New Delhi: India and energy-rich Qatar, home to half a million Indians, Monday signed six agreements in diverse areas, including a pact on cooperation in oil and gas exploration.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held talks with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani on a range of issues, including boosting trade and investment as well as energy ties between the two countries.

Issues relating to the welfare of Indian workers in the Gulf country were also discussed.

After the talks, India’s Petroleum Minister S. Jaipal Reddy and Qatar’s Energy Minister Mohammed Bin Saleh al-Sada signed a pact on establishing a cooperative framework to enhance bilateral cooperation in oil and gas.

The pact envisages cooperation in the areas of upstream and downstream oil and gas activities. It is expected to encourage and promote investment and cooperation between two ministries of oil and gas and through affiliated companies.

Qatar, which holds the world’s third-largest natural gas reserves after Russia and Iran, has an LNG (liquefied natural gas) export capacity of 77 million tonnes a year.

India buys 7.5 million tonnes of LNG from Qatar under a long-term contract.

India imported 5.6 million tonnes of oil from Qatar in 2010-11 and is willing to increase the imports.

Three agreements were signed in the fields of educational exchanges, cultural contacts and promoting tourism.

A memorandum of agreement was signed between the Reserve Bank of India and Qatar Central Bank.

The pact will establish an arrangement for sharing of supervisory information and enhancing cooperation in the area of banking supervision.

Another pact on exchange of experiences, information and expertise in the field of legal affairs was also signed.

The visit of Qatar’s emir’s visit underlines India’s burgeoning ties with the Gulf region, which contributes over 50 percent of India’s oil imports.

The region is home to over six million Indians who send $30 billion in remittances.

Source: IANS