India, Saudi Arabia sign defence cooperation deal

New Delhi, Feb 26: India and Saudi Arabia Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding on defence cooperation for greater exchange of information and training.

The agreement was signed on the first day of the three-day visit of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who arrived here Wednesday afternoon.

Hours after his arrival, the crown prince met Vice President Hamid Ansari.

The agreement was signed by Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Nizar Bin Obaid Madani and India’s Minister of State for Defence Jitendra Singh.

Crown Prince Salman’s is the highest level political visit from the kingdom after the January 2006 landmark trip by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud as the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations.

The crown prince, who is next in line to the throne and is the deputy prime minister and defence minister, will call on President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday.

The two countries are eager to work together in curbing money laundering and drug trafficking and enhance cooperation in areas ranging from hydrocarbons to security.

Saudi Arabia sees India as an attractive investment hub for its business interests in Asia and seeks Indian investments in areas such as consultancy, construction, telecom, information technology and pharmaceuticals.

Saudi Arabia is India’s fourth largest partner with bilateral trade of over $43 billion in 2012-13. Saudi Arabia is also India’s largest crude oil supplier accounting for about one-fifth of total imports in 2012-13.

Indians form the largest expatriate community in Saudi Arabia with about 2.88 million Indian nationals working there.

IANS