New Delhi, June 15 (IANS) India and Kuwait Thursday inked a double tax avoidance pact and agreed on greater cooperation in energy and biotechnology, coinciding with the six-day state visit of Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the first by a head of state from the Gulf nation to India in 23 years.
The agreement was signed after delegation-level talks between the two countries, led respectively by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the emir - who had arrived here Wednesday with a large delegation of top ministers and businessmen.
During the talks, the emir - who was extended an official welcome Monday morning at the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the presidential palace - lauded the expertise India had gained in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and IT.
The two leaders focused on ways to not only push bilateral trade and investment ties between the two countries significantly but also their age-old cultural relations, external affairs ministry spokesman Navrtej Sarna said.
"Main issues that came up for discussions during the talks is a keen desire from both sides for economic cooperation. In the context of that both sides signed an agreement for avoidance of double taxation," Sarna told reporters here.
The talks also focused on cooperation in counter-terrorism and the two countries signed two more pacts on curbing the flow of narcotics and stepping up cultural exchange programmes.
"Another thing discussed was that there should be possibilities for Indian companies to invest in energy and petrochemicals sectors in Kuwait," Sarna added. India's bilateral trade with Kuwait stands at $700 million annually, excluding oil.
During his six-day stay in India, which includes a visit to Mumbai Friday before leaving for Pakistan, the emir will hold discussions with Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi.
Kuwait hosts over 500,000 Indian expatriates and Ravi is expected to take up the issue of a proposed bilateral pact on labour to protect the interests of Indian workers.
The emir will address a joint meeting with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the Confederation of Indian Industry, the three leading business bodies in the country.
Meetings are scheduled with Congress party president Sonia Gandhi, who is also the chairperson of the ruling United Progressive Alliance, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha L.K. Advani and Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
A banquet in his honour was held by President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
The emir arrived here from Thailand where he took part in celebrations to mark 60 years of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej's accession to the throne.
He will be leaving for Pakistan June 19 after a three-day stay in Mumbai during which he will meet industry and government representatives on ways to boost bilateral trade and investments.