India, which is heavily dependent on imported fuel, is keenly interested in increasing cooperation in the energy sector with Qatar and boosting other trade.

 

Shaikh Hamad met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday and their talks focused on stepping up cooperation in the energy sector.

 

"We look forward to deepening the cooperation between Qatar and India in the fields of oil, natural gas, petrochemicals, steel industry and other strategic industries," the Amir said after arriving in New Delhi late on Wednesday.

 

Ceremonial welcome

  

The Amir, who was given a ceremonial welcome at the presidential palace, also discussed a range of bilateral, regional and global issues with Singh.

  

Qatar, which boasts the world third's largest gas reserves, has agreed to deliver 7.5 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas annually to India.

  

"We look forward to deepening the cooperation between Qatar and India in the fields of oil, natural gas, petrochemicals, steel industry and other strategic industries"

Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Qatar's Amir

The first shipments arrived at the start of last year in western Gujarat state, which is to take five million tonnes.

  

Talks are under way between Qatar's state-run Rasgas and Petronet for a second phase covering 2.5 million tonnes a year to the southern state of Kerala.

  

Petronet's chief executive Suresh Mathur said in February the company plans to offer a 10% stake to Rasgas in a proposed gas storage terminal in the southern Indian city of Kochi.

 

State-owned Indian oil companies own half of Petronet with private-sector firms holding the rest.

 

India and Qatar also signed on Thursday a bilateral air services agreement to improve connectivity.

  

The accord was signed by Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel and Qatar Finance Minister Yusif Husain al-Kamal in the presence of Singh and the Amir.