India concerned about situation in Gulf: Antony

Riyadh: Observing that the current situation in the Gulf region was a cause for "great concern" for India, Defence Minister A K Antony today hoped that the crisis there will be resolved through peaceful dialogue.

The Defence Minister, who is on a two-day visit here, said the Gulf region has an "immense importance" in the Indian foreign policy as it provides more than half of country`s total crude oil imports.

"The current situation in the Gulf region is a cause for great concern for India and we hope that the crisis in the region will be resolved through peaceful dialogue," Antony said here. His comments came against the backdrop of EU and US sanctions on Iran`s oil export over Tehran`s controversial nuclear programme.

Soon after landing, the Indian Defence Minister held a meeting with Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud here on Monday.

In the 30-minute meeting, the two leaders expressed satisfaction that both countries are pursuing cooperation in pursuit of the strategic partnership, especially in security, defence, economic and political fields, Indian Defence Ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar said.

King Abdullah offered all assistance to New Delhi, including additional supply of crude oil if it required the same. For his meetings scheduled with Princes Salman and Khalid today, Antony hoped that his discussions with them will lead to specific initiatives to deepen the defence exchanges to the benefit of both the countries.

He expressed confidence that his visit will give a "new substance and direction" to Indo-Saudi defence ties and said, "this constitutes an important component of the emerging strategic partnership between the two countries".

Antony said India is working closely with all countries in the Gulf region in a co-ordinated manner to combat terrorism and for anti-piracy measures.

During a meeting with people of Indian community, Antony said over 6 million Indians live and work in the region and "we appreciate the assistance of their host governments towards their safety and well-being".

The Saudi Kind also paid tributes to `emigre` Indians for their role in enriching the Saudi economy and social life. In his address to the Indian community, Antony described Saudi Arabia as an important strategic partner of India in the region. "The region is perhaps the largest trading partner of India with the total two way trade of over USD 130 billion in 2010-11," he said.

Talking about India`s economic successes, he said, this has been achieved within the framework of our democratic and secular order. "Though major challenges still remain, it is a matter of satisfaction for all of us that our Constitution remains the guardian of our nationhood and our national values," he said.