New Delhi, Jan 23 (IANS) External Affairs Sushma Swaraj on Saturday left for Bahrain to attend the first ministerial meeting between India and the Arab League on Sunday.
“This will be the first ever ministerial meeting between India and the League of Arab States Foreign Ministers,” external affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup tweeted.
The Arab League comprises 22 countries in West Asia and northern Africa.
The Arab countries combined together are India’s biggest trading partner with total trade of over $180 billion.
The relationship between India and the Arab countries has already been taken to the next level called India-Arab Partnership Conference, four meetings of which have already been held with New Delhi hosting the last one in 2014.
The next conference is scheduled to be held in Oman in May this year.
Emerging areas of cooperation between India and the Arab countries include agriculture, dry land farming, environment protection, information and communication technology (ICT), automobiles, small and medium enterprises (SMEs), biotechnology and space.
Sixty percent of India’s oil and gas comes from West Asia which is an important pillar of the country’s energy security.
The Maghreb region provides phosphates and fertilisers for India’s agricultural sector.
The seven-million strong Indian diaspora in the Gulf countries is an important source of remittances.
The first ministerial meeting in Bahrain on Sunday will provide new opportunities to further strengthen ties between the two sides.
“India has been consistently deepening its engagement with the Arab world. Our ancient ties have transformed into a modern partnership covering a whole host of areas,” spokesman Swarup told IANS.
“The first ever India-Arab League ministerial meeting will unveil a new blueprint for our partnership with the very important region,” he added.
India is also concerned over the deepening sectarian divide in the region and the growing footprint of terror groups like the Islamic State.
After Saudi Arabia executed a Shia cleric on charges of terrorism earlier this month, its missions in Iran came under attack and subsequently diplomatic ties between Riyadh and Tehran were cut off.
It is hoped that Sunday’s meeting will also result in greater cooperation in counter-terrorism cooperation between India and the Arab League countries.
After reaching Manama on Saturday, Sushma Swaraj will hold a bilateral meeting with Bahrain.
Secretary (East) in the external affairs, Anil Wadhwa, who is already in Bahrain, is also scheduled to attend a meeting of senior officials of India and the Arab League countries on Saturday.