Antony to visit Saudi Arabia

New Delhi: In the first-ever visit by an Indian Defence Minister to Riyadh from February 13, India and Saudi Arabia are all set to give a boost to their defence ties and understanding with discussion on areas of mutual benefits.

"A K Antony will embark on a two-day visit to Riyadh from Monday. This is going to be the first-ever visit by an Indian Defence Minister to Saudi Arabia," Defence Ministry officials said here.

Antony will be accompanied by Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma, Vice-Chief of Army Staff Lieutenant General S K Singh, Deputy Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Satish Soni and Air Vice Marshal M R Pawar.

In Riyadh, Antony will hold discussions with his counterpart Prince Salman-bin-Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, besides meeting other senior government and political leaders.

Defence cooperation between the two countries include training exchanges, ship visits and high-level visits by senior officials. "This visit is expected to enable both sides to engage in discussions on areas where existing cooperation can be expanded for mutual benefits," they said.

Antony will also be interacting with the representatives of Indian community in Saudi Arabia. Over the years, relations between two countries have strengthened considerably owing to cooperation in regional affairs and trade.

Saudi Arabia is one of the largest suppliers of oil to India, which is one of the top trading partners and investor there.

Last year in February, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh undertook a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia. He was accompanied by Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and Petroleum Minister Murli Deora.