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Saudi crown prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud arrives in India
Wednesday February 26, 2014 6:39 PM, IANS

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud arrived here Wednesday on a three-day official visit during which the two countries are expected to sign an agreement on defence and enhance cooperation in hydrocarbons and security.

Salman bin Aziz in India

Vice-president Hamid Ansari received Crown Prince Salman on his arrival.

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, 78, who is the 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 and also hold talks with the vice president, who is a former Indian envoy to Saudi Arabia.

The two countries were expected to sign a memorandum of understanding on defence for greater exchange of information and training. Also on the cards is enhancing cooperation in areas ranging from hydrocarbons to security. The two countries are also eager to work together in curbing money laundering and drug trafficking.

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.

This will be Crown Prince Salman's second visit to India. He came in April 2010 when he was governor of Riyadh province.

An official visit by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Riyadh in 2010 and the Riyadh Declaration signed Feb 28, 2010, elevated the bilateral engagement to "strategic partnership" covering security, economic, defence and political areas.

"The visit is set to give a major boost to bilateral ties, as the two countries are expected to sign agreements and hold talks to boost cooperation in areas such as defence, trade, investment and energy," said Mridul Kumar, joint secretary (Gulf) to the Ministry of External Affairs.

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.

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