New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday expressed India's keenness to invest in hydrocarbon projects in Qatar during talks with his counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani on key issues of energy, trade and security.
Modi and the Qatari prime minister, who is here on his first visit, discussed enhancing cooperation in defence and security, in particular in cyber security and agreed on joint action to tackle money laundering and terrorist financing.
After the talks, the two sides inked five pacts including in the field of visas, cyberspace and investments.
Modi said the visit of the Qatari prime minister showed the growing bilateral ties with Qatar, which India has always regarded as a "valued partner". The two leaders acknowledged that the current level of trade and investment was much below potential, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said, adding Modi highlighted the tremendous opportunities available for Qatari investment in India's infrastructure and energy sectors.
On energy cooperation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, "We should go beyond the buyer-seller relationship to include Joint Ventures, Joint Research and Development and Joint Exploration.
"Indian companies were ready to invest in both upstream and downstream projects in Qatar in the hydrocarbon sector."
Not only an important trading partner for India in the Gulf region, Qatar is also the largest supplier of LNG to it, accounting for 66 per cent of the total imports in 2015-16. On his part, the Qatari leader invited India's participation in infrastructure and investment opportunities coming up in the wake of Qatar hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2022. He also welcomed Indian investment in the port sector of Qatar.
"He (Modi) outlined the various measures taken by his government to open up the Indian economy and welcome Foreign Direct Investment. The two leaders identified civil aviation as a priority sector for enhancing cooperation," Swarup said.
Modi recalled that India imports eight million tonnes of urea per year and said "we would welcome a long-term arrangement with Qatar for the supply of urea", the spokesperson said. It was also conveyed that India could also meet Qatari needs in the area of food security, he said. The two leaders also discussed the regional situation, particularly in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
Swarup said five agreements were signed in areas such as visa exemption for holders of diplomatic, special and official passports; technical cooperation in cyber space and combating cyber crime, letter of intent regarding negotiations on an agreement on grant of e-visa for businessmen and tourists, and an MoU between the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy of Qatar and CII.
Additionally, another MoU aimed at encouraging greater collaboration and exchange in the field of national ports management was also signed.
Earlier, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval called on the visiting dignitary. While the visa pact will allow holders of diplomatic, special and official passport of the two countries to visa-free travel between the two countries, the 'protocol on technical cooperation in cyber space and combating cyber crime' "adds an important dimension of bilateral technical cooperation in cyber space and combating cyber crime to the existing framework agreement in the field of security signed on 10 November, 2008".