HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani shaking hands with Indian President Pratibha Patil at the presidential palace (Rashtrapati Bhavan) in New Delhi yesterday morning. HH the Emir and HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser were accorded a red-carpet reception ceremony on arrival at the presidential palace. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur attended the official ceremonies. PICTURE: Maher Attar/HHOPL Qatar and India yesterday sealed six agreements in diverse areas, including an overarching pact on co-operation in oil and gas exploration. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held talks with HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who began a three-day visit to India on Sunday, on a range of issues, including boosting trade and investment as well as energy ties between the two countries. Issues relating to the welfare of Indian workers in Qatar were also discussed. During the talks, India is understood to have expressed its keenness to import more oil and LNG from Qatar. The Qatari side is broadly positive towards the Indian proposal, but there are pricing issues that remain to be sorted out. After the talks, Qatar’s Minister of Energy and Industry, HE Dr Mohamed Saleh al-Sada, and India’s Petroleum Minister, S Jaipal Reddy, signed a pact on establishing a co-operative framework to enhance bilateral co-operation in oil and gas. The pact envisages co-operation in the areas of upstream and downstream oil and gas activities. It is expected to encourage and promote investment and co-operation between two ministries of oil and gas and through affiliated companies. Qatar, which holds the world’s third-largest natural gas reserves after Russia and Iran, has an LNG (liquefied natural gas) export capacity of 77mn tonnes a year. India buys 7.5mn tonnes of LNG from Qatar under a long-term contract. India imported 5.6mn tonnes of oil from Qatar in 2010-11 and is willing to increase the imports. Three agreements were signed in the fields of educational exchanges, cultural contacts and promoting tourism. A memorandum of agreement was signed between the Reserve Bank of India and Qatar Central Bank. The pact will establish an arrangement for sharing of supervisory information and enhancing co-operation in the area of banking supervision. Another pact on exchange of experiences, information and expertise in the field of legal affairs was also signed. Vice-President Hamid Ansari, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chair Sonia Gandhi and BJP leader Sushma Swaraj, also leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s Parliament, called on HH the Emir. HH the Emir is accompanied during the visit by HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser and a high-level official delegation. Later yesterday, the business chambers of Qatar and India signed a pact to set up a joint business council that will promote two-way trade and investment. The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the Qatar Chamber of Commerce and Industry (QCCI) signed the agreement. “The two chambers have agreed to set up the joint business council in order to carry out more systematically business promotional activities in trade, investment, technology transfer, services and other industrial sectors,” FICCI said in a statement after signing of the agreement. The joint business council will provide a regular and recognised forum for discussion on promotion of these activities between businessmen and industrialists of the two countries, it said. FICCI president R V Kanoria and QCCI chairman Sheikh Khalifa bin Jassim al-Thani signed the agreement. The visit of the Emir underlines India’s burgeoning ties with the Gulf region, which contributes over 50% of India’s oil imports. The region is home to over 6mn Indians who send $30bn in remittances. Last night, HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa and HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser attended a dinner banquet held in their honour by Indian President Pratibha Patil at the presidential palace. At the start of the function, the president called Qatar “an important partner in India’s efforts towards securing stable energy supplies”. She said: “Sustained growth of our economies offers new scopes and opportunities for co-operation, yet the levels of bilateral trade and investments are less than available potentials. Hence, there is an urgent need to intensify economic co-operation for the mutual benefit of the two countries and peoples.” Patil noted that there were some half a million Indians in Qatar, expressing her appreciation of the hospitality accorded to the Indian community in the country. She expressed her appreciation of the successes achieved by Qatar in implementing its political and economic agendas. “Your esteemed country may consider India an important partner” in these efforts for the welfare of the two friendly countries and their peoples”, she stressed. IANS, QNA ‘Strategic partners’ HE the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah has described India as the strategic partner of Qatar. In a statement to Qatar News Agency (QNA), HE al-Attiyah said that Qatar’s “keenness to further enhance relations with the friendly Republic of India is clearly evident by the current visit of HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani”. Al-Attiyah noted that this was the Emir’s third visit to India.