JEDDAH: There is no substitute for secularism, the hallmark of Indian polity, and if the country with its diverse ethnicity, religions and languages is to progress then it has to contain its extremist elements, Arab News Editor in Chief Khaled Almaeena said on Friday night. “Today, the world is looking toward China and India as among the fastest developing countries. India will be able to compete in the race only if the country’s secular fabric is protected,” Almaeena said while speaking as chief guest at a meeting of Indian professionals organized by Indian Consul General Sayeed Ahmed Baba at the InterContinental Hotel. Drawing a comparison between China and India, he said while China was a regimented country, Indian strengths include its strong judiciary and vibrant media. “The Indian judicial system and press have given a good account of themselves by taking up issues related to minority communities and providing them justice,” Almaeena said. He wondered why India and Pakistan could not shed their animosity and work toward the common goal of being good to each other. “There are a number of secular people on both sides. They both have common ethnic groups like Punjabis who exist in both countries,” he said. He also urged the media in both countries to remove mutual fears and suspicion. India has traditionally been close to the Arab world and remained a strong supporter of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) headed by the late Yasser Arafat. The Arab world has also looked toward India as a strong supporter. Saudi and Indian traders have a long history. Both have been trading with each other for centuries. Indian pilgrims have also been visiting the two holy cities for centuries and have maintained a strong influence in Makkah. In the 1960s many Indian doctors and engineers began arriving in the Kingdom. The 1970s was also marked by a huge influx of Indian workers. Today, India has made great strides in technology, said Almaeena. “During the Cold War, Saudis looked upon India with suspicion as it was in the Soviet camp, whereas the Kingdom was with the West. Those were also the days when the Kingdom saw India through Pakistani eyes. But things started changing for the better for India with King Saud’s visit to India in 1955 and former India Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s visit which followed a couple of decades later. However, in the post-9/11 era, with the Kingdom following a ‘Look East’ trend, India is among the countries that is benefiting. The Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) has its biggest research center in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad.” Acknowledging that Indian expatriates had contributed a lot toward the development of the Kingdom through their expertise and technical know-how, Almaeena urged them to reach out to local Saudi organizations. “Young Saudi professionals are well educated and easy to get along,” Almaeena said. In his welcome address, the consul general said there were a number of highly placed professionals in different companies in the Western Province. “This new initiative is intended to enable Indian professionals periodically interact with themselves and also with the consulate officials,” he said. “Such interactions are aimed at providing a platform for Indian professionals to network among themselves and with the consulate officials,” he added. Among prominent professionals attending the meeting were Hassan Ghias of the the Binzagr Group, Shoeb Kazi of the Batterjee Group of Companies, Mahmoud A. Al-Maimani of Cubic Saudia, Riaz Mulla of ATEICO Communications, Dr. M.S. Karimuddin of New Jeddah Clinic Hospital, Bosco Rodrigues of National Flight Service, Mohamed Abdul Hameed Saleem of TasHeel and Saadat Khan of Air India.