Reflecting growing congruence in bilateral ties, India and Saudi Arabia today inked a defence cooperation pact to take their strategic partnership further in areas of security.
The pact was signed following talks between Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and Vice President Hamid Ansari during which a range of bilateral, regional and international issues figured. The defence cooperation pact will allow exchange of defence-related information, military training and education as well as cooperation in areas varying from hydrography and security to logistics.
Earlier, signalling importance of the visit, the Vice President went to the airport to receive the Crown Prince who is on a three-day visit here. It is highest level political visit to India from Saudi Arabia after the landmark visit of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in January 2006.
Al Saud, who is also Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Defence Minister A K Antony and External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid. The Crown Prince will also call on President Pranab Mukherjee. The visit is expected to give a fresh momentum to ties between India and Saudi Arabia and both sides are expected to finalise a defence cooperation pact.
Saudi Arabia is India's fourth largest trade partner with bilateral trade recording at USD 43 billion in 2012-13. Saudi Arabia is also India's largest crude oil supplier accounting for about one-fifth of its total imports in 2012-13.
India's exports to Saudi Arabia include mineral fuels, cereals, steel, iron ore and organic chemicals, while imports comprise crude oil, plastics and its articles, fertilisers, aluminium and leather. Indians form the largest expatriate community in Saudi Arabia and their contribution in the progress and development of their host country is well recognised. There are over 2.88 million Indian nationals now working in Saudi Arabia. The Crown Prince is accompanied by a high-level delegation including cabinet ministers, senior officials and captains of Saudi industry.
During the Prime Minister's visit to Riyadh in 2010, both the countries had decided to elevate the bilateral engagement to 'Strategic Partnership' covering security, economic, defence and political areas.
In recent years, there has been significant progress in bilateral cooperation in key areas of mutual interest, including energy security, trade and infrastructure development projects.