01/30/2006, 00.00
India - Saudi Arabia
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"A new era in relations between India and Saudi Arabia"

King Abdullah, at the end of a state visit to India hails a new era in relations and signs  a pact on energy and against terrorism. Increased petrol supplies and economic and cultural ties.  India backs the Russian proposal to resolve the Iranian Nuclear crisis.

New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) - At the end of  King Abdullah's 4 day visit , India and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement to develop strategic cooperation in the energy sector and in other areas with a view to "combating and eradicating the threat of terrorism".

India will receive increased supplies of crude oil.  The energy deal will be realized by both private and public joint ventures to further develop Arabia's deposits: Oil and Natural Gas Corp, India's state-owned energy giant, is planning to rope in Saudi Aramco, the world's largest oil producer, as its equity partner for the 7.5-million-tonne-per-annum Kakinada refinery project in Andhra Pradesh.  India imports over 70% of it's oil;  25% comes from Saudi Arabi, equal to 175 million of barrels of crude oil a year, making it the Kingdom's fourth biggest customer.  Public and private companies from the two states have signed over six agreements to collaborate in the sectors of energy, finance and health..

The deal also provides for greater cooperation in the fight against terrorism as well as the trafficking of drugs,  illegal arms and money laundering.

"A new era in Indo-Saudi relations has begun - declared King Abdullah bin Abdilaziz - the foundations have been laid for the birth of greater understanding and collaboration between the two nations".

It is the Monarch's first visit to India since 1955.  On January 24, King Abdullah was welcomed at the airport by Premier Manmohan Singh and was a guest of honour at celebrations marking the anniversary of the republic on January 26. Friday 27 he met with Vice president Bhairon Singh Shekhwat and Sonia Gandhi, president of  the opposition. Saturday at the Lamia Millia Islamia Univsersity he was conferred with an honorary doctorate in literature.  Past grievances dating back to the Cold War period,  when New Dehli accused Saudi Arabia of allying itself to Pakistan and financing the Islamic insurgency and when Riyadh rebuffed India for its silence of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan seem to have been laid to rest.  There are over 150 million Muslims in India, moreover Indians make up the greatest immigrant group in the Kingdom, over 1.5 million Indians work there.

Both parties agreed that the stability of the oil market is vital for the global economy.  Just days ago Saudi Arabia signed a deal with China, demonstrating its intention to improve ties with Asia's biggest economies.

Recently India officially endorsed the Russian proposal to resolve the Iranian nuclear standoff.  Moscow offered to supply Tehran with enriched uranium, thus allowing for its use without developing production capabilities.  "All initiatives are welcome - says Navtej Sarna, Indian foreign minister – that are capable of  obtaining general consensus, including that of Russia". (PB)

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