The “look east” policy of Riyadh born out of the nation’s growing vision to diversify is starting to bear fruit. Saudi Arabia is expanding its bilateral relations with developing countries with crude oil playing an important contributory role — as before.
The recent announcement by Indian Finance Minister P. Chidambaram that Crown Prince Salman, first deputy prime minister and defense minister, will be visiting New Delhi this month is an indication of how much importance both countries place on growing Indo-Saudi relations.
India and Saudi Arabia are to sign a defense cooperation pact during the visit. The proposed defense pact will allow shared use and exchange of defense-related information, military training and education as well as cooperation in areas varying from hydrography and security to logistics.
Chidambaram, who was officially in the Kingdom for the 10th session of the Saudi-India Joint Commission Meeting (JCM), said that the Kingdom and India “have been able to make significant progress in relations over the past few years.”
Chidambaram’s visit was also meant to further cement bilateral cooperation in an entire gamut of trade, commerce and other vital sectors. In this regard, the Indian minister’s visit should be termed a major success.
Both, India and the Kingdom lauded the JCM’s linear progress with Chidambaram and the Saudi Minister of Commerce and Industry Tawfiq Al-Rabiah signing the minutes at the end of the JCM meeting. It highlighted the Commission’s satisfaction over the substantial progress in the volume of trade exchange between the two countries that reached $43 billion in 2013, and looked forward to further enhancing the trade exchange.
The Commission called for expanding participation of businessmen in international fairs, which will be held in both countries, and the exchange of more visits of businessmen.
But the key area where India’s outreach was evident was the fact that it agreed to facilitate the issuance of business visas for Saudi businessmen, which will allow them to seize opportunities in India, as the Asian nation is one of the favored destinations of foreign direct investments (FDIs).
The JCM also highlighted expanding relations and the setting up of several new joint ventures like the SABIC center with an initial investment of $100 million in India and TATA Motor’s Jaguar project in the Kingdom. The Commission also emphasized that Saudi Arabia is keen to expand its cooperation with India in all commercial and investment sectors.
As of 2012, there were 350 Indian projects in the Kingdom with a total value of $1.6 billion in various sectors, such as construction, contracting, administrative consulting and IT.
Riyadh and New Delhi have agreed to promote “cooperation in the fields of oil, gas and mineral resources” with Chidambaram promising to build on his country’s complementaries in the hydrocarbon sector to strengthen the strategic energy partnership.
The countries also agreed to set up the proposed $750 million India-Saudi Investment Fund. Saudi Arabia and India have agreed to work closely in “a broad range of areas”, and have agreed to enhance cooperation in energy, pharmaceuticals, textiles, education, tourism and vocational training.
Chidambaram stressed that the holding of JCMs is an important dialogue mechanism between India and Saudi Arabia. While inviting investors to explore opportunities in India, he said: “FDI is the direct route for investment and we have a foreign investment promotion board to look into matters of assistance for investors.”
Chidambaram with this visit must have achieved his primary goals — strengthening bilateral relations, improving mutual understanding and finding ways for both sides to benefit from their complementary economies. Both countries know that ties can only grow by continuous interaction and cooperation.
(The views expressed above are the personal views of the author)
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Growing Indo-Saudi ties