India to sign defence pact with S Arabia

India and Saudi Arabia will sign a defence cooperation agreement during the visit of the kingdom’s crown prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to New Delhi this week.

Al Saud, who is also the deputy prime minister and defence minister of his country, will arrive in New Delhi for a three-day visit. He will call on President Pranab Mukherjee and meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He will also have bilateral talks with Vice-President M Hamid Ansari.

During Singh’s official visit to Riyadh in 2010, India and Saudi Arabia upgraded their bilateral engagement to a “strategic partnership”, covering security, economy, defence and politics. The two countries decided to negotiate a deal to boost bilateral defence cooperation during Defence Minister A K Antony’s visit to Riyadh in February 2012.

“India finds Saudi Arabia a very willing partner in terms of security and defence dialogue. Our cooperation has increased enormously. There has been regular dialogue between India and Saudi Arabia on these matters,” said Mridul Kumar, Joint Secretary (Gulf) to the Ministry of External Affairs.

The agreement, which New Delhi and Riyadh are now set to sign, will explore possibility of cooperation between the defence industries of the two countries.

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