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.”
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.”
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.”
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.