Saudi crown prince arrives Wednesday

New Delhi : Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud will arrive here Wednesday on a three-day official visit, during which the two countries will sign an agreement on defence and on cooperation in hydrocarbons and security.

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.

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The crown prince will be accompanied by a delegation comprising cabinet ministers, senior officials and captains of industry.

The crown prince will call on President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and also hold bilateral talks with Vice President Hamid Ansari.

A release from the Saudi Arabian embassy said 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,” it said.

The two countries are also eager to work together in curbing money laundering and drug trafficking.

The release said the crown prince has been “highly impressed” by India’s development in various sectors.

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.

The release said that during his 2006 visit, King Abdullah had referred to India as his “second home”.

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.

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. There are over 2.88 million Indian nationals working in Saudi Arabia and are considered “the most preferred community due to their expertise, sense of discipline and peace-loving nature”, it said.

In recent years, there has been significant progress in bilateral cooperation in key areas of mutual interest, including energy security, trade and infrastructure development projects.