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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - NEW DELHI/RIYADH — India and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries on Monday agreed to deepen cooperation in several areas of mutual interest.
The Indian Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement that Secretary from the External Affairs Ministry Dr. Ausaf Sayeed headed the Indian delegation in the first round of India-GCC Senior Officers Meeting held in Riyadh.
The GCC delegation was led by Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Negotiations, GCC Abdulaziz Bin Hamad Al- Owaishaq. Both sides agreed for early finalization of India-GCC Free Trade Agreement while conveying happiness over the progress in trade and investment.
The Indian official appealed for more collaboration between the two countries in renewable energy, food security, health, IT sector and counter terrorism.
"Both sides proposed formation of Joint Working Groups to cater to particular areas of cooperation between India and GCC countries. These joint working groups would be headed by experts and would ensure regular and continuous progress across priority sectors," the statement said.
Indian and GCC officials also hailed the progress in relations between India-GCC countries built on historical relationship, growing trade and investment, and presence of an 8.5 million Indians in the region.
"GCC as a trade bloc is the largest trade partner to India with a total trade of $54 billion in 2021-22," it said adding people-to-people ties need to be further enhanced. The discussion also touched upon regional issues and both sides looked forward for early convention of India-GCC TROIKA meeting at Foreign Minister Level.
The meeting, which saw participation from all GCC countries, was pursuant to a MoU inked on India-GCC Mechanism of Consultation during Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar visit to Riyadh in September 2022.
Separately, Dr Sayeed also held a meeting with Jassem Mohamed Al-Budaiwi, secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) at the headquarters of the General Secretariat in Riyadh.
A GCC readout said that Dr. Sayeed congratulated Al-Budaiwi on assuming his duties as Secretary General of GCC, wishing him further success.
During the meeting, “the secretary general stressed the importance of strengthening Gulf-Indian relations in a way that contributes to serving common interests, and the need for continuous endeavors to strengthen cooperation relations from both sides to achieve further coordination to face challenges and seize opportunities in all fields.
“This is in light of the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the General Secretariat of the GCC and the Republic of India in September 2022, and the framework agreement signed between the GCC and India in August 2004, and the desire of the two sides to enhance the strategic political and security dialogue, as well as economic and cultural cooperation and communication between the peoples."
Dr. Sayeed also held a meeting with Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Waleed Al-Khuraiji, during which the two sides reviewed bilateral relations, enhanced areas of cooperation, and issues of common interest, a tweet from the Saudi minister's office said. — Agencies
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