Relations between India and Saudi Arabia, which have strengthened considerably over the past few years – particularly following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Riyadh in October 2019 – will be the focus of attention this weekend. while External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will travel directly from Tokyo to Saudi Arabia. capital today.
Jaishankar will co-chair the inaugural ministerial meeting of the Political, Security, Social and Cultural Cooperation (PSSC) Committee, established under the India-Saudi Arabia Strategic Partnership Council, with the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud.
The Strategic Partnership Council, which includes two sub-committees – the PSSC and the Economy and Investments Committee – reflects the will of the leaders of both parties to give new impetus to this important relationship.
The two sub-committees have four functional levels of engagement – top level (Prime Minister and Crown Prince); ministerial level; meetings of senior officials; and Joint Working Groups (JWGs).
The two ministers are expected to undertake a comprehensive review of the entire bilateral relationship and will discuss progress under the PSSC Committee’s four joint working groups – political and consular; legal and security; social and cultural; and Joint Defense Cooperation Committee.
Prime Minister Modi had expressed India’s desire to see more investment from Saudi Arabia, including in key sectors like energy, IT and defense manufacturing when Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud called it when he visited New Delhi last year.
Long before the first ministerial meeting, groups and senior officials at the secretary level have held discussions over the past few months.
During the three-day visit, Jaishankar will also meet with other Saudi dignitaries as well as Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Secretary General Nayef Falah Mubarak Al-Hajraf to review bilateral relations and discuss ways to improve them. to improve.
While the senior leaders of the two countries have remained in close contact even during the Covid pandemic, India and Saudi Arabia have witnessed an increase in cooperation in the fields of politics, security, energy, trade, investment, health, food security, culture and defence.
Saudi Arabia remains India’s fourth largest trading partner. More than 18% of India’s crude oil imports come from Saudi Arabia. In FY22 (April-December), bilateral trade was valued at US$29.28 billion. During this period, Indian imports from Saudi Arabia were valued at US$22.65 billion and exports to Saudi Arabia at US$6.63 billion.
Saudi investments in India, as of March 2021, amounted to US$3.13 billion. The main Saudi investment groups are ARAMCO, SABIC, ZAMIL, E-holidays and Al Batterjee Group. Additionally, Soft Bank’s “Vision Fund” has invested in Indian startups such as Delhivery, FirstCry, Grofers, Ola, OYO, Paytm and PolicyBazaar.
Other major proposed investments include the US$44 billion west coast refinery and petrochemicals project in Maharashtra, which is being jointly built by Saudi Aramco, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and an Indian consortium, which includes Indian Oil Corporation, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation, and Bharat Petroleum Corporation.
In the renewable energy sector, the Saudi company Al-Fanar holds a majority stake in 600 MW wind projects in India.
Riyadh also thanked India for supporting Saudi Arabia during the pandemic, including facilitating the travel of Indian medical professionals to Saudi Arabia.
While a large number of Indian workers, especially in the Gulf, have returned to India due to Covid-19, the economic recovery in this region and their growing openness to travel from India has now seen a return of many of them.
Meanwhile, bilateral trade between India and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has increased from US$87.35 billion in the financial year 2020-21 to US$154.66 billion in the of the 2021-22 financial year, registering an increase of 77.06% year-on-year. base.
Giving details in the Lok Sabha of India’s exports to the GCC over the past five financial years, Minister of State at the Ministry of Trade and Industry Anupriya Patel said a few weeks ago that since the FY 2017-18, on a base compound annual growth rate, bilateral trade between India and the GCC grew by 10.57%.
During Jaishankar’s visit, India and Saudi Arabia will also discuss regional and international issues of mutual interest, including their cooperation in the United Nations, G20 and GCC.
The two ministers also had useful exchanges of views on Afghanistan, the Gulf and the Indo-Pacific in the recent past.
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