India, Saudi Arabia share common security concerns, says Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with King Salman in Saudi Arabia

New Delhi (NVI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that India and Saudi Arabia share common security concerns in their neighbourhood, even as New Delhi was all set to become only the fourth power to enter into strategic partnership with Riyadh- the other three being UK, France and China.

Modi will sign the agreement on the Strategic Partnership Council between India and Saudi Arabia during his two-day visit to Saudi Arabia, which began on October 29.

Modi began his official engagements in Riyadh with a productive meeting with the king of Jordan Abdullah II. The two leaders discussed ways to deepen business and cultural linkages, an official statement said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Jordan king Abdullah II

“Both leaders exchange views on working closely to strengthen ties across sectors, especially in trade & investment, human resource development and people-to-people ties,” the prime minister office tweeted.

The establishment of Strategic Partnership Council (SPC) between India and Saudi Arabia during Modi’s ongoing visit would strengthen the bilateral ties between the two nations in the areas such as security and strategic cooperation, defence, energy security, renewable energy, investments, trade and commerce.

On the signing of the agreement ahead of his two day visit to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Modi said, “We 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,” he added while interacting with Arab News.

During his two day visit, Modi is scheduled to hold bilateral discussions with King Salman and delegation-level talks with the crown prince. He will also deliver the keynote address while attending the third session of the Future Investment Initiative (FII) Forum in Riyadh.

Stating stable oil prices as crucial for the growth of the global economy, Speaking to Arab News Modi praised the Kingdom’s role as an important and reliable source of India’s energy requirements.

On his outlook on the current global economy, 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.”

“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,” he added.

“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,” said Modi.

“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 added.

On the question of turmoil in several regions of West Asia, the Prime Minister called for ‘a balanced approach to resolve conflicts, while respecting the principles of sovereignty and non-interference in each other’s internal matters’.

On the question of the current sluggishness in the Western Economies and the role of India and Saudi Arabia in such a scenario, Modi 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, 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, Modi 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,” he added.

In his message to the Indian Diaspora in Saudi Arabia, Modi 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 is also expected to expand bilateral cooperation in various areas by signing of dozens government-to-government agreements as well as several government-to-business agreements. 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, said the statement.

–PS