(MENAFN - Arab News) A high-powered delegation led by Abdullah Al-Asheikh, president of the Shoura Council, arrived in India yesterday to boost cooperation in parliamentary affairs and to open a new chapter in Indo-Saudi relations.
The 11-member delegation, which includes senior Shoura members, will hold wide-ranging talks with high-ranking Indian officials in New Delhi today and tomorrow in a bid to further promote bilateral relations, Indian Ambassador Hamid Ali Rao said in Riyadh yesterday.
"This high-powered Saudi delegation will hold interactions with Indian parliamentarians and compare different parliamentary practices in an effort to boost cooperation between the two legislative bodies," he said.
This is the first visit of a Shoura president to New Delhi. Somnath Chatterjee, then speaker of India's Lok Sabha, visited Riyadh in 2007.
Referring to the progressively growing relations between the Kingdom and India, Rao said: "The friendship and close cooperation between the two countries are at a high point, having been nurtured in recent times through regular consultations between our top officials."
The move to promote cooperation in the field of parliamentary affairs is important keeping in view India's growing engagement in the Kingdom and in the region at large.
Asked about the itinerary of the Saudi delegation, Manohar Ram, deputy chief of the Indian mission, said: "The Saudi delegation will visit the Indian Parliament on Tuesday, where they will be received by Mira Kumar, Lok Sabha (House of the People) speaker."
Al-Asheikh and his accompanying delegation will also attend the sessions of Lok Sabha, said Ram, adding that Kumar will host a dinner for the Saudi guests tonight.
The Saudi delegation will also hold talks with India's vice president Mohammad Hamid Ansari before they join a lunch hosted by Indo-Saudi Friendship Group tomorrow.
India has an active Indo-Saudi Friendship Group in its Parliament, whereas the Shoura Council has also constituted a 20-member friendship group. The delegation is likely to meet several top Indian officials, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during the three-day trip.
Ram pointed out that the delegation would also hold talks with K. Rahman Khan, deputy speaker of Indian parliament (Rajya Sabha), who visited Riyadh in February this year to attend the third G20 Speakers' Consultation Meeting. Separate meetings have also been scheduled with Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna and Shushma Swaraj, leader of the opposition in the Indian Parliament, before the delegation wraps up its visit on Thursday.
Asked about the subjects of the talks with Indian officials, Ram said both sides will discuss how to boost closer cooperation and how to contribute to promoting peace and stability in the region and the world in general.
"Cooperation in political and economic fields is developing very fast between the two countries, which are also evident from the multilateral cooperation through international forums especially by supporting each other's candidacy," said the diplomat.
"The role of parliaments is very important in the modern world especially in ensuring global peace and security, said Ram. India always attaches importance to the Kingdom, considering the close relations as the two nations' valuable treasures of peace and friendship to be preserved and passed to the future generations," he added.
"The relationship between the Indian parliament and Shoura Council is an important component to our bilateral ties," said the diplomat.
The delegation led by Al-Asheikh includes senior Shoura members Mansoor Bin Abdullah Aba Al Khail, Yusuf Bin Abdus Sattar Al-Maimani, Dr. Sadoon S. Al-Sadoon and Dr. Abdur Rahman bin Usman Al-Sughayir, director general of Shoura's public relations and media. A 40-member youth delegation from Saudi Arabia, on a perception-changing visit to India, returned to the Kingdom only a few weeks back. The Shoura Council is the apex advisory and legislative body of the Kingdom with 150 members.
The Parliament, which comprises the president and the two houses, Lok Sabha (House of People) and Rajya Sabha (council of states), within the framework of a bicameral system, is the supreme legislative body in India.
The two houses of the Parliament are composed of about 800 members who serve the largest democratic electorate in the world (714 million eligible voters). The members of Lok Sabha are elected by direct poll, whereas the member of Rajya Sabha are elected by members of the state legislative assemblies and union territories.