For a new warmth through energised ties

Published on Jan 23, 2006 02:33 PM IST

India occupies a special place with Saudi Arabia and restoring bilateral ties "to its past glory" is one of his key objectives in visiting India this week, said King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

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None | ByPramit Pal Chaudhuri, Rawdah Kraam (saudi Arabia)

India occupies a special place with Saudi Arabia and restoring bilateral ties "to its past glory" is one of his key objectives in visiting India this week, said King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi ruler said he had been regularly reading on developments in India, including how it was achieving "faster than normal" economic growth. "I believe above average economic growth shows the Indian people to be practical and productive."

King Abdullah said Saudi Arabia hoped India would succeed in its economic endeavours.

His country was in a position to supply India with all its energy needs. "This depends on the desire of India," he said. Saudi Arabia wanted to strengthen ties with India through energy relations. "We are ready to provide energy to India in the long-term."

In a signal of Saudi interest in investing in India's petroleum infrastructure, he advised India to look at the issue of refining. Refining shortages were a key reason for high petrol prices. "Such capacity plays a key role in determining local prices for oil," he said.

More generally, King Abdullah said the present high price of oil was not in the interests of the developing world. Sources say his visit will lead to Saudi firms and capital being used to build refineries in India.

Sensitive as to how Saudi Arabia's close military and political relationship with Pakistan is perceived in India, King Abdullah insisted his country's ties with India were "not related to its relations with Pakistan." He repeatedly stressed his desire for an Indo-Saudi relationship independent of any third country, whether it was Pakistan, China or the United States.

King Abdullah, presently on a four-nation tour that is his first state visit since ascending the throne, said India should have observer status at the Organisation of the Islamic Conference similar to that held by Russia. He added it would be "beneficial" if India's entry was put forward "by a nation like Pakistan". This was interpreted by sources as indirect criticism of Islamabad which has been the primary obstacle to India's entry into the OIC.

He expressed the hope tensions between the two South Asian countries could be eased "for the benefit of both countries".

The Saudi monarch said, "I believe the Indo-Pakistan conflict is not in the interests of either country" and regretted that this rivalry had led to violence and the loss of "innocent lives". He asked why this rivalry could not be resolved through dialogue. Such a resolution would "enhance the image and reputation of both countries".

He responded to long-standing charges that Saudi money finances Islamic militant groups in Pakistan by saying, "Saudi financial support to Pakistan is only given to the government of Pakistan". He was categorical that his government did not support terrorism in any way. "We are also victims of terrorism," he said.

"Those who level this charge are basing them on anything but facts." King Abdullah, who prefers his temporal title of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, spoke at length about the present religious problems of the day.

He noted Muslims needed to resolve differences between themselves and with others. "Fears about the Islamic faith are not justified," he said. "The Islamic faith is about love, compassion and brotherhood…it is a faith that calls for dialogue."

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