Vice President Hamid Ansari on Tuesday kicked off his two day visit to Algeria with his meetings with the presiding officers of the two houses of Parliament witnessing a reaffirmation of the determination by both India and the north African country to make a new start in the bilateral relationship.
Ansari held meetings with President of Algerian National People's Assembly Mohamed Larbi Ould Khelifa and President of Council of Nations Abdelkader Bensalah and discussed a wide range of issues of bilateral interest.
The meetings, a senior official said, stressed on the need to make a new start in the relationship between the two countries as bilateral contacts had plateaued in the last two decades. During his meeting with Khelifa and Bensalah, Ansari focused on how the relations between the two countries could be strengthened and how people-to-people contacts be encouraged.
The vice president had earlier said that there was a “cooling off’’ period in the relationship between India and Algeria, but that is over now. "They (Algeria) want cooperation and we want cooperation. Both sides want the relations to be strengthened," he had said.
Ansari arrived in Algiers last night from Budapest, with the north African nation being the second stop in his two nation tour.
He began the visit by laying a wreath at the Martyrs’ Memorial, which has been built to commemorate the Algerian war for independence from French occupation.
Ansari also visited Ketchaoua mosque, a UNESCO world heritage site located at the foot of the Casbah, which was built during the Ottoman rule in the 17th century. He also visited Wilaya Tipaza, which is located along the Mediterranean sea, 68 km west of the capital Algiers, and is famous for its Roman ruins that date back to 6th Century BC to 6th Century AD.
The vice president is scheduled to hold a meeting with Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal and other senior leaders on Wednesday. At the start of the two-nation tour, Ansari had said he would focus on the need to fight terrorism in his meetings with the leadership of both Hungary and Algeria. He had said India could cooperate with Algeria in counter-terrorism, as the north African country has successfully dealt with the scourge of terror.
Algeria is of interest to India on account of its oil and gas reserves as well as its rich phosphate deposits. While the visit will take forward India’s efforts in oil diplomacy, it will also see India explore possibilities of setting up a fertilizer plant to tap the phosphate reserves and find a source of cheap fertilizers.
Bilateral trade between India and Algeria stood at 1.5 billion per annum, majority of which are related to importing oil and oil products to India.