Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Qatar on Saturday for a two-day visit mainly to boost bilateral economic ties.

Upon his arrival at the Hamad International Airport in Doha, the visiting PM attended a banquet hosted by his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani in his honour. Later, the two premiers discussed important bilateral, regional and international issues.

Senior spokesperson of Indian Ministry of External Affairs Vikas Swarup tweeted: “1st day in Doha ends with a meeting with PM Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al Thani, who also holds banquet in PM’s honour.” Swarup said that Prime Minister Modi is scheduled to hold detailed talks with Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and address the business community of the West Asian country on Sunday. Economic experts are hopeful Modi’s visit to Qatar will give a new push to bilateral economic ties, especially in the hydrocarbon sector. The energy-rich Qatar, India’s largest supplier of LNG requirements, accounts for 65% of the South Asian nation’s total imports in 2014-15 fiscal.

Earlier on Saturday, Modi made a stop-over in Afghanistan and jointly inaugurated the Afghan-India Friendship Dam with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in strategically important Herat Province. The dam, an INR 1,700 crore (INR 1 crore = USD 157,000) showpiece infrastructure project implemented by India, reflects New Delhi’s strong commitment to reconstruction of the war-ravaged country. “It is symbol of our friendship and would usher in hope, light up homes, nourish the fertile fields of Herat and bring prosperity to the people of the region,” stressed PM Modi.

Before leaving for Doha, the Indian PM discussed current political and security situation in Afghanistan with President Ghani. The president also informed Modi about the ongoing peace process there.

As Afghanistan’s ties with neighbouring Pakistan sour, India steps in nicely to fill the breach. Modi thanked the Afghan president for nurturing closer ties with India and inviting New Delhi to implement different development projects in his country. Ghani made the move after Kabul’s ties with Islamabad deteriorated in the face of continued insurgent attacks and border tensions. Afghanistan’s decision to accept Indian aid irked Pakistan, which is historically worried about Indian influence in the neighbouring country.

Meanwhile, Modi will leave for Switzerland on Sunday night after holding talks with the top Qatari leadership in Doha. Later, he will visit the US and Mexico. During his trip to these countries, the PM’s main focus will be on strengthening bilateral trade, energy and security co-operation and push for India’s bid to become a member of Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]