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Saudi Arabia, India to ink five MoUs to boost ties

Amiti Sen New Delhi | Updated on February 18, 2019 Published on February 18, 2019

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman   -  REUTERS

New Delhi hopes to make the most of Crown Prince Mohammed Salman’s visit

Saudi Arabia will look at major areas for investments in India, sign pacts with agencies such as Invest India and participate in the country’s infrastructure fund during Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit on Tuesday a day after he pledged investments worth an estimated $20 billion to Pakistan.

Five MoUs are expected to be signed during the Crown Prince’s visit to New Delhi in areas such as investments, tourism, housing, information and broadcasting, according to the Ministry of External Affairs.

“The investments that Saudi Arabia will make in India will be very different in scope from what it will do in Pakistan. In India, it would be participating in the country’s growth story while in Pakistan it would be helping in trying to keep a debt-ridden nation’s economy from sinking,” a government official told BusinessLine

While Salman’s closeness with Pakistan demonstrated during his Islamabad visit may not have made India happy, New Delhi has decided to focus on making the most of the Crown Prince’s visit to India by forging stronger ties with Saudi Arabia, its fourth largest trade partner. Saudi Arabia also accounts for about 20 per cent of India’s oil and gas imports.

Areas of cooperation

The two sides will discuss cooperation in several other areas such as energy, including renewable energy, fertilizers, ICT, healthcare & pharmaceuticals, electronic items, agriculture, aviation and cold storages will also be discussed. “A team from the NITI Aayog recently went to Saudi Arabia to look at potential areas for cooperation. The two sides identified a number of sectors for possible cooperation and these would be discussed during the royal visit,” the official said.

Saudi Arabia is the fourth largest trade partner for India with bilateral trade last fiscal at $27.4 billion and also accounts for about 20 per cent of India’s oil and gas imports. Moreover, India has been identified as one of the eight strategic partners with whom Saudi Arabia intends to deepen partnership in areas of political, security, trade and investment and culture.

“As part of this engagement, we are finalising the setting up of ‘strategic partnership council’ between the two countries at the ministerial level. We are confident that this will give greater thrust to our strategic partnership and take forward our discussions in a focussed and action-oriented manner. This engagement has already begun between concerned authorities of both the countries in select sectors of mutual interest especially in trade, investment and economic issues,” said TS Tirumurti, Secretary (Economic Relations) at a briefing.

Salman is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind during his visit.

Published on February 18, 2019
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