JEDDAH, 18 January 2006 — Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah begins a four-nation tour of Asia on Sunday, Jan. 22, according to a statement from the Royal Court. The trip will take the monarch to China, India, Malaysia and Pakistan.
Abdullah’s visits to the four countries come in response to invitations from their heads of state, the Royal Court said. “The visits aim at strengthening bilateral relations and discussing regional and international issues of mutual concern,” it added.
Abdullah’s talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao are expected to focus on energy and security issues. “King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia will pay a state visit to China from Jan. 22 to 24 at the invitation of President Hu Jintao,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan said.
Kong said the visit would be the first by a Saudi king since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1990. However Abdullah, who ascended the throne on Aug. 1, visited China a few years ago while he was crown prince. Starting in China, the world’s second biggest oil consumer, the trip aims to cement growing energy and trade links between Asia and Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter.
India attaches great importance to King Abdullah’s visit as the Saudi leader will be the chief guest at the country’s Republic Day celebrations on Jan. 26. According to Saudi Ambassador to New Delhi, Saleh Al-Ghamdi, the royal visit will witness the signing of a number of bilateral agreements, especially those to boost investment and avoid double taxation. “We want Saudi investment in India to multiply in all sectors, whether industry, mining or energy,” the ambassador told Arab News.
This is the first visit by a Saudi king to India in 50 years. King Saud visited India in 1955. Former Indian prime ministers, Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, visited Saudi Arabia in 1956 and 1962, respectively, while the present Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was in the Kingdom when he was finance minister in December 1994.
Indians, at 1.6 million, represent the largest expatriate community in Saudi Arabia.
According to Asian diplomats in Riyadh, the king’s visit to Malaysia will begin on Jan. 29 and the visit to Pakistan on Feb. 1. They said the visits to the two Muslim countries would focus on boosting commercial links.
“We do expect the signing of a few agreements on investment in Pakistan by Saudi Arabia, and international issues such as cooperation on the terrorist threat,” Pakistani Ambassador Abdul Aziz Mirza said.
— With input from agencies