PM Modi may visit Saudi, other Gulf nations ahead of his Israel tour

  • Jayanth Jacob, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jun 20, 2015 12:31 IST

This year-end, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to visit Saudi Arabia, a country with the highest number of Indian passport holders outside India.

Sources familiar with the development said the PM may visit Saudi along with two other Gulf countries before his proposed visit to Israel.

Sources told HT that PM had been keen on visiting Gulf countries, but there were problems over schedules. The visit planned for the year-end could see Modi visiting “one or two” more countries in the same trip.

Saudi Arabia is home to over 2.8 million Indians, which is the largest expatriate population of that country. Saudi is also India’s largest supplier of crude, accounting for almost one fifth of its needs.

In political terms, a visit to a Gulf country would be ideal before Modi's proposed visit to Israel, for which the government has not announced any date.

Sources said external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj will be visiting Israel, Palestine and Jordan or any other country in the region “in next two months.”

In November 2014, on the sidelines of G20 meeting in Australia's Brisbane, Modi met with Salman Bin Abdulaziz, Saudi's then crown prince and the present king.

India-Saudi ties were upgraded to strategic partnership during the visit of former prime minister Manmohan Singh in 2010. It was an Indian PM's first visit to that country after 28 years.

In the NDA rule, Dharmendra Pradhan, minister of state (independent charge) for petroleum and natural gas, visited the kingdom in October last year.

Saudi is the fourth largest trading partner for India. The value of two-way trade between the two countries in 2013-14 exceeded $48.62 billion.

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