India keen to enhance ties with UAE, Syria: Prez

President Pratibha Patil left on her maiden visit to the UAE and Syria during which India will be exploring ways to further expand its trade ties.

Updated: Nov 21, 2010, 23:44 PM IST

New Delhi: President Pratibha Patil on Sunday
left on her maiden visit to the UAE and Syria during which
India will be exploring ways to further expand its trade ties
and enhance cooperation in the fields of infrastructure
investment and petroleum.

"My visit will, I am confident, reaffirm India`s
interest to strengthen ties with countries in these regions,
which are a part of our extended neighbourhood," Patil said
before leaving on her nine-day tour that will take her to Abu
Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah in the UAE and later to Damascus.

Noting that India has enjoyed historic, warm, friendly
and multifaceted relations with the UAE, she said, "Our
relationship with the UAE is free of any irritants which
enables us to focus on the many positives that define our
relationship."

Patil, who is visiting the UAE at the invitation of
President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, will be meeting
the top leaders in that country on a whole range of issues
aimed at further consolidating bilateral ties.

"I look forward to my discussions with His
Highness Sheikh Khalifa, as well as other dignitaries, so that
we can look at ways and means to further strengthen our
bilateral ties in order to realise the full potential that
exists between our two friendly countries."

Accompanied by a business delegation, the President
would be addressing the captains of business and industry in
the UAE.

Patil said bilateral trade which stood at a modest
figure of around USD 180 million in the early seventies, is
today valued at USD 43 billion, which makes the UAE one of our
leading trade partners.

While emphasizing the possibilities of further
expanding our trade, Patil said she will highlight the
tremendous scope for investing in India`s infrastructure.

"Our fast growing stable economy with its
strong fundamentals, makes India an attractive investment
destination," she said.

With UAE being one of our leading suppliers of crude
oil, it plays an important role in the energy security of
India, Patil said continued co-operation in this sector is
important.

The highlight of the President`s visit to the UAE
will be launching of an Indian Workers Resource Centre
designed to provide a 24-hour helpline and counselling
services to workers from the country who are in distress.

The UAE has 1.75 million Indian expatriates, a major
chunk of the 5 million Indians in the Gulf region.

Patil would inaugurate the new premises of the Indian
Islamic Centre in Abu Dhabi.

In the second segment of her tour from November 26,
the President will be visiting Syria with which India enjoys
traditionally friendly ties. Damascus has been actively
cooperating with India in the UN and NAM.

Significantly, Syria has expressed support for India`s
Permanent Membership of the UNSC.

India, too, on its part, has always supported all just
Arab causes, and has consistently supported the return of the
Golan Heights to Syria, which remains occupied by Israel since
1967.

Patil said she was looking forward to continuing
discussions with Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, who had
visited had India in June 2008, on bilateral, regional and
international issues.

The President will be addressing Indian and Syrian
business persons and launching the India-Syria Business
Council.

"We seek to increase the level of our bilateral trade
which stands at a modest USD 540 million. As Syria intends to
open its markets and embark on massive development, there
should be plenty of opportunities for India to expand its
economic links," she said, adding Syria is also important to
India for its energy security.

The President was seen off at Rashtrapati Bhawan by
Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
besides Navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma and Army Vice Chief PC
Bhardwaj.

Both the UAE and Syria support the Indian position on
Kashmir issue and back New Delhi`s quest for a permanent seat
in UN Security Council.

India`s engagement with Syria in the hydrocarbon
sector has been rewarding and state-owned OVL has investments
in Al-Furat Petroleum Company which has struck oil in one
block.

Union Minister of State for Power Bharatsinh Solanki
and three MPs are accompanying the President.

PTI