NEW DELHI - The first ever meeting of senior officials of India and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was held in Riyadh yesterday, the Ministry of External Affairs here announced.

The Indian delegation to the meeting was led by Dr. Ausaf Sayeed, Secretary in charge of the Gulf in the Ministry of External Affairs. The GCC side was led by Dr. Abdul Aziz Bin Hamad Al Owaishaq, Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Negotiations in the GCC Secretariat.

The meeting was a follow-up to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the two sides on a “Mechanism of Consultations” during the visit of India’s External Affairs Minister, Dr. S Jaishankar, to Riyadh in September last year.

The meeting favoured the early finalisation of India-GCC Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and noted with satisfaction, the progress in trade and investment between India and the Gulf region.

Dr. Sayeed called for more collaborations between the two sides in renewable energy, food security, health and information technology sectors. Joint Working Groups of experts in some of these sectors will be set up.

As a trade bloc, the GCC is the largest trade partner of India with a total trade of US$154 billion during the last financial year.