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India, Qatar to hold talks: Oil, Taliban on agenda

Delhi,Diplomacy, Wed, 04 Apr 2012 IANS

New Delhi, April 4 (IANS) India will seek to scale up its imports of oil and gas from Qatar when Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani holds talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday. New Delhi is also expected to seek an update on reports of the Taliban planning to open an office in Doha.


India will roll out the red carpet for the visiting leader of Qatar, home to over 500,000 Indians who send home around $1 billion in remittances.



Manmohan Singh and Qatar's emir will hold talks on a wide range of issues encompassing diverse areas, including business, energy, infrastructure and defence.


Some pacts are expected to be signed after the talks.


Qatar and India will "sign agreements and MoUs in key areas" during the visit, India's ambassador to Qatar Deepa Gopalan Wadhwa said in Doha.


During the talks, India is expected to seek clarification of reports and speculation about the Taliban opening an office in Qatari capital Doha, reliable sources said.


The issue is of vital importance in view of India's growing stakes in Afghanistan and against the backdrop of the phased pullout of the US troops from the violence-torn country.



There has already been an agreement on the concept of opening a political office for Taliban in DohaQatar's , Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah said recently.


He stressed on the need for successful negotiations involving all the interested parties. "For the peace process to succeed all parties should be engaged in the negotiations to arrive at a solution satisfactory to all," al-Attiyah said. "The Doha office of Taliban aims mainly at enhancing communication and negotiations among all factions."


The visit of Qatar's emir's visit underscores India's burgeoning ties with the Gulf region, which contributes over 50 per cent of India's oil imports. The region is home to over six million Indians who send back $30 billion in remittances.


Ahead of the visit, Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister S. Jaipal Reddy said Monday said that India is keen to increase gas and crude oil imports from Qatar and the two countries are hopeful of soon working out the prices of the new supplies.


Reddy said India imported 5.6 million tonnes of oil from Qatar in 2010-11 and was willing to increase the imports.


India also buys 7.5 million tonnes of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) from Qatar under a long-term contract.


Reddy held bilateral talks with Qatari Energy and Industry Minister Mohammed bin Saleh al Sada here and requested for additional supply of oil and gas.


India has been asking for an additional 5 million tonnes of LNG supply from Qatar, the world's largest LNG producer with an annual production capacity of 77 million tonnes.


However, pricing remains the sticky point as Qatar has been demanding very high prices for the new supply.


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