing and anxious to play its part in promoting cordial relations between India and its neighbors. This reciprocal top-level meeting will ideally complete the foundation of trust, which will now allow Saudi and Indian ministers, diplomats and businessmen to build up a new and deeper relationship.
 

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PM visits Saudi with Pak in mind

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived to an unprecedented welcome in Riyadh on Saturday.
With Pakistan in mind, India is gearing up for greater security cooperation with Saudi Arabia.
In his first comment on the recent talks with Pakistan, Singh said there was “no alternative” to dialogue to resolve issues which “divide us”.
Singh, in an interview to Saudi journalists before leaving for Riyadh, said it was in the common interest of India and Pakistan to cooperate in fighting the menace of terrorism.
On his arrival, Singh was received at the King Khaled international airport by the en-tire Saudi cabinet led by crown prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz. Ten agreements are expected to be signed during Singh’s visit.
The extradition treaty with Saudi Arabia, reported first by HT, to be signed on Sunday, forms an important part of the security cooperation. Officials said it will come as a great deterrent against those wanted in India, including underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, reported to have been using Saudi as a safe haven.
The Prime Minister visits the Gulf nation 28 years after Indira Gandhi visited the country in 1982, in what Indian officials see as a crucial time in the security matrix of the world. Government sources said both nations need to come closer to fight terror, including sharing real time intelligence.
“We are witnessing significant geo-political developments which will directly impact the peace and stability of the region. All these issues need to be addressed through sustained efforts,” Singh said, while speaking to Saudi journalists. “In my dialogue with King Abdullah bin Abulaziz I propose to review the regional scenario and discuss how we can work these complex issues at hand.”
 

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India, Saudi to share information on terrorist movement, arms, drugs

Riyadh: Security and counter-terrorism measures will get top priority during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Saudi Arabia, says India's Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Talmiz Ahmad.

"This visit, taking place four years after the visit of (Saudi Arabia's) King Abdullah (Bin Abdul Aziz) to India will give both sides an opportunity to discuss important global and regional issues," Ahmad told.

"The presence of Taliban in Afghanistan, in Pakistan and along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border is a matter of deep concern. After all, it is the Taliban that is funding the Al-Qaeda," he said.

According to the ambassador, the meeting between the prime minister and King Abdullah will review this terrorism issue.

India and Saudi Arabia are set to sign a historic extradition treaty during the course of Manmohan Singh's visit, the first by an Indian prime minister to that Gulf nation in 28 years after the visit of then prime minister Indira Gandhi in 1982.

"Twenty years back, India's concerns about the growth of such organizations were not taken seriously even by the West. Nowadays, these countries as also Saudi Arabia are victims of terrorism," Ambassador Ahmad, for whom this is his second stint as ambassador in Riyadh, said.

"Only recently, 133 Saudi soldiers were killed fighting rebels in Yemen," he said.

Stating that Saudi Arabia has a lot of information that could be shared with India and so could India, he said all arrangements would be put in place so that bilateral cooperation in this regard happens at the topmost level.

The two sides will sign a historic extradition treaty during the course of the prime minister's visit.

"The two countries will exchange information on movement of terrorists, drugs and arms," Ahmad said.

At the same time, he stated that all future strategic ties needed a sound economic basis.

"After the global financial crisis, India has emerged as an important partner for Saudi Arabia. For Saudi Arabia it is matter of deep importance to develop strong economic ties with India," he said.

"The Saudi side wants Indian companies for JVs (joint ventures) and the help of Indian IT companies to develop their knowledge industry."

As far as energy security is concerned - Saudi Arabia is the largest supplier of crude oil to India - the ambassador said efforts were on from India's part to meet the requirements of the Saudi side.

The historic Delhi Declaration signed during the visit of King Abdullah in 2006 talks of taking the buyer-seller relationship between the two sides when it came to petroleum products to a more participatory level.

"We are trying to bridge the gap between what we offer and what they want," Ambassador Ahmad said.

As for the 1.6-million strong expatriate Indian population in that Gulf nation, he said that a number of community welfare initiatives have been taken by the embassy with India's Minsitry of Overseas Indian Affairs playing an active role.

"The welfare of the Indian community in Saudi Arabia is a joint responsibility of both India and Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabia has agreed to this," Ahmad said.
 

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India and Saudi Arabia to ink extradition treaty

New Delhi, Feb 26 (PTI) Terrorism and security cooperation will be high on the agenda of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during his three-day visit to Saudi Arabia from tomorrow when the two countries will sign an extradition treaty and several other agreements to bolster strategic ties.

Singh will be the first Indian PM to visit Saudi Arabia after 28 years, the last one undertaken by Indira Gandhi in 1982.

"The visit aims at reinforcing the strategic partnership between the two countries," Vijaya Latha Reddy, Secretary (East) told reporters here.

The Prime Minister will hold talks with King Abdullah on a number of bilateral and regional matters of mutual concern and also address the influential Shoura Council, a unique honour bestowed upon select dignitaries.
 

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…Till Kingdom come?

Tomorrow will bring another Rip Van Winkle moment in India’s foreign policy: That’s when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hops onto a plane and flies to Saudi Arabia. Not many Indian prime ministers do that. The last time it happened was when Indira Gandhi met King Khalid when she flew into Jeddah on April 17, 1982, almost 28 years ago. The meeting, according to note-takers, was scheduled for 45 minutes. It went on for 90 minutes, unusual in itself. In fact the King (jestfully?) remarked to Mrs Gandhi: “You are giving ideas to our women.” (In Saudi Arabia women are not allowed, among umpteen other things, even to drive cars.) Mrs Gandhi, according to diplomats present in the room responded (tartly?): “How long do you think you can restrain your women?” For the record, 28 years and counting.
It is not yet known (or rather, revealed) how His Royal Highness responded to that bit of effrontery but it is recorded that some months after that, the King died (due to unrelated causes, it may be hastily clarified). A year later, so goes the diplomatic lore, Mrs Gandhi is said to have met his successor King Fahd in Cancun, Mexico. Here too the file notings come to our help. They reveal that it was a fundamentally useful meeting with the scope of taking the relationship, between the major countries of South Asia and West Asia, forward. Some months thereafter Mrs Gandhi was rudely removed from Earth and the marginal intentions gathered dust and silverfish in the mouldering files and became faint memories in the minds of retired diplomats.
India’s Saudi relationship became an off and on thing. Diplomats privately joke that it has been more off than on, really. In fact, mostly off. It was switched on again during one of those episodic fits of pragmatism that afflicts the ministry of external affairs when it unfurls a far-seeing blueprint for robust engagement with countries that are considered important but not that important. Revisionist babus in the ministry, always on the lookout for telltale signs and other oracular evidences took due note that Riyadh did not call off a naval visit to Jubail in kneejerk response to Pokhran; after Chagai, Riyadh with nuance and balance called upon both India and Pakistan to resolve their differences. Promptly thereafter Jaswant Singh became the first foreign minister to visit that desert kingdom. That was in January 2001. But it was a visit not without the usual hiccups that characterise our ties with Saudi Arabia. It was scheduled for October the previous year but was cancelled at the last minute after the Saudis cited the (ever-present?) Palestinian-Israeli crisis. After Jaswant’s brief visit the relationship went back to the mainly off mode.
Commitments were made for political and economic engagement but 9/11 intervened and was followed, in no particular order, by pre-occupation with royal illness, Al Khobar bombings, Osama bin Laden, explanations to the West. When King Abdullah came in January 2006 with planeloads of (off-the-record spin doctors carefully said “potential business investors”) entourage, there emerged a Delhi Declaration, enshrining more pious intentions, the kind bureaucrats are great at coming up with but political masters poor at pushing forward to fruition.
Ultimately, our Saudi policy has been seasonal at best: those in the loop keep their fingers fervently crossed during the Haj season hoping (and maybe even praying) that everything goes smoothly without incident; and India has posted dissipated old men, niche politicos without future but great governor material and with heft at 10 Janpath as envoys, a reflection of exactly how important New Delhi considered Riyadh in the scheme of things.
Diplomats attribute this state of affairs to neglect. Mutual neglect, they hasten to add, of course, emphasising the peculiar bilateral aspect of this culpability. After further thought they prefix the phrase ‘mutual neglect’ with the word ‘benign’. It was a relationship heavily coloured by Saudi Arabia’s indiscriminate funding, both real and perceived, of extremist causes around the globe. In Chechnya, Afghanistan, Kashmir. Intelligence officials used to say off-the-record that all you had to do was scratch hard enough the skin of the fundamentalist and sure enough Saudi Oil money would spurt out in never-ceasing fountains. The then chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Farooq Abdullah in October 1999 informed the state assembly that it was Saudi Arabia which was financing most of the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami schools in the Valley. It is, of course, besides the point that it has been recorded elsewhere and (not) jokingly, that those were the only ones that functioned in the Valley.
The headquarters of that curious organisation, which India has been assiduously kept out of, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, is in Saudi Arabia; for long the lingering Saudi presence in the OIC’s contact group on Kashmir blocked our foreign policy mandarins’ strategic vision. The Cold War and Pakistan did the rest of the damage. It was only after the then Crown Prince Abdullah who was in October 1997 accorded a rousing reception at Lahore’s Shalimar Gardens, declared there, at the very spot where Muammar Gaddaffi had enthralled his Pakistani hosts, that Saudi Arabia looked forward to a peaceful and negotiated settlement of Kashmir that the Indian foreign policy establishment began to look with Saudi Arabia with more balanced eyes. The Saudi change was, however, not without its caveat: negotiated settlement in accordance with the UN resolutions, a caveat that never failed to surface whenever the UN General Assembly met or the OIC convened, diplomats point out in that resigned way which indicates to them that all this is posturing, not real.
It is not easy to overlook that despite the fact that Saudi Arabia has long ago replaced Iraq as our largest oil supplier, dependably meeting in fact a quarter of our requirement, nothing much really happens between the visits. Our blue collar exports go up; white collars remain more or less where they are. Political aspects of the relationship still flounder. Indian investments are more in the Kingdom than Saudi investments in India. True, there is a silver lining in the fact that more than 550 Indian entities are there in the small and medium sector but will Manmohan Singh’s visit finally lead to more Saudi investments in India? Is there enough meeting ground when the two principals discuss regional issues? Does a vague path to Islamabad and Kabul lie through Riyadh? What kind of a dialogue of civilisations will our prime minister engage in? Or will this Rip van Winkle go back to his slumber? We’ll know soon enough. (I’m sure).
 

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NIA pins hopes on pact with Saudi Arabia

KOCHI: The investigation into terror-related cases in Kerala will get a shot in the arm once Prime Minister Manmohan Singh seals the extradition treaty with Saudi Arabia and initiates a discussion on handing over those accused in terror cases to India.
Sources in the Union Ministry said that the Prime Minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia later this month would be of prime importance as it would enable the government to get the custody of several wanted persons who were believed to be holed up in various parts of Saudi Arabia.
“The extradition treaty will benefit the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which has taken over the investigation of terror-related cases in Kerala,” sources said.
“The Prime Minister will take up matters related to handing over of those accused in terror cases to India during his visit to Saudi Arabia,” said Union Home Secretary G K Pillai.
According to senior police officials, the probe into several cases had revealed that the accused used to escape to Middle East countries and once they land there, it became difficult for the investigating team to nab them.
Investigation has already revealed that several accused in Kalamassery bus burning case, Ernakulam Collectorate blast case, and those involved in Panayikulam and Wagamon SIMI training camps, had fled to Middle East and had gone underground in several countries, including Saudi Arabia.
“After tracing the whereabouts of the accused in the Middle East, we used to approach the sponsor. We apprise the sponsor of the facts and ask him to cancel the visa of the accused. We keep trail of the movements of the accused and once he or she lands in India, we take them into custody from the airport,” police officials said explaining the arduous procedure being followed to nab those persons who had escaped to Saudi Arabia and the Middle East.
 

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Rousing welcome for PM in S Arabia



RIYADH: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh landed at the King Khaled International Airport, the first Premier to do so in 28 years, in what promises to be a path-breaking visit.
An indication of that came when the entire Saudi Cabinet received him at the airport led by the brother of King Abdullah who is the Defence Minister, the Civil Aviation Minister as well as the first Deputy Prime Minister all rolled into one.
Along with the Crown Prince was the Interior Minister and Governor of Riyadh Prince Abdul Aziz bin Mohammed bin Ayaf. The formal welcome is scheduled for Sunday when the custodian of the two holy mosques King Abdullah himself will welcome the Prime Minister.
In the course of the visit, a Riyadh Declaration is expected to emerge wherein, for the first time, strategic partnership will be enunciated.
It may be recalled that when the Saudi King visited India as guest for Republic Day in 2006, the Prime Minister himself received him at the airport, a highly unusual gesture.
Incidentally, this is not the first time Manmohan Singh has visited the desert kingdom. He was here in 1994, as Economic Minister, to attend the joint commission meet.
It is almost as if the two countries have suddenly realised how important the other is in its scheme of things. Official sources say, as if to make up for the utter lack of any significant bilateral political activity in the last decades, there have been as many as 19 ministerial visits between the two countries since the visit of the Saudi King.
Officials are now using the phrase `strategic partnership’ to describe what lies ahead in terms of bilateral relationship. They say this relationship will have a security, economic as well as a defence aspect. The visit will also result in new consultative mechanisms at different levels to further solidify the bilateral relationship.
It is expected that there will be at least eight agreements signed, including an extradition treaty for those accused of various crimes.
As an official put it: ``Once there is an extradition treaty it becomes difficult to take refuge in that country.’’ There is expected to be an MoU on cultural cooperation, a cooperation agreement on science and technology, an MoU between D Dot and King Abdul Aziz University, an MoU on research and education, two agreements on trade and one on space.
In an indication of the importance being attached to the visit, for the first time ever King Saud palace is hosting a visiting dignitary by hosting the Prime Minister.
King Saud, a towering figure in this country, visited India in 1955, a year before Jawahar Lal Nehru visited the country. His daughter visited Saudi Arabia in 1982, the last time an Indian Prime Minister has been in this country.
The Saudi television ran a half-anhour programme on bilateral relations to pump up the visit which is also considered highly unusual.
The PM will also address the Majlis al Shoura, the legislative council, in another honour that has been bestowed on the Prime Minister. Officials also said security issues would figure high on the agenda as would energy issues.
Incidentally, the PM’s visit has been put off thrice, once due to illness on the Saudi side, once due to a medical procedure the Prime Minister had to undergo and once for a protocol misunderstanding relating to the dates of the visit.
 

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IAF Volleyball teams wins the friendly Volleyball Match Series between Royal Air Force Oman (RAFO) and Indian Air Force (IAF)

The friendly Volleyball Match Series 2010 between the Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO) and the Indian Air Force (IAF) concluded today. The IAF volleyball team won by 3-1 (25-21, 20-25, 25-15, 25-14) at Rajputana Rifles Indoor Stadium at Delhi Cantt today. Air Marshal Naresh Verma, Director General (Works & Ceremonies) gave away prizes to the participating and winning team.

The RAFO volleyball team was on a four day visit to India from 23 Feb 2010 to play the friendly volleyball match series.
 

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Kingdom’s ‘look East’ policy has a new meaning for India

Bilateral relations between Saudi Arabia and India have come a long way since the maiden visit of late King Saud to India way back in 1953.

Old trade and religious ties between these two ancient lands have strengthened and Saudi Arabia and India have emerged as partners in trade, investment and joint ventures, besides politics and manpower. As the Kingdom remains the principal source of India’s oil requirements, escalating demand for energy security has been increasing India’s sensitivity to the region.

New Delhi expects good relations and an uninterrupted flow of oil to fuel its growth. But enhancing its influence in the Gulf, particularly in Saudi Arabia, can provide India with not just energy security but with a diplomatic gateway to the broader Middle East as well. Yet despite the importance of the situation, India’s diplomatic presence in the Gulf is not up to the mark.

“The visit of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Riyadh creates an opportunity and provides a road map on how to boost Indian presence on political and diplomatic fronts in this region,” said Indian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Talmiz Ahmad in a recent interview with Arab News.

Ahmad said that New Delhi and Riyadh share common approaches on several regional and international issues and India should maintain an engagement to enhance the security of the region including Afghanistan. The remarks made by Ahmad are significant keeping in view the Kingdom’s “Look East” policy, which has now a new meaning for India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

India now has to further India’s profile in the Gulf and seriously engage the region with economic incentives and structures, aggressively pushing India’s corporate interests and policy agendas.

While Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah has been remarkably astute to continually engage India — making a landmark visit in January 2006 as chief guest of India’s Republic Day festivities — reaction and reciprocation from the Indian side has also been very encouraging. Top Indian political leaders visited Riyadh, and the diplomatic presence in the Kingdom was in a way upgraded by posting veteran diplomats like Ahmad, who has arrived recently as new India’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

Undeniably, India’s strategic relations with Saudi Arabia have to be strengthened further and more confidence building measures are to be taken to bring the two great nations even closer.

“Saudi Arabia has supported granting observer status to India in the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and has expanded its cooperation with India to fight terrorism,” said Saudi Ambassador to India Faisal H. Trad, who is currently in Riyadh.

King Abdullah became the first Saudi king in 51 years to visit New Delhi when he visited the country in 2006. An Indo-Saudi joint declaration described the king’s visit as “heralding a new era in India-Saudi Arabia relations”.

On trade front, the two countries have done better. While it is true that since the 1990s India’s economic liberalization has helped improve trade with Saudi Arabia, it is also true that the flow of trade between the two countries is lopsided.

The Saudis annually supply India with nearly 175 million barrels of crude oil, around a quarter of its needs. India’s current exports to Saudi Arabia are far less than the Saudi exports to India. This is an imbalance that India needs to address. The two-way trade, which is growing consistently, has been in the region of $25 billion.

Strong efforts in the diplomatic space can dramatically expand trade and cooperation in fields like telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, health services, information technology, biotechnology and construction.

As developing countries, India and Saudi Arabia need a two-way flow of investment in infrastructure and development.

Indian firms are likely to show a great deal of interest in the Saudi market in light of recent Saudi laws that permit the establishment of large joint venture projects or wholly-owned subsidiaries in the Kingdom.
 

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RIYADH DECLARATION

A New Era of Strategic Partnership


At the invitation of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Prime Minister of the Republic of India, His Excellency Dr. Manmohan Singh paid an official visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from 13-15/3/1431H corresponding to February 27 – March 1, 2010.

During the visit, the Prime Minister of India addressed the Majlis Al-Shoura, and received the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Petroleum and Mineral Resources and Commerce and Industry. An honorary doctorate was conferred upon the Prime Minister by King Saud University.

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh held in depth discussions on a wide range of issues in an atmosphere of utmost warmth, cordiality, friendship and transparency. They asserted that strong bilateral ties between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of India were to the benefit of their peoples and of all humanity.

The two leaders were unanimous that the visit of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to India in 2006, and the current visit of the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia heralded a new era in Saudi-India relations, that is in keeping with the changing realities and unfolding opportunities of the 21st century. This would be in accordance with the civilizational, historic and cultural links which bind them and their regions.

The two leaders reviewed the status of implementation of the historic Delhi Declaration signed on 27/12/1426H corresponding to 27 January 2006, and expressed their satisfaction at the steady expansion of Saudi-India relations since the signing of the Delhi Declaration. They re-emphasized the importance of full implementation of the Delhi Declaration through exchange of visits at the ministerial, official, business, academia, media and other levels.

Keeping in view the development of relations between the two countries, and the potential for their further growth, the two leaders decided to raise their cooperation to a strategic partnership covering security, economic, defence and political areas.

The two leaders reiterated their mutual desire to develop as knowledge-based economies based on advances in the areas of information technology, space science and other frontier technologies. They welcomed the agreements signed between the two sides in the field of Research and Education, Information Technology and Services, Science and Technology, and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

Both leaders emphasized the importance of developing a broad-based economic partnership that reflects the ongoing transformation of their economies, and the changes such transformation are bringing about in the global economic order, including continuous coordination within the framework of the G-20 process. They welcomed the outcome of the 8th Session of the Joint Commission for Economic, Trade, Scientific, Technical and Cultural Cooperation held in Riyadh in October, 2009.

The two leaders stressed on continuing to work towards strengthening their strategic partnership by meeting the two countries' vast requirements relating to infrastructure, energy and development, by augmenting the flow of their investments into each other’s countries, and enhancing the bilateral trade in accordance with the potential and size of their economies. In this regard, the two leaders invited the private sector in the two countries and the Saudi – India Business Council to increase their efforts to take advantage of the investment opportunities provided by the two countries.

The two leaders further emphasised the importance of strengthening the strategic energy partnership based on complimentarity and interdependence, as outlined in the Delhi Declaration, including meeting India's increasing requirement of crude oil supplies, and identifying and implementing specific projects for cooperation including in the areas of new and renewable energy. India invited Saudi Arabia to participate in crude storage facilities in India. They directed the Joint Working Group on Energy to continue adopting all appropriate means to achieve the same.

The two leaders agreed on the role and importance of the youth in consolidating and strengthening the relations between their peoples, and directed the concerned authorities to prepare necessary programmes for activating this role in the framework of Memorandum of Cooperation in the educational field signed between the two countries in 2006, and also providing all necessary facilities to their students studying in both countries.

The two leaders mandated the Saudi-India Joint Commission to continue follow up of the implementation of this Declaration to build this strategic partnership.

The Prime Minister of India expressed his gratitude and appreciation for the excellent efforts made and services provided by the Saudi authorities to the Haj and Umra pilgrims from India.

The two leaders welcomed the level of existing cooperation in defence fields between the concerned authorities in the two countries, and agreed to continue strengthening this cooperation in a way that realizes their common interests.

The two leaders noted that tolerance, religious harmony and brotherhood, irrespective of faith or ethnic background, were part of the principles and values of both countries. These are the same principles advocated by the initiative of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques for dialogue among different faiths and beliefs.

The two leaders renewed condemnation of the phenomena of terrorism, extremism and violence affirming that it is global and threatens all societies and is not linked to any race, color or belief. The international community must, therefore, resolutely combat terrorism. The two sides agreed to enhance cooperation in exchange of information relating to terrorist activities, money laundering, narcotics, arms and human trafficking, and develop joint strategies to combat these threats. They welcomed the signing of the Extradition Treaty and the Agreement for Transfer of Sentenced Persons.

In the course of discussions on regional and international issues, the peace process in the Middle East was high on the agenda. The two leaders reviewed ongoing efforts and the latest developments, and expressed hope for the early resumption of the peace process in accordance with the UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, and the Arab Peace Plan with a view to address all the key issues of the dispute comprehensively and within a definite timeframe leading to the establishment of a sovereign, independent, united and viable Palestinian State, in accordance with the two state solution.

The two leaders emphasized that continued building of settlements by Israel constitutes a fundamental stumbling block for the peace process.

The two leaders emphasized the importance of regional and international efforts focusing on making the Middle East and Gulf Region free of all nuclear weapons and all weapons of mass destruction.

The two leaders reiterated their support for ongoing international efforts to resolve the issues relating to Iran’s nuclear programme peacefully through dialogue and called for continuation of these efforts. They encouraged Iran to respond to those efforts in order to remove regional and international doubts about its nuclear programme, especially as these ensure the right of Iran and other countries to peaceful uses of nuclear energy according to the yardsticks and procedures of International Atomic Energy Agency and under its supervision.

The two leaders discussed the situation in Afghanistan and called for the preservation of Afghanistan’s sovereignty and independence. They expressed their full support for the efforts aimed at helping Afghanistan to develop its infrastructure and achieve social and economic development. They supported the efforts of the people of Afghanistan to achieve stability and security, protected from exploitation by the terrorist organizations, while upholding the values and principles of the Constitution of Afghanistan.

The two leaders discussed the situation in Iraq and expressed hope that the forthcoming elections will enable the people of Iraq to realize their aspirations by achieving security and stability, strengthening territorial integrity and consolidating its national unity on the principle of equality of rights and obligations among all Iraqis irrespective of their faith and sect.

The Prime Minister of India conveyed his deep gratitude and appreciation to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques for the warm and gracious hospitality extended to him and the members of his delegation during his official visit to the Kingdom.

Signed this Sunday, February 28, 2010 (14 Rabea Alawal, 1431H) in Riyadh.

**** SH
 

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India ready to walk extra mile if Pak. acts against terror: Manmohan

India will walk an "extra mile" to open a new chapter in relations with Pakistan if it decisively acts against terrorism, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in Riyadh today.
India is willing to walk the "extra mile" to open a new chapter in relations with Pakistan but it must act decisively against terrorism, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said today.

Addressing the Majlis-al-Shura or the Saudi Consultative Council here, he said India seeks a cooperative relationship with Pakistan for permanent peace as both countries are bound together by a shared future.

"We seek cooperative relations with Pakistan. Our objective is a permanent peace because we recognise that we are bound together by a shared future. If there is cooperation between India and Pakistan, vast opportunities will open up for trade, travel and development that will create prosperity in both countries and in South Asia as a whole," Mr Singh said.

But to realise this vision, the Prime Minister said, Pakistan must "act decisively against terrorism".

"If Pakistan cooperates with India, there is no problem that we cannot solve and we can walk the extra mile to open a new chapter in relations between our two countries," Mr Singh, who is on a three-day visit to the oil-rich kingdom, said.

Noting that both India and Saudi Arabia are threatened by extremism and violence, the Prime Minister said, "History teaches us that the scourge of terrorism must be confronted with determination and united effort.

"Nowhere is this challenge greater than in Afghanistan," Mr Singh said.
 

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http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect...paper/editorial/14-saudi-connection-230-zj-01

Saudi Arabia has been in the news lately and much of it for reasons that may unsettle some here. But a closer look at the goings-on and speculation suggests that the perceived ‘negative’ impact on Pakistan may be an exaggeration.

Yesterday, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh became the first Indian prime minister to visit Saudi Arabia in nearly three decades and his Saudi hosts clearly rolled out the red carpet for him and his entourage. But Pakistanis needn’t worry about losing out in a zero-sum game for Saudi Arabia’s attention. The Saudis were simply acknowledging an emerging reality: that India is establishing itself as a big regional power, and trade with it is becoming increasingly important for other countries.

Afghanistan featured only marginally in the talks — the two countries called for the preservation of Afghanistan’s ‘sovereignty and independence’ — though the Indians will almost certainly be hoping that Saudi Arabia will, when the time comes, try and placate Pakistan over India’s future role in Afghanistan. Even so, it seems quite far-fetched that Saudi Arabia will side with India and veto Pakistan on anything to do with Afghanistan. The Saudis know that a period of uncertainty lies ahead for many of the areas they have an interest in, from Iraq to Yemen and Afghanistan to Iran, and they will want to avoid introducing radical new elements in the most stable of their relationships, such as they have with Pakistan. It’s worth noting, though, that where Pakistan may be interested in Saudi help, India remains fiercely opposed to it: on Kashmir. Indian Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor had to hastily clarify, in the face of criticism from the domestic opposition, that there was no possibility of Saudi ‘mediation’ on the Kashmir issue.

The other big speculation doing the rounds is that the Saudis have leaned on Pakistan in recent weeks to move against the Afghan Taliban leaders scattered across the country here. But this too seems unlikely. While there certainly appears to have been a ‘shift’ in Pakistan’s policy on the Afghan Taliban, two other elements have probably played a bigger role in making that shift possible: renewed American pressure on Pakistan, coinciding with the start of the ‘surge’ in southern Afghanistan, and the Pakistan Army’s internal perceptions of the threat that the Afghan Taliban pose to this country. Only time will tell if the shift in policy is permanent: the army may have decided that enhanced tactical cooperation at this time is merited even though its broader strategic calculations remain the same. Either way, Saudi intervention, if it has in fact occurred, is unlikely to have been decisive.
 

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Indian diplomacy certainly looks to have come off age. There are mainly five countries where Pakistan seeks economic, diplomatic and strategic patronage, namely the usa, the prc and with in the Islamic world the ksa, turkey and iran, and if anything the end of cold war era has certainly come as a baggage of loads of opportunities for us that we have certainly not missed out on by converting them to our advantage for furthering our strategic interests.

During the cold war era there was never a time we had closely worked with any of these five countries, but today all of them in some way or the other want to and have been working with us and this has been achieved by not eroding our strategic influence in our main bastion of yester years, Russia and a new found strategic partner, Israel.

It all began with the usa, which right after the nuclear tests tried to pin us down with numerous sanctions which were not to last for more than 3 years, when 9/11 happened and since then it is the same usa which has brought us out of nuke tech apartheid, not only that, prior to that they always used the Kashmir issue to blackmail us using the uk as a pressing point so that we give in and hand over Kashmir to Pakistan but not any more, compared to those days, they have more or less taken the back seat, and are pushing for a resolution where the LoC gets concerted as the IB, a sentiment shared by India, and the much talked about mush-MMS resolution revolves around that.

The prc was never our strong point and still is not, and they today remain as one of the biggest supporters of Pakistan either by militarily arming them which remains a grave challenge for us or by doling out economic benefits for them, but even here one has seen a change where right after 26/11 india used Beijing to press in on terror network to which Pakistan certainly did seem to have yielded to, to a more recent snub they handed out to the Pakistan again on the Kashmir issue where at the request of the Pakistan foreign minister they did not jump into mediate between India and Pakistan and even before India could react to this proposal, the invite had been shelved in the cold storage by Beijing itself by saying a no and this was followed by again saying a no on any kind of investments in PoK keeping in with the sensitivities of India, the significance of which has to be understood under the context when just last year they were ready to dive in to by taking up such projects earning India’s ire. Some real smart work done there by the Indians.

India having sided with iraq during iraq-iran war also termed as the first gulf war did cause a lot of friction between India-iran relations but then that was only natural because the iran of shah’s days was an anti India country which in the 71 war had sided with pakistan, so the suspicion lingered on and it was to take the second gulf war for India to understand the change in stance of iran which since then was started to be befriended, to the extent India used their influence on at least one occasion (I suspect on 2 occassions) to not allow passage of a resolution condemning India’s role in J&K during the United Nations Human Rights Commission's annual session in Geneva, in April 1994. Along with that much needed support at a very crucial time, today iran remains one of our main oil and gas suppliers, much to the irritation of Pakistan.

Amongst all these five countries it is only turkey which remains a little withdrawn from us but hopefully we could work them around as well in the near future, but that does not mean we have not had economic benefits from them but to isolate Pakistan on the Kashmir issue this still remains a bastion to be won over

The latest fort to fall is the ksa, the plan which came to execution during king abdullah’s India visit in 2006, who was then the first head of the ksa to have visited in 50years and the fruits of this were not far to be seen when in a terrific diplomatic victory India almost managed to get entry in the oic by the support of gulf countries at the behest of the ksa, Oman, Qatar and it would have all been done had the Pakistani ambassador to oic not come to know about his plan at the very last moment in the wee hours of the day when this maneuver was to be pulled off. One can imagine to the extent to which Pakistan was in oblivion on this issue and nearly backstabbed by their arab brothers who did not let the wind out on this issue till the very last moment and had it not been musharraf personally calling up all the arab state heads shouting Pakistan will pull out of the oic and threatening to call a press conference on this issue, by now India would have very well been a part of oic. That aside, arabs have not taken public stand on the Kashmir issue, and have maintained that it is a bilateral issue between both India and Pakistan and needs to be sorted out peacefully between the two countries. With this the ksa also comes as a great investment generating state for India which looks to take big strides economically and it is good to hear the non-double taxation treaty is in place which is sure to tap huge unused financial resources of the gulf states and I am sure in another 2-3 years the ksa along with Singapore and Mauritius will be a top investor in India.

India has taken these huge diplomatic strides at a time when Pakistan remains a rental state to further others core interests and it is no mere feet achieved where 2 of their main supporters are seen as clearly supporting India on the Kashmir issue, with 2 maintaining a neutral stand. One just has to look at the coverage given by Pakistan media and Pakistanis on internet to the visit of Pm to the ksa and compare it to what India or Indians have given in contrast.

Pakistan seems damn nervous!
 
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ajtr

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Manmohan Singhs Saudi Arabia visit and its affect on Pak-India talks.

Naseem Zehra with
1. Nawabzada Malik Amad Khan
2. Marvi Memon
3. Tariq Fatemi
4. Hamid Gul


[video]http://pakistanherald.com/Program/Policy-Matters-March-01-2010-Naseem-Zehra-3133[/video]
 

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some editorial reactios from pakistanj press:

Pakistan losing space

WHILE the Pakistani ruling elite is busy in internecine warfare and embroiled in corruption controversies, it is losing space amongst its old time allies as a result of hard Indian diplomacy. Where once there was almost no Indian presence, today Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Saudi Arabia has brought into light the shifts taking place in that country’s relations with its south Asian neighbourhood. Pakistan has not only taken its relationship with Saudi Arabia as an exceptional one, it has allowed a degree of intrusive access to this special ally in a unique way and one which no one else has been able to emulate. Saudi envoys have on many occasions played critical roles in Pakistan’s domestic political scene and there has been an unwritten norm that public criticism of the Kingdom was not acceptable. After all, Saudi Arabia has come to Pakistan’s rescue unflinchingly in times of need and crises. It is a strategic relationship premised on more than mere diplomatic norms or realpolitik considerations, despite many tactical glitches along the way.
However, the new relationship that now seems to be emerging between India and Saudi Arabia has thrown up some new challenges and realities for Pakistan. After all, India has managed to finalise not just an extradition treaty with the Saudis, but also an Agreement on Transfer of Sentenced Prisoners. These would allow India to rescue its citizens under death sentences in Saudi Arabia. How come Pakistan has not been able to get such agreements with Saudi Arabia? We hear of Pakistanis being beheaded frequently in Saudi Arabia and often for crimes which would not carry the same punishment in Pakistan. So, why have we been unsuccessful in getting an agreement on the transfer of sentenced prisoners or have we simply not tried?Equally important is the Saudi commitment to double the crude oil supply to India and to move towards an energy partnership with India - a major goal of the Indians. Also, it was unfortunate that the Saudis chose to discuss Pakistan’s internal politics while hosting the Indian Prime Minister. We know the Saudis mean well for Pakistan and are disturbed by what they see the Pakistani leaders doing - as are most Pakistanis. That is what was undoubtedly behind Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal’s remark that the Pakistani political leaders should unite and ensure that extremism does not find its way back into the country. But the timing and the symbolism have caused distress in Pakistan, especially since the Indians have been seeking Saudi pressure on Pakistan for their own ends. It is strange that the Saudis chose to remain silent on the issue of the maltreatment of Muslims in India, especially their official victimisation in Gujarat, and in Occupied Kashmir. Clearly, there has been a shift in the Saudi direction in south Asia and Pakistan must take note to reassert its special relationship with Saudi Arabia.
 

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Saudi doublespeak

Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Al Faisal made some very
interesting remarks during Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Saudi Arabia. He said that Pakistan is a “friendly country” and Saudi Arabia was “worried” about the rising tide of extremism there. One would like to remind Prince Faisal as to the role of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in fuelling religious extremism in Pakistan.

Being the custodian of Islam’s holy places, Saudi Arabia has great reverence in all Muslim countries. Add to it petro-dollars and the ‘reverence’ increases manifold. Pakistan has been a close ally of the Saudis for a long time for both reasons; some say that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto declared Ahmedis non-Muslims at the behest of the Saudis. Whether there is any truth to this cannot be said with certainty, but it is no secret that in order to counter the Soviets during the Afghan war in 1979, General Ziaul Haq got Saudi money to fund madrassas where the ‘mujahideen’ were trained to fight the ‘godless’ communists. Also in the 1980s, both Saudi Arabia and Iran competed for influence in Pakistan. Since a majority of Pakistanis are Sunnis, Saudi influence in the country was stronger, ultimately leading to a virulent Wahabi/Salafist ideology. This brand of Islam is the most rigid one. Not only is there a strong sectarian tinge to this ideology but it also treats the ‘infidels’ with utter contempt. The Taliban are staunch followers of this ‘ideology’.

On the question of the Taliban, the Saudi foreign minister made a great revelation. He said that “our [Saudi Arabia’s] relationship was abrogated when the Taliban gave sanctuary to al Qaeda. Since then and till today we have no relations with Taliban”. This is a post-facto mea culpa, the evidence of which is that in 1996, Osama bin Laden had shifted his base from Sudan to Afghanistan under the Taliban regime. Since only Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE recognised the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan, the Saudis were great supporters of the anti-diluvian policies of the Taliban government until September 2001. How is it possible that during all these five years while the Taliban gave sanctuary to bin Laden, the Saudis were unaware of it? Granted that the Saudis may not have been aware of the extent of bin Laden’s global ambitions. But saying that Saudi Arabia severed its ties with the Taliban when they gave sanctuary to al Qaeda is playing with the truth.

Saudi Arabia’s advice to the Pakistani leaders to unite against the extremists is well taken. The Saudis have already dealt with a fundamentalist movement inside the Kingdom either by force or through a rehabilitation programme. By taking a clear 180 degree turn, the Saudis were able to thwart extremism while Pakistan is suffering the consequences of a 90 degree turn. To assuage the Americans, we hunted down al Qaeda but preserved the Afghan Taliban. Now the chickens are coming home to roost. The Pakistanis would do well to learn from their Saudi brethren.

On another note, Manmohan Singh’s visit to Riyadh will ease tensions in the South Asian region and bring India and Pakistan back to a rational dialogue. The Saudis should also exert whatever influence they have on the Taliban to bring them to the negotiating table as per Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s request. Peace in South Asia will ultimately translate into worldwide peace. *
 

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