India and Jordan on Saturday agreed to enhance their cooperation in counter-terrorism and defence during talks between visiting President Pranab Mukherjee and King Abdullah of Jordan, a frontline state in the battle against terror in the turbulent West Asian region.
Embarking on a six-day visit to Jordan, Palestine and Israel, Mukherjee conferred with the Jordanian monarch on a wide variety of subjects, including terrorism, UN Security Council reforms, enhancement of bilateral trade. The two leaders agreed that there should be greater cooperation on counter-terrorism and defence for which mechanisms will be worked out.
On the first day of his two-day visit to Jordan, Mukherjee informed the King that India would provide a line of credit worth $100 million (Rs 647 crore) to Jordan, the details of which will be worked out shortly. The two leaders also did a virtual inauguration of the world’s largest sulphuric acid plant set up at a cost of $860 million (Rs 5,570 crore) in Eshidiya, 325 km from Amman.
The Jordanian monarch, who hosted a lunch for the President shortly after his arrival, supported India’s candidature in a reformed UN Security Council. He also endorsed India’s approach on UN reforms, an Indian spokesman said later.
The issue of 39 Indians believed to be in the captivity of the Islamic State did not specifically come up, the spokesman said, adding that India was in touch with all the countries in the region in this regard.
Mukherjee endorsed the King’s recent call at the UN that it was the right time to sound a warning on terrorism and extremism which does not respect any religion. The menace threatened the basic safety and security of the world.
King Abdullah accepted the President’s invitation to visit India along with Queen Rania as soon as possible.
The President spoke about the growing Indian economy, but pointed out that a large section of the population needed to be lifted out of poverty. India, therefore, has to grow at a minimum of 8 per cent for the next ten years.
A large part of the discussions between the King and Mukherjee focussed on enhancing bilateral trade and investments. Some 20 textile mills in Jordan are owned by Indians who have invested about $300 million.
Jordan is seeking greater Indian investment and representatives of the Tata group are arriving Monday to scout for investment opportunities. The Mahindra group is also said to be interested in investing here.
On his part, the President told the King that there were opportunities of investment in India’s defence sector in which upto 49 per cent could be invested through automatic route and even 100 per cent on a case by case basis.
Mukherjee, who is accompanied by Union Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot and six MPs belonging to different parties, told the King about India’s multi-party system and how all parties were contributing in strengthening the country.
A colourful reception was accorded to the Indian leader at the Al Husseinieh Palace, where he drove straight from the airport after a six-hour flight from India.
The President and the King, who wields all the power in Jordan, met for half-an-hour before delegation-level talks.
Mukherjee, who will travel to Palestine and Israel after a two-day stay here, is the first Indian head of state to visit the three countries even as the external affairs minister has not been to these countries.
Ahead of his visit, the President called his trip to the three countries as “historic”.
Continuing violence in Israel and Palestine in recent weeks, which has resulted in heavy casualties, led to curtailment of the President’s plans to visit some of the historic places there and has led to deployment of extra security.
Mukherjee is the first Indian President to visit Jordan in the last 65 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Earlier, Rajiv Gandhi had visited Jordan as prime minister in 1988.
Mukherjee will also visit the University of Jordan and address its students and faculty.
Ahead of his visit, the President had said India wants to further strengthen cooperation in the area of security and counter terrorism with Jordan.
“We share similar views and perceptions on regional and international issues, including Syria and the Middle East Peace Process.
“We strongly reject religious fundamentalism and extremism as well as terrorism in all forms and manifestations,” he had said.
On bilateral trade, the President said efforts will be made to reach the trade target of $5 billion from the current $2 billion by 2025.