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Bahrain prime minister accorded ceremonial welcome

Bahrain Prime Minister was Tuesday accorded a ceremonial welcome by Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee at the start of a nine-day visit to this country.

india Updated: Jan 13, 2004 14:25 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

Bahrain Prime Minister Shaikh Khalifa Bin Salman Al-Khalifa was Tuesday accorded a ceremonial welcome by Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee at the start of a nine-day visit to this country.

Vajpayee received the visiting dignitary, who is on his first India trip, on a wintry morning in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan, the presidential palace, with an impressive inter-services guard of honour.

After the ceremony, Shaikh Khalifa drove to Rajghat, the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi on the banks of the Yamuna River, to pay homage to the apostle of peace.

A high-level delegation consisting of half a dozen ministers and senior officials is accompanying the Bahraini leader, who arrived here on Sunday on a nine-day visit.

Vajpayee and Shaikh Khalifa will hold delegation-level talks following which a number of agreements to strengthen bilateral cooperation would be signed.

Shaikh Khalifa, who has been prime minister of his country since it gained independence from Britain in 1971, called on Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam on Monday. Indian officials described the 30-minute meeting as a courtesy call.

The Shaikh's delegation includes the ministers of transport, cabinet affairs, commerce, finance and national economy and the minister in the prime minister's court, besides senior officials.

India officials described the visit as "important" and noted that Bahrain is home to some 135,000 Indians, who form 50 percent of the total expatriate population of the country and they enjoyed full religious freedom.

Though high-level visits between India and Bahrain have been few and far between - Indian president Zail Singh visited Manama in 1983 - their bilateral ties have been traditionally close.

The older generation of Bahrainis consider Mumbai their second home as they regularly visit the city. The British resident administrator of Bahrain reported to the governor of the Bombay province before India gained independence in 1947.

Besides exploring new avenues of bilateral cooperation with Vajpayee, the Bahraini leader was to call on Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat and hold talks with External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha and Leader of Opposition Sonia Gandhi.

Interaction between him and leading Indian businessmen will take place at a joint meeting of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICI) and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) Wednesday.

Official sources said Shaikh Khalifa would leave on a private visit to Jodhpur, Jaipur and Goa on Wednesday before returning home on January 19.

First Published: Jan 13, 2004 14:25 IST