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Urdu and Indian culture very popular in Arab world: Saudi Commerce Minister
India one of the biggest trading partners of Saudi Arabia, relations between India and Arab world have a long history, he says at Fourth India-Arab Partnership Conference
Wednesday November 26, 2014 3:53 PM, IANS

Pointing to the Arab world's historical and now strategic ties with India based on being neighbours across the Arabian Sea, Saudi Arabia's Commerce Minister Tawfiq Fawzan Al Rabiah Wednesday said that "India is one of the biggest trading partners of Saudi Arabia. Relations between India and the Arab world have a long history".

Tawfiq Fawzan Al Rabiah with Pranab Mukherji
[Saudi Arabia's Commerce Minister Tawfiq Fawzan Al Rabiah with Indian President Pranab Mukherji in a file photo when the later was India's Finance Minister.]

"The Indian rupee was a currency in the Gulf till not very long ago. Geographical closeness has given a new dimension to our relations. Urdu and Indian culture are very popular in the Arab world," he added.

Al Rabiah was addressing the 4th India-Arab Partnership Conference which got underway in New Delhi Wednesday.

Inaugurating the conference, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the second meeting of the India-Egypt Joint Trade Committee was held earlier this month to discuss an action plan to increase trade between the two countries.

Giving Egypt's example as an indicator of India's constant efforts to increase its engagement with the Arab world, Sitharaman said: "I am also happy to convey that the 7th India-Oman joint commission meeting concluded successfully with both sides agreeing for enhanced cooperation in various fields."

In keeping with its status as India's largest source of crude oil, and its 4th biggest trading partner, Saudi Arabia is the partner country at the conference.

Aiming to provide a platform for Indian and Arab businessmen to explore new opportunities, the conference is being organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in association with the Ministry of External Affairs and the League of Arab States (LAS).

Other collaboration partners include the Federation of Arab Businessmen (FAB) and the General Union of Arab Chambers of Commerce and Industry and Agriculture (GUCCIA).

It comes in the backdrop of the first senior officials meeting between India and the 22-member league here earlier this month which discussed expanding business ties, especially in energy and information technology.

Saudi Arabia is India's largest supplier of crude oil and the fourth biggest trading partner. Bilateral trade amounted to $48.75 billion in 2013-14. India is the 5th largest market for Saudi products and is, in turn, the seventh largest source of imports to that country.

Some of the specific areas for discussions at the conclave include pharmaceuticals, food and energy security, notably from renewable sources, healthcare, tourism, banking, human resource development, education, research and technology development.

Member countries of the Arab League, home to over 7 million Indians and with a collective GDP of nearly $3 trillion, are a major destination for India's exports. Their investments to India have crossed $3.5 billion since April 2000.

India's trade with the region in 2013-14 amounted to over $185 billion, accounting for around nearly a quarter of its global trade, Sitharaman said.

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