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India, Qatar to sign pacts on defence

India and Qatar will sign two agreements on defence and security during PM's visit to the Gulf nation begining on Sunday - the first by an Indian head of Govt.

world Updated: Nov 08, 2008 12:49 IST

India and Qatar will sign two agreements on defence and security during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to the Gulf nation begining on Sunday evening - the first by an Indian head of government.

Apart from the two pacts, the two sides will also discuss a number of other issues ranging from energy security to bilateral trade.

"The visit by the prime minister of India has been long overdue. Qatar's Amir (Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani) visited India twice," an Indian embassy official told IANS from Doha.

"Qatar is the only country (in the Gulf) with which India has had long-term security cooperation. During the course of the visit of the prime minister, two key agreements will be signed - one on defence cooperation and another on security and law enforcement," he said.

According to the Indian official, the defence agreement will also include the issue of maritime security.

"The agreement on security and law enforcement will cover issues like common threat perceptions and sharing of data," he said.

As for energy security, India will seek to significantly upgrade its current deal with gas-rich Qatar. At 25 trillion cubic metres, Qatar has the world's third largest gas reserves, comprising 15 per cent of the world's total.

Nine years ago, India had signed an agreement for exporting 7.5 million tonnes of liquefied gas from Qatar annually in two phases.

"We want to get over the current buyer-seller relationship (in gas) and upgrade it to a more sustainable partnership," Kohli said.

Apart from defence and energy security, bilateral trade will also come up for discussion. India is Qatar's third largest export partner after Japan and Singapore.

"Bilateral trade between India and Qatar now stands at $3.3 billion and is significantly tilted in favour of Qatar because much of it is accounted for by gas exports," he said.

Qatar's exports to India stand at $2.6 billion while India's share is $700 million.

India's exports to Qatar mainly comprise consumer items, foodstuff and industrial equipment.

With consumers in that country becoming highly quality conscious, there is scope for significantly increasing Indian exports.

According to the official, delegation level talks will be held between the two sides soon after the prime minister's arrival on Sunday evening. The next day, Manmohan Singh will have a meeting with Qatar's amir.

Petroleum Minister Murli Deora, Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs E Ahamed will be accompanying Manmohan Singh. National Security Adviser MK Narayanan and Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia will also be part of the entourage.

Apart from his parleys with the Qatari leadership, Singh will also meet representatives of the large Indian community. Qatar is home to around 420,000 expatriate Indians.

India has one of the oldest labour welfare agreements with Qatar dating back to 1975, an additional protocol to which was signed last year.

First Published: Nov 08, 2008 12:42 IST