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Saudi foreign minister arrives in India

New Delhi, March 8  Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir arrived here late on Monday on a one-day visit to India as part of the preparations for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the Gulf kingdom early next month.

Jubeir is scheduled to hold meetings with Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday to prepare for the important visit to the country which is India’s principal oil supplier and a growing partner in anti-terror cooperation.

During his first visit to India , Jubeir will discuss with Sushma Swaraj the entire gamut of bilateral relations as well as regional and international issues of mutual interest, the external affairs ministry said in a statement.

“India and Saudi Arabia share friendly relations based on close people-to-people contacts,” the ministry stated.

“The ‘Strategic Partnership’ that our two countries established in 2010 envisioned a deeper engagement in political, economic, security and defence areas through the Riyadh Declaration.”

Modi’s two-day visit from April 2 on his way back from the US will be the first by an Indian prime minister to Saudi Arabia after then prime minister Manmohan Singh’s visit in 2010.

Modi’s visit assumes significance in the face of the current regional situation and strained relations between the Gulf kingdom and Iran, another strategically important country for India.

Apart from being India’s largest crude oil supplier accounting for one-fifth of the imports, Saudi Arabia is also India’s fourth largest trading partner with bilateral trade reaching $40 billion.

Indo-Saudi Arabian ties got a fresh boost during then King Abdullah’s visit to New Delhi in 2006 which resulted in the signing of the “Delhi Declaration”.

The reciprocal visit by Singh in 2010 raised the level of bilateral engagement to “Strategic Partnership” and the “Riyadh Declaration” signed during the visit captured the spirit of enhanced cooperation in political, economic, security and defence realms.

In February 2014, during the visit to India of then crown prince and now King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, a joint statement was issued.

In November 2015, on the sidelines of G20 meeting in Antalya, Turkey, Modi met with King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and discussed areas of bilateral interest.

During his visit next month, Modi is expected to discuss with the leadership of one of the most powerful Arab countries key bilateral and regional issues, including trade and energy.

Saudi Arabia is also home to nearly three million Indian expatriates, most of whom are blue collar workers.