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India, S Arabia sign four agreements

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and King Abdullah reviewed ties and joined hands to combat global terrorism. Pics

india Updated: Jan 25, 2006 19:15 IST

India and Saudi Arabia on Wednesday joined hands to combat global terrorism and signed four agreements that will impart a new strategic dimension to their burgeoning ties.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and King Abdullah -- on a transformational visit to this country -- held one-on-one talks that lasted close to 45 minutes at Hyderabad House.

The two leaders reviewed their bilateral relations and discussed regional and international issues during the meeting.

Manmohan Singh described Saudi Arabia as "an important partner in combating global terrorism," external affairs ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna told reporters.

The Saudi monarch assured Manmohan Singh that his country has "declared a war on terror" and that they would continue their "struggle against terrorism."

"It might be a long-term struggle, but the battle will continue unless this scourge is eliminated," King Abdullah told Manmohan Singh.

During the delegation-level talks, the two sides discussed an entire array of bilateral relations, including energy security and regional issues like the India-Pakistan peace process.

The four agreements underlined the growing convergence of national interests between the two countries and placed the India-Saudi relations in a new strategic perspective.

The memorandum of cooperation on crime, which will further strengthen efforts in tackling transnational crime, terrorism and the smuggling of narcotics, was signed between Home Minister Shivraj Patil and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud.

Two other pacts aimed at boosting business ties between the two countries -- Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement and Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement -- were signed by Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Saudi Finance Minister Ibraheem bin Abdulaziz Al Assaf.

A cooperation agreement in the field of youth and sports was also signed.

Earlier in the day, King Abdullah set the tone for his four-day visit that began on Tuesday by describing India as a "second home" and hoped his visit, one by a Saudi monarch to India in 51 years, would take bilateral ties to a new high.

"I consider myself to be in a second home," Abdullah told reporters after taking the salute at a guard of honour at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the grand sandstone presidential palace.

He was warmly welcomed by President APJ Abdul Kalam and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

"This visit will renew historic ties between India and Saudi Arabia," he said before beginning his talks with Manmohan Singh, who on Tuesday evening broke protocol to receive the guest at the airport when he arrived from Beijing on a four-day visit.

"I would like to thank the president, the prime minister and the friendly people of India for their warmth and hospitality " said Abdullah, who was accompanied by a large delegation of royalty and senior officials.

Abdullah, sporting a dotted pink and white traditional Arab headscarf, was given a warm ceremonial welcome, complete with military regalia and pomp and a 21-gun salute.

Home Minister Shivraj Patil, Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed, National Security Adviser MK Narayanan and senior Indian officials were present.

First Published: Jan 25, 2006 01:45 IST