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Antony to visit Saudi Arabia, Qatar May 7-9


Jul 6, 2009
Antony to visit Saudi Arabia, Qatar May 7-9

Defence Minister A.K. Antony will be on a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia and Qatar from Saturday seeking to bolster bilateral military ties with the two nations, which enjoy close ties with Pakistan.

During the visit to Riyadh and Doha, Antony will discuss several aspects of bilateral relations with the two countries, with the fight against global terror likely to be high on the agenda, defence ministry officials said here Tuesday.

The defence minister's visit to Saudi Arabia comes a year after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit there when the two sides inked 10 important agreements, including a defence pact. The prime minister's visit was the first by an Indian head of government since Indira Gandhi visited the kingdom in 1982.

The two sides also have a counter-terrorism cooperation in place and Antony's visit, coming days after the killing of Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in Pakistan is sure to focus on eliminating all terror groups by choking their funding channels, an issue that has caught the world's attention in recent years.

India has made significant inroads in both Saudi Arabia and Qatar over the last several years, though its ties are not as strong as Pakistan's with the two countries.

There is also growing interaction between the militaries of India and the two countries with joint training and assistance in the development of training infrastructure.

During the visit, India is also expected to flag the anti-piracy efforts of world navies in the Gulf of Aden and on how to deal with pirates caught by its navy on the high seas.

The Indian Navy, which has been present in the Gulf of Aden on anti-piracy patrols since October 2008, has frequently sent its warships to the dock at ports in the region.

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