Salman Khurshid to visit Saudi Arabia on May 24

New Delhi, May 14 (ANI): External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid will pay a three-day visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia beginning on May 24 at the invitation of his counterpart Prince Saud al-Faisal.

Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) official spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin, who briefed the media here about Khurshid's forthcoming visit, said the visit of the External Affairs Minister to Saudi Arabia is the first in five years.

"The last External Affairs Minister External, who visited Saudi Arabia, was the then Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee in 2008. Subsequent to that, we had other high-level visits i.e. the Prime Minister visited Saudi Arabia in 2010 and the Defence Minister visited Saudi Arabia in 2012. But the Foreign Ministers haven't met since 2008. So, this is in the context of their ongoing need to consult each other. There will be an entire range of issues discussed," said Akbaruddin.

"Energy in a generic sense yes because we import 17 percent of our oil from Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia approximately sells us about I think 33 billion dollars of exports to India and we have approximately 9 billion dollars of exports to Saudi Arabia. So, we have a substantial economic relationship. In addition, we have by the latest estimates provided to us by Saudi Arabia about 2.8 million Indian nationals resident in Saudi Arabia. Their welfare as you are aware has been a matter on which there has been some concern expressed," he added, when asked whether there will be a discussion on energy issues.

Akbaruddin said Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs Vyalar Ravi had led an Indian delegation to Saudi Arabia recently consisting of the Minister of State E. Ahamed and TKA Nair from the Prime Minister's Office.

" And the goal at that stage was try and ensure that the Saudi policies, which are largely of domestic nature are implemented in a manner that takes into account the humanitarian needs of Indian national who are resident there. Since then Saudi Arabia has made some announcements and stand on May 10th providing some sort of options for various expatriates, including Indian nationals," he added.

Akbaruddin further said "the regional situation is bound to be discussed and that means issues related to the Middle East and including issues relating to Syria as well as other matters of common interest to both countries regionally and internationally'.

India and Saudi Arabia enjoy cordial and friendly relations reflecting the centuries old economic and socio-cultural ties. The establishment of diplomatic relations in 1947 was followed by high-level visits from both sides.

In the recent times, the historic visit of King Abdullah to India in 2006 resulted in signing of 'Delhi Declaration' imparting a fresh momentum to the bilateral relationship. The visit provided the framework for cooperation in all fields of mutual interest.

The reciprocal visit by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to Saudi Arabia in 2010 raised the level of bilateral engagement to 'Strategic Partnership' and the 'Riyadh Declaration' signed during the visit captured the spirit of enhanced cooperation in political, economic, security and defence realms. (ANI)