Baku, Apr 4 (PTI) External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today held “fruitful talks” with her Azerbaijan counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov during which the two leaders discussed a wide-range of bilateral, regional and global issues of mutual interest.

Addressing the media after the meeting, Swaraj said India is committed to working closely with Azerbaijan to build a “reliable, strong, vibrant and mutually beneficial partnership”.

“I had detailed and fruitful talks with Foreign Minister Mammadyarov. We covered the full range of bilateral, regional & global issues of mutual interest. We took stock of progress in our bilateral relations which have been progressing steadily,” Swaraj said.

She said India seeks to consolidate and strengthen its friendly relations with Azerbaijan. “I emphasised in my meetings that in India’s transformational journey, Azerbaijan can be a natural partner,” Swaraj said.

The two sides noted with satisfaction that India-Azerbaijan bilateral trade has increased substantially from around USD 50 million in 2005 to around USD 460 million in 2017. However, they agreed that it is still way below potential, and they need to work together to increase it further.

“We noted with satisfaction that after the opening of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline to the Mediterranean port, Indian oil companies have been buying substantive quantities of crude oil,” Swaraj said.

India’s ONGC-Videsh is a shareholder and investor in the ACG oil fields and Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline. ONGC Videsh was among the signatories to the Revised and Amended Production Sharing Agreement signed in September 2017 extending contract by 32 years to 2049.

Azerbaijan has invited Indian companies to set up joint ventures for production of pharmaceuticals and medical products in Special Economic Zones in Azerbaijan, Swaraj said.

The two sides expressed their interest to partner in the field of agriculture, including in cotton and tobacco cultivation.

Swaraj said that 20 Azerbaijani professionals and students have been attending training courses and scholarships in India every year under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme in a wide range of disciplines.

To enhance people-to-people contact, both India and Azerbaijan introduced electronic visa system for each other’s nationals in April 2017 and more than 500 nationals from Azerbaijan have availed the facility so far, she said.

“We shared the view that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations is a global scourge that requires global action in the spirit of “zero tolerance”, including by rooting out terrorist safe havens, disrupting terrorist networks, and financing channels and halting cross-border movement of terrorists,” Swaraj said.

“We also emphasised the need for concerted global action to deal with other common challenges such as climate change,” she added.

Earlier, Swaraj called on Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev at President’s Palace and discussed strengthening cooperation in trade and investment, connectivity and transportation, culture and tourism, pharmaceuticals, energy, IT and other sectors.

“We had fruitful discussions that brought out the high-level of commitment on both sides to strengthening the relationship for mutual benefit of the peoples of both countries,” Swaraj said, referring to her meeting with the president.

She also said that India and Azerbaijan enjoy warm and friendly relations based on historical and cultural ties.

“Our cultural exchanges over the ages have led to close cultural affinity and shared traditions. The historical monument of ‘Ateshgah’, that was used as a place of worship by Hindus, Sikhs and Zoroastrians, is a testimony of our shared culture,” she added.

Tomorrow, Swaraj would represent India at the mid-term ministerial meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

“As a founding member of NAM, India remains committed to its purposes and principles, and will continue its active and constructive engagement within the Movement, with a view to further strengthen solidarity and cooperation among its Member States,” Swaraj said.

Earlier, she laid a wreath at the Eternal Fire Monument at the “Alley of Martyrs” in memory of those who sacrificed their lives defending Azerbaijan.

This is the first-ever bilateral visit of an Indian External Affairs Minister to Azerbaijan.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.