Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, said on Sunday its investment plans in India were on track, noting that the Indian economy had the strength to recover from the negative effects of the coronavirus crisis.
In February last year, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced that Saudi Arabia would invest over $ 100 billion in India in petrochemicals, refining, infrastructure, mining and manufacturing, agriculture, and various other sectors.
“Our plans to invest in India are on the right track and we are currently discussing prioritizing investment opportunities in several sectors in both countries,” said Saudi Ambassador Dr. Saud bin Mohammed Al Sati in an interview with PTI.
Al Sati said Saudi Arabia values India as a strategic partner and close friend and identified ongoing cooperation in training, knowledge sharing and counterterrorism as key elements of the defense and security partnership.
Al Sati praised India’s efforts to revitalize its economy amid the effects of the pandemic, saying the economic recovery in both countries will help boost other economies in the region as well.
“The economic aid package provided by India to its key sectors is commendable. As the fifth largest world economy and the largest economy in South Asia, the Indian economy has the impetus to recover from the effects of the ongoing pandemic,” he said.
Without commenting on Army Chief MM Naravane’s visit to Saudi Arabia last week, the ambassador said the two countries’ establishment of the Strategic Partnership Council opens new avenues for cooperation in multiple sectors, including defense and security and counter-terrorism.
“The Strategic Council (Partnership Council) established by both countries in 2019 opened new avenues for partnerships in strategic areas such as defense, anti-security, energy security and renewable energies,” he said.
Gen Naravane had in-depth discussions with the commander of the Saudi Royal Land Forces, General Fahd Bin Abdullah Mohammed Al-Mutir on Sunday as he embarked on a rare two-day visit to the Gulf country to lay the foundation for deeper military ties.
On the first visit of a chief of the Indian army, Gen Naravane traveled to the Saudi capital Riyadh last week, where he held talks with senior military officials.
The two sides set up the Strategic Partnership Council during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Riyadh last October. The Council is mandated to monitor the progress of the strategic relationship in a number of key areas.
“The current decade has seen remarkable progress in relations between Saudi Arabia and India. What used to be seen as ties between two friendly countries is now a strong strategic partnership between two formidable economies,” said Al Sati.
“From energy cooperation, security and defense, to burgeoning trade, and health cooperation, the nature of that relationship has changed immensely and enables expanded growth. The leadership on both sides has heralded that change in Saudi-India relations,” he said.
With regard to the trading partnership, the envoy referred to the decision by the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) to invest around USD 1.3 billion in Reliance Retail and USD 1.5 billion in Reliance’s Jio platforms.
“Saudi Aramco is committed to investing in India’s energy sector. Aramco’s decision to acquire a stake in Reliance Industries Oil to Chemical’s oil business and Aramco’s commitment to investing in the West Coast refinery’s petrochemical project demonstrate Saudi Arabia’s interest in developing India’s energy sector, “he said.
That being said, Al Sati said Saudi Arabia continues to explore new investment opportunities in India.
The envoy also highlighted Saudi Arabia’s recent Labor Reform Initiative (LRI), saying it would continue to help Saudi Arabia and India consolidate their economic ties.
“It will improve the contractual relationship between workers and employers and support the Kingdom’s vision of creating an attractive job market, strengthening and developing work skills and developing the working environment,” he said.
“The initiative is a welcome step towards improving the efficiency of the work environment in Saudi Arabia and will complement similar initiatives in this area,” he said.
Al Sati said the measures would also help narrow the gaps between Saudi workers and expatriates.
“The positive economic benefits expected from LRI include local market development and flexibility of work, increased productivity in the private sector which attracts highly skilled talent, and ultimately the achievement of the Kingdom’s 2030 vision goals the national transformation program, “he said.
When asked about the political developments in Yemen, the Saudi ambassador said that the formation of the new government in that country was an important step in the context of the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement.
“We hope that this step will help achieve peace and stability in Yemen and achieve the aspirations of the Yemeni people for a political solution that will end the crisis in Yemen,” he said.
The Riyadh Accords were promoted by Saudi Arabia to end hostilities between the internationally recognized Yemeni government and southern separatists.