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Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj set to visit Bahrain

Bahrain News
Thu, 12 Jul 2018
By Raji Unnikrishnan

COUNTER-TERROR co-operation, trade and investment are on the agenda of a top Indian minister’s visit to Bahrain this weekend.

Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will pay a two-day visit to Bahrain starting Saturday to co-chair the second High Joint Commission (HJC) meeting with her Bahraini counterpart Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, according to Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency.

The first meeting of the HJC was held in India in February 2015.

It was established through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between India and Bahrain during His Majesty King Hamad’s visit to India in February 2014.

Ms Swaraj is expected to call on His Majesty, His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa and His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Prime Minister.

“Issues of trade, investment and counter-terror co-operation are likely to be discussed at the joint commission meeting,” said the report.

India is Bahrain’s fifth largest trading partner.

Topics from the visit of Bahrain’s Oil Minister Shaikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Khalifa to Delhi in April are also expected to be followed up during Ms Swaraj’s visit.

During the visit Shaikh Mohammed had discussions relating to possible long-term arrangements with major Indian petrochemical companies for exploration and commercial extraction of oil in the recently discovered Khaleej Al Bahrain oil and gas field.

This (second) meeting of the HJC was scheduled for last year, which did not happen for reasons unknown.

During the first meeting, the two sides discussed various aspects of bilateral relations including ways of expanding co-operation in the fields of education, trade, investment and commerce, security and defence, media and communication and issues relating to the Indian expatriate community in Bahrain.

An agreement was also reached to start negotiations on MoUs on defence co-operation, internal security co-operation and water resources development and management.

The Bahraini side has also requested to resume negotiations on the agreement on avoidance of double taxation, initialed in 1998.

During her visit, Ms Swaraj will also officially open the new Indian Embassy complex in Seef on Saturday at 4.45pm.

The mission started functioning from its new $7.43 million (BD2.8m) complex in Seef district in October last year, after hosting its first official function at the premises on August 15, marking 70 years of Indian independence.

The complex, built on 7,598sqm of land bought by the Indian government in 2005, comprises two buildings – the main chancery building, consisting of a ground and first floor, and a four-storey residential building.

Ms Swaraj last visited Bahrain in January 2016, to attend the first ministerial meeting of the India-Arab League Co-operation Forum, when she also visited the Bahrain International Air Show 2016 at Sakhir Airbase.

The meeting followed Senior Officials Meeting in Manama in November 2014, which tabled issues such as terrorism, regional security and tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Bahrain is home to around 400,000 Indians.

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