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Qatar, India sign air services pact; keen to better trade ties

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The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, with Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, prior to a meeting in the Capital on Thursday. — Kamal Narang

New Delhi , April 14

INDIA and Qatar on Thursday signed a bilateral air services agreement to improve connectivity and decided to further boost multi-faceted ties between the two countries.

The agreement was signed by the Civil Aviation Minister, Mr Praful Patel and the Finance Minister of Qatar, Mr Yousef Hussain Kamal, in the presence of the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh and the visiting Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani.

The two leaders held discussions on a range of bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest. The Emir is on a three-day visit to India. The talks with the Prime Minister particularly focussed on stepping up cooperation in the energy sector. He will also hold meetings with the Vice-President, Mr Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, besides meeting the Ministers for Defence and Civil Aviation. The Emir leaves for Dhaka on Friday.

The Emir of Qatar said that Qatar is keen to expand cooperation in a variety of sectors, including oil and natural gas. Addressing the industry leaders representing Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and Assocham, here on Wednesday evening, he said, "We look forward to deepening cooperation between Qatar and India in the fields of oil, natural gas, petrochemicals, steel and other strategic industries that are important for the two countries."

The visiting dignitary said that Qatar was encouraging its private sector to participate in the stock market and direct investments in India. He also hoped that the present cooperation between the two countries would be accompanied by deeper thinking about the future, since it would be of great benefit to the people of both countries.

"There are renewable opportunities for increasing our cooperation, such as the success of our experience in exporting gas to India, which provides it with the energy it needs for developing its economic capabilities," he said. The Emir said that the project of exporting Qatar gas to India was the first LNG founding project between the developing countries, which has managed to withstand many challenges, due to the joint will on both sides.

"Our joint efforts and determination to go ahead with the implementation of this project have been crowned with success, where we were able to sign an agreement for exporting 7.5 mt of liquefied gas annually to the Indian markets in two phases," he said.

He announced that negotiations were under way between RasGas Company and Petronet for the second phase of export of 2.5 mt to Kochi.

Besides oil and gas, the Emir said that he was particularly pleased at the substantial growth in the volume of exports of steel to India.

In 2004, the exports of steel totalled around $8 million, and added that it has reached a creditable $7 million in the first quarter of 2005 already.

"This makes us feel optimistic about the growth of cooperation between our two countries in this sphere as well as in other fields," he remarked.

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