External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj Saturday left for Bahrain to attend the first ministerial meeting of the India-Arab League Cooperation Forum to deepen the country’s ties with the 22-member grouping amid tensions between regional heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Iran.
During her two-day stay in Manama, Swaraj will also hold bilateral meetings with Foreign Ministers of a number of Arab League countries, including her Bahraini counterpart Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa.
The India-Arab League ministerial meeting on Sunday comes over a year after the two sides held their first Senior Officials Meeting here in November 2014.
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A number of issues such as terrorism, regional security and tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran over the execution of a Shia cleric in the Kingdom are expected to be discussed.
Swaraj’s visit also assumes significance as the world is facing the challenge of terrorism with a spate of attacks like the one at the Pathankot air base earlier this month.
Anti-terror cooperation is expected to be a key area of collaboration between India and the Arab League.
India and Arab League are expected to deliberate on the whole gamut of bilateral issues including trade and investment, energy and culture among others.
India’s trade with most of the Arab countries has grown steadily in the last few years. The Gulf region accounts for over 60 per cent of India’s oil and gas requirement.
A memorandum of cooperation between India and the League of Arab States was signed in 2013. In line with the agreement, the first senior officials meeting was held in 2014 while the first ministerial meeting will take place tomorrow.
The ministerial meeting will take place in alternate years and will be held alternatively in an Arab League country and India.
The Arab League comprises of Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Yemen, Jordan, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Morocco, Tunisia, Kuwait, Algeria, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Mauritania, Somalia, Palestine, Djibouti, and Comoros.