New Delhi: The signing of the agreement on the Strategic Partnership Council by India and Saudi Arabia would strengthen the already robust relations between the two countries, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said.
Prime Minister who is visiting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was speaking to the Arab News.
This is second visit of Prime Minister Modi to the Kingdom in three years.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the two countries have been working together within the G20 to reduce inequality and promote sustainable development.
Saying stable oil prices are crucial for the growth of the global economy, he praised the Kingdom’s role as an important and reliable source of India’s energy requirements.
Talking about the excellent personal relations between him and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia HRH Mohammad Bin Salman, the Prime Minister said, “Since my first visit to the Kingdom in 2016, I have personally witnessed a remarkable growth in our bilateral relations. I have met His Royal Highness (HRH) Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman five times. I recall with warmth my previous meetings with him, and look forward to meeting him again during this visit.
I am confident that under the leadership of His Majesty King Salman and HRH Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, bilateral relations between India and Saudi Arabia will only grow stronger.”
Prime Minister said, “Neighbourhood First” continues to be the guiding vision for my government’s foreign policy. India’s relations with Saudi Arabia are one of the most important bilateral relationships in our extended neighbourhood.”
On the agreement on Strategic Partnership Council which is going to be signed during this visit, he said, “will begin a new era of cooperation across sectors. Our ties across various dimensions such as trade, investment, security and defence cooperation are robust and deep, and will only strengthen further.”
“I believe that Asian powers like India and Saudi Arabia share similar security concerns in their neighbourhood. In that respect, I am happy that our cooperation, particularly in the field of counterterrorism, security and strategic issues, is progressing very well. My national security adviser just visited Riyadh for a very productive visit.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India and Saudi Arabia have a Joint Committee on Defence Cooperation that holds regular meetings and that the two nations have identified a number of areas of mutual interest and cooperation in the field of defence and security.
“We are also in the process of entering into agreements on security cooperation, collaboration in defence industries, and also agreed to hold a comprehensive security dialogue mechanism between the two countries”, he said.
On the question of turmoil in several regions of West Asia, the Prime Minister called for ‘a balanced approach to resolve the conflicts, while respecting the principles of sovereignty and non-interference in each other’s internal matters’.
He said, “India shares excellent bilateral relations with all the countries in the region, and a very large Indian diaspora, numbering over 8 million, resides in the region. A dialogue process that encourages the participation of all stakeholders is important to bring peace and security to this very important region.”
On his outlook on the current global economy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “The global economic outlook is strongly dependent on the path chartered by the large developing countries such as India. As I mentioned in my speech at the UN General Assembly in September, we sincerely believe that we need collective efforts, for the growth of all, with everyone’s trust.”
He said, “Economic uncertainty is an offshoot of unbalanced multilateral trade systems. Within the G20, India and Saudi Arabia have been working together to reduce inequality and promote sustainable development. I am happy to note that Saudi Arabia will be hosting the G20 Summit next year and India will host it in 2022, which is also the 75th anniversary of our independence.”
On the question of the current sluggishness in the Western Economies and the role of India and Saudi Arabia in such a scenario, the Prime Minister said, “India has undertaken many reforms to create a business-friendly environment, and to ensure that we remain a major driver of global growth and stability. Our reforms for ease of doing business and introducing investor-friendly initiatives have contributed to improving our position in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index from 142 in 2014 to 63 in 2019.”
“A number of major flagship initiatives, like Make in India, Digital India, Skill India, Swachh Bharat, Smart Cities and Startup India, are offering a lot of opportunities to foreign investors. Similarly, I am happy to note that Saudi Arabia too has embarked upon a reform program as part of their Vision 2030.”
On the long term energy relation with Saudi Arabia, which is the largest Oil supplier to India, he said, “India imports around 18 percent of its crude oil from the Kingdom, making it the second-largest source of crude oil for us. From a purely buyer-seller relationship, we are now moving toward a closer strategic partnership that will include Saudi investments in downstream oil and gas projects.”
“We value the Kingdom’s vital role as an important and reliable source of our energy requirements. We believe that stable oil prices are crucial for the growth of the global economy, particularly for developing countries. Saudi Aramco is participating in a major refinery and petrochemical project on India’s west coast. We are also looking forward to the participation of Aramco in India’s Strategic Petroleum Reserves.”
On the question whether India would like Saudi Arabia’s participation in the massive Smart City projects announced by the Government, Prime Minister Modi said, “One of the major areas of cooperation between India and Saudi Arabia is in investments in our infrastructure projects. During his visit to India in February 2019, the crown prince had indicated an intent to invest in excess of $100 billion in India across various sectors.”
“We welcome greater Saudi investments in our infrastructure projects, including the Smart Cities program. We also welcome Saudi interest in investing in the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund.”
Talking about the areas other than energy, in which India and Saudi Arabia can cooperate, the Prime Minister said, “I am happy to share with you that during my visit this time, India and Saudi Arabia plan to enter into agreements in various areas, including defense, security, renewable energy etc.”
“Other major initiatives include the proposal to launch the RuPay card in the Kingdom, which will facilitate payments and remittances by the Indian diaspora; integration of the e-Migrate and e-Thawtheeq portals, which will facilitate the process of migration of Indian labor into the Kingdom; and an agreement on training diplomats in our respective academies.”
“India is known for its world-class capacity-building centers, and there are many initiatives to provide training to the Saudi youth in different fields. We are also discussing mutual cooperation in the field of space research.”
In his message to the Indian Diaspora in Saudi Arabia, the Prime Minister said, “Nearly 2.6 million Indians have made Saudi Arabia their second home, contributing to its growth and development. Many Indians also visit the Kingdom every year for the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage, and for business purposes.”
He said, “My message to my fellow citizens is that your country is proud of the place that you have made for yourself in the Kingdom, and your hard work and commitment have helped to generate a lot of goodwill for the overall bilateral relationship.”
“I am confident that you will continue to remain the binding force in our ties with the Kingdom, and further contribute to the strengthening of the historic ties between the two countries, which are based on people-to-people contacts over several decades.”
During the present visit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have bilateral discussions with King Salman and delegation-level talks with the crown prince. These discussions will be in addition to Modi delivering the keynote address at the third Future Investment Initiative (FII) forum, widely seen as the most important economic forum in the Middle East.
Prime Minister Modi’s visit is expected to further strengthen and expand bilateral ties in various areas such as security and strategic cooperation, defence, energy security, renewable energy, investments, trade and commerce, small and medium enterprises, agriculture, civil aviation, infrastructure, housing, financial services, training and capacity building, culture and people-to-people engagement. Nearly a dozen government-to-government agreements related to these areas are expected to be signed, as well as several government-to-business agreements.
One of the most important outcomes of the visit is expected to be the establishment of a Strategic Partnership Council (SPC) between the two countries. India will become the fourth country with which the Kingdom has formed a strategic partnership, the others being the UK, France and China.
The SPC will have two parallel tracks: Political, security, culture and society, headed by both countries’ foreign ministers; and economy and investment, headed by India’s commerce and industry minister and the Saudi energy minister.
Energy security is one of the prime areas of India’s engagement with Saudi Arabia. New Delhi appreciates the Kingdom’s vital role as a reliable source for India’s long-term energy supplies; the Kingdom supplies 18 percent of India’s crude oil requirements and 30 percent of its liquefied petroleum gas needs. Both countries are keen to transform the buyer-seller relationship in this sector into a much broader strategic partnership based on mutual complementarity and interdependence.