New Delhi: Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Saudi Arabia next month, its Foreign Minister Adel Bin Ahmed Al Jubeir on Tuesday called on him during which they expressed keenness to elevate ties between the two countries to strategic level by boosting cooperation in key areas of trade, security and counter terrorism.
"Both leaders exchanged views on further strengthening bilateral relations, including in the fields of trade, investment, energy, and security cooperation. They also discussed regional situation. They agreed that the two countries have shared interest in peace and stability in the region," a PMO statement said.
Emphasising that India attached high importance to its close and friendly relations with Saudi Arabia, Modi also expressed confidence that his forthcoming visit there would provide an opportunity to elevate the bilateral strategic partnership to a new level.
Modi will travel to Saudi Arabia on a two-day State visit from 2 April as part of his three-nation trip starting from Belgium on 30 March.
After Belgium, he will also visit Washington to attend Nuclear Security Summit from 31 March. On his part, the Saudi Minister conveyed that relations with India were accorded a high priority in their foreign policy and "deeply appreciated" the constructive role being played by the Indian community in the development of his country, the statement said.
During his less then 24-hour-long visit, the minister, who arrived late last night, also held "substantive discussion" with his counterpart Sushma Swaraj covering issues of bilateral, regional and multilateral interest.
He conveyed to Swaraj that India was one of the most important relationships for Saudi Arabia, which was keen to upgrade the ties to a strategic level covering security, counter terrorism, maritime links, trade, investment and people-to-people ties, MEA Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said. The visiting minister also emphasised that "Saudi Arabia was India's largest supplier of crude but wanted to go beyond and make it a true energy partnership", Swarup said.
Swaraj also asserted that India too was keen to take the relationship with Saudi Arabia to the next level and wanted a strong security and counter terrorism partnership with that country. "In this context, she sought Saudi's support for India's draft Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT)," the Spokesperson said, adding that the two ministers also discussed the regional situation and the threat from IS.
On trade front, she noted that though the trade volume was good but the investment from Saudi Arabia was very low — less than $60 million — and in this context, she invited Saudi investment in India's infrastructure sector, the Spokesperson said.
The External Affairs Minister also took up some of the issues facing Indian workers in Saudi Arabia and said the existing labour agreement with Saudi Arabia should be expanded to include sectors other than domestic workers.