The 22-nation Arab League and India signed two major agreements on Tuesday, heralding a new era of bilateral relationship that will enable India to step up its political, commercial and cultural engagements in the Arab region.
“A memorandum of cooperation and a draft for executive program were signed in New Delhi on Tuesday,” Syed Akbaruddin, spokesman of India’s Ministry of External Affairs, told Arab News over phone from New Delhi.
Akbaruddin said: “The memorandum of cooperation and the joint executive program for 2014-15 was inked by Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby and Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid.”
“The signing was preceded by wide-ranging talks between Elaraby and Khurshid on the whole gamut of bilateral, regional and international issues, including Syria,” Sibi George, deputy chief of the Indian mission in Riyadh, said yesterday.
The two documents endorsed by the two sides are aimed at imparting fresh momentum to the institutional links by providing for a structured engagement between India and the Arab states at the senior official and ministerial levels, said George. “They also envisage cooperation in diverse areas like trade and investment, energy, small and medium enterprises, culture, capacity-building and many more,” added the diplomat.
The Executive Program, he said, was much more specific in terms of cooperation envisaged in diverse areas. As per the program, the Arab League mission in New Delhi and the Indian Embassy in Cairo were designated as the nodal points for coordination. A conference of the rectors and presidents of prominent Indian universities with their counterparts in the Arab world is also being planned. The conference will be organized in Kuwait next year.
Asked about the itinerary of Elaraby in India, George said the Arab League chief would hold talks with senior Indian officials. He has already met with Indian Vice President M. Hamid Ansari and exchanged views on a range of bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interest including Syria and the Middle East Peace Process.
Commenting on India’s growing influence in the region and the visit of Elaraby , Saud Al-Halwani, a professor of political science, said: “India and the Arab world share deep historical and cultural links.”
“Together they strive to achieve, preserve and enhance international peace and security through dialogue and consultation,” Halwani said, adding that the paradigm re-alignment in global economic order is leading to a major re-think on how the Arab world and India should cooperate to define their relations in decades to come. “The time has come for the Arab world to further deepen and re-define its relations with India, as India has emerged as a major power,” he said.
Elaraby is currently on a three-day visit to India at the invitation of Khurshid. This is the first time that the Arab League secretary general is visiting India since assuming the post. Arab world is one of the largest partners for India with over $110 billion in trade, as well as a large expatriate population. India and the Arab League first established a formal mechanism for dialogue and consultations in 2002.
In 2010, the Indian ambassador in Cairo was designated as the observer to the League. During the last 11 years, there have been a number of high level visits and consultations. Elaraby , a distinguished diplomat who has served as Egypt’s foreign minister and the Permanent Representative at the UN, was also the Egyptian ambassador to India in the early 1980s.

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