India, GCC discuss bilateral ties, regional developments

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NEW DELHI, March 20: 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 Ausaf Sayeed headed the Indian delegation in the first round of India-GCC Senior Officers Meeting held in Saudi city of Riyadh. The GCC delegation was led by Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Negotiations, GCC Abdulaziz Bin Hamad Al-Owaishaq.

Secretary-General of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf, Jassim Al-Budaiwi, during the reception of the Indian Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Expatriate Affairs, Awsaf Saeed

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 USD 154 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. (KUNA)

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