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Swaraj In Bahrain For First India-Arab Ministerial Meeting

The minister will attend the Bahrain International Airshow in which Tejas, India's indigenous light combat aircraft, is being showcased

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External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj arrived in Bahrain on Saturday for the first ministerial meeting of the India-Arab League Cooperation Forum to deepen the country's ties with the 22-member grouping amid tensions between regional heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Swaraj, who is on a two-day visit, will also hold bilateral meetings with Foreign Ministers of a number of Arab League countries, including her Bahraini counterpart Khalid Bin Ahmed Al Khalifa.

She will also call on Bahrain's king Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa later during the trip, which her second visit to Bahrain as the External Affairs Minister. She last visited Bahrain for a bilateral meeting in 2014.

The minister will attend the Bahrain International Airshow in which Tejas, India's indigenous Light Combat Aircraft, is participating. It is the first time Tejas is participating in an international air show.

The ministerial meeting on Sunday comes over a year after the two sides held their first Senior Officials Meeting in New Delhi in November 2014.

India and Arab League are expected to deliberate on the whole gamut of bilateral issues including trade and investment, energy and culture among others.

A number of wide-ranging issues from terrorism, security to tensions between Saudi Arabia and Iran over the execution of a Shia cleric in the Kingdom are also expected to be discussed.

The Saudi-Iran spat could come up for discussion in terms of regional stability even as Iran is not part of the Arab League.

Swaraj's visit assumes significance as the world is facing the challenge of terrorism with a spate of attacks like the one at the Pathankot air base earlier this month.

Anti-terror cooperation is expected to be a key area of collaboration between India and the Arab League.

Saudi Arabia recently launched a 34-member military coalition of Muslim countries to fight terror. Pakistan was included in the coalition but it has been wary of joining the group as Iran with which it has good relations is not part of the alliance.

India's Trade
India's trade with most of the Arab countries has grown steadily in the last few years. The Gulf region accounts for over 60 per cent of India's oil and gas requirement.

A memorandum of cooperation between India and the League of Arab States was signed in 2013. In line with the agreement, the first senior officials meeting was held in 2014 while the first ministerial meeting will take place tomorrow.

The ministerial meeting will take place in alternate years and will be held alternatively in an Arab League country and India.

In August last year, during her visit to Egypt where the Arab League is headquartered, Swaraj had met the grouping's Secretary General Nabil El Araby.