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It is now `Look West Asia' policy, says Ahamed

R.K.Radhakrishnan

"Government has embarked on a path of deepening the ties with nations of the region" `The comprehensive economic pact to be signed with the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council is part of the effort to build closer ties with these countries'

CHENNAI: After the successful `Look East' policy that led to vast improvement in relations with east Asian countries, India was taking steps to strengthen ties with West Asian nations, Minister of State for External Affairs E.Ahamed said here on Sunday.

Stability in West Asia was critical not merely because India depended on the region for oil but also because of the huge Indian diaspora there.

"It is not merely oil that makes West Asia important to us. There are 4.5 million Indians who live and work there," said Mr. Ahamed ahead of his trip to Khartoum to participate, as an observer, in the Arab League summit.

The 22-member League's summit opens on March 28 in the Sudanese capital.

The United Progressive Alliance Government had embarked on a path of "widening and deepening" relationship with countries in the region, he told The Hindu.

One part of this plan related to expanding the existing economic agreements and the other was strengthening the strategic partnerships with West Asian nations. The growing ties reflected in the number of visits by leaders of these countries to India and vice-versa, and exchange of business and trade delegations.

Arab affairs

"India has been playing a very prominent role in Arab affairs. We were invited when the Sudanese peace accord was signed [in Nigeria] and we also participated in the Oslo conference and pledged our support," he said.

The comprehensive economic pact to be signed with the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council was part of the effort to build closer ties with these countries. Non-oil trade had grown between India and west Asia and this would receive a further boost with the signing of the agreement. Mr.Ahamed said that in Khartoum he planned to talk to leaders of many countries, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Libya and Palestine.

Palestine issue

On Palestine, he was of the firm view that Israel and other governments should deal with the elected Hamas government. "What was Likud before it came to power in Israel, Hamas is no different," he said and added that the reluctance of Israel to hand over territories was proving to be a huge stumbling block on the road towards peace in Palestine.

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