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India and Saudi Arabia think big after signing corridor deal, ink 8 agreements to bolster energy, food security and defence ties

India-GCC talks later this year

Injecting new energy, India and Saudi Arabia took their bilateral relations into the highest orbit of engagements by signing eight agreements on Monday. This came only a day after signing of the deal for the landmark India-Middle East-Europe economic corridor that will link almost half of the world.

Meanwhile Saudi Arabia’s Al Arabiya news channel reported that both the countries have signed as many as 49 deals.

Addressing a press briefing on the State visit of the Saudi Crown Prince, Secretary (CPV and OIA) Ausaf Sayeed said, “I am happy to share with you that during this visit as many as eight agreements have been signed.”

The agreements signed are in the field of energy, in the field of digitalisation and electronic manufacturing, and cooperation between India’s Central Vigilance Commission and Saudi Anti-corruption. There was an agreement between the two investment entities, India and Saudi counterparts Exim banks, Small and Medium Enterprises Banks and an agreement on desalination. An agreement was also signed on renewable energy.

“One is the field of energy which was signed by the Saudi Minister of Energy and our Minister of New and Renewable Energy,” said Sayeed.

“Then there was an agreement between the agreement in the field of digitalisation and electronic manufacturing between the IT ministries of both sides,” he said.

Another agreement was between the Central Vigilance Commission of India and its counterpart the Saudi Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority.

“And the fourth agreement was between the National Archives. Then there was an agreement between the two investment entities, that is Invest India on the Indian side and the Ministry of Investment on the Saudi side,” said Sayeed.

“There was another agreement between the two EXIM banks and there was also another agreement between the Small and Medium Enterprises Bank banks of two sides, that is SIDBI and the SME Bank of Saudi Arabia,” the Secretary said, adding, “And the last one was in the field of Desalination.”

Over two dozen Memoranda of Understanding were signed between India and Saudi Arabia companies, ranging from Information Technology, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, and human resources, among other sectors.

Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs, said on his official X page that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman held the first leaders meeting of the Indian-Saudi Strategic Partnership Council. “The Agenda included a broad range of areas of bilateral cooperation including energy security, trade and investment, defense and security, healthcare, food security, culture and community welfare issues among others,” he wrote.

The way New Delhi accorded a majestic welcome to the Saudi Crown Prince, it became evident that PM Modi wants the heart of Arab nations as India’s best pal in the Middle East region.

The Crown Prince was accompanied with high-level officers and some ministers when he met PM Modi, hinting that the two sides may soon ink some mutual agreements for developing infrastructure, energy transfer, trade and investment, defence and security, healthcare and food security.

PM Modi said in his opening remarks that the talks with the visiting Saudi Arabian leader will provide new energy and direction to ties between the two nations.

“For India, Saudi Arabia is one of its most important strategic partners. As two large and fast-growing economies of the world, our mutual cooperation is important for peace and stability in the entire region. In our talks, we have identified several initiatives to take our partnership to the next level. Today’s talks will provide new energy and direction to our relations. This will provide us inspiration to work together for the welfare of humanity,” he said.

He noted that the cooperation between India and Saudi Arabia in the economic sector is vital for the peace and stability of the entire region. He lauded the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince’s commitment or the welfare of Indians residing in Saudi Arabia.

Both leaders, the Saudi Crown Prince and the Indian Prime Minister, have enacted transformative changes that have propelled both nations toward economic progress and social advancement. Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed recent reforms undertaken by the Saudi Crown Prince to promote moderation and openness in Saudi Arabia. In turn, the Saudi Crown Prince expressed admiration for the Indian model of inclusivity, pluralism, and tolerance during his official visit to India in February 2019.

Saudi Arabia also extended assistance to India during the COVID-19 pandemic, sending much-needed oxygen during the second wave when the South Asian nation faced a severe oxygen shortage.

Both nations have collaborated in various sectors, aligning with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 development goals. Areas of cooperation include boosting bilateral investments and ongoing discussions, according to Indian sources, about cooperation in the digital economy, mining, refining and petrochemicals, infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing, education, and healthcare.

The Kingdom was India’s fourth-largest trading partner, while India ranks as the Kingdom’s second-largest trading partner, and the volume of trade exchange between the two countries has surged by 50 percent, reaching $53 billion, compared to $35 billion in 2021. Official Indian data reveals that over 20% of India’s crude oil imports come from Saudi Arabia, and during the 2022-2023 fiscal year, Indian imports from Saudi Arabia surpassed $42 billion, with exports to Saudi Arabia reaching $10 billion, an increase of over 22% from the previous year.

For India, its relationship with Saudi Arabia holds significant importance. Approximately 1.88 million Indians reside in Saudi Arabia, constituting nearly a quarter of the total foreign residents in the country, as per official figures from last year. Additionally, India heavily relies on oil imports from Saudi Arabia to meet its energy needs for its vast economy, which the International Monetary Fund has deemed a “bright spot in the global economy.”

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia recognises India as one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, with a GDP now exceeding $3.1 trillion, making it the fifth-largest economy globally.

Prior to his meeting with PM Modi, the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince received a ceremonial reception at Rashtrapati Bhavan. PM Modi and President Droupadi Murmu welcomed the Saudi Arabian leader.

The Saudi Crown Prince then inspected a combined defence services Guard of Honour.

Mohammed bin Salman congratulated India for a successful G20 presidency.

“Well done India, a lot of announcements were made that will benefit both our countries, the G20 countries and the whole world. So I want to say to India, well done, and we will work to create a future for both countries,” he told reporters.