Jordan assures India support for UN high seat, food security (Roundup)

Amman, Oct 10 (IANS) President Pranab Mukherjee was on Saturday assured that Jordan will fully support India’s candidature in the expanded United Nations Security Council, even as it will favourably consider long-term contracts for exporting plant nutrients and supplement New Delhi’s drive towards food security.

These assurance came during the Indian president’s engagement with the Jordanian leadership, first at a restricted meeting with King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein, then at the delegation level.

From India’s side, it has been decided to open a $100 million line of credit to promote bilateral trade between the two countries, besides doubling to 50 the number of scholarships for Jordanian students to pursue higher education in India.

Indian fertiliser cooperative, Iffco, also announced a $70,000 donation to Queen Rania’s trust for social programmes.

Briefing the accompanying Indian media delegation on President Mukherjee’s the first day of engagements here, Secretary, East, in the Indian external affairs ministry, Anil Wadhwa said discussions were also held in the peace process in this part of the globe, and the fight against terrorism.

“Our president referred to King Abdullah’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly,” Wadhwa said, adding it was appreciated that in both New Delhi and Amman share and respect the core values of religious tolerance and respect among people besides abhorring all forms of terrorism.

But the specific issue of the conflict between Israel and Palestine, the two next stops of the president’s itinerary later visits, was not discussed, the secretary said.

The president had arrived here at noon Saturday in what he termed a landmark visit to push ties with Jordan — the first visit by an Indian head of state to the Hashemite kingdom.

He immediately got down to business upon landing here on board a special Air India flight, following which he was accorded a ceremonial welcome, a guard of honour and 21-gun salute in the forecourt of the presidential office.

After holding the talks, President Mukherjee and King Abdullah jointly inaugurated a $860-million Indo-Jordanian fertiliser plant for making raw materials, notably for sulphuric acid- and phosphoric acid-based nutrients.

Ahead of the touchdown, the president said he looked forward to the “historic visit”.

“Both our countries share similar views on regional and international issues and both of us support the peace process in the Middle East, including Syria.”

He said the two countries abhor extremism and terrorism in all forms, and believed in religious harmony.

The focus on trade and investment was also evident. The president said both countries will work towards increasing bilateral trade to $5 billion per annum, from around $2 billion now.

Officials said the project inaugurated by President Mukherjee will go a long way in achieving that, since the plan is for India to import 300 million tonnes of phosphoric acid from this plant annually.

Mukherjee said he also held Jordan as a gateway to this part of the world, thanks to its location and a very conducive investment atmosphere.

India and Jordan signed the first bilateral agreement for cooperation in 1947. It was formalised in 1950 when full diplomatic ties were established.

While King Abdullah and Queen Rania visited India in October 2012, at the head of state level, the last visit from the Indian side — prior to President Mukherjee’s visit — was by then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi nearly 30 years ago.

The king has accepted the president’s invitation to visit India at the earliest, along with the queen, officials said.

Mukherjee is on a six-day, three-nation visit which will take him next to Palestine and Israel. He is accompanied by a six-member delegation of members of parliament, as also senior officials and academics.

(Arvind Padmanabhan, executive editor with IANS, is part of the accompanying media delegation with President Pranab Mukherjee. He can be reached at arvind.p@ians.in)

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