India and Saudi Arabia to sign dozen agreements during PM Modi's two day visit3 min read . Updated: 27 Oct 2019, 04:50 PM IST
- The visit comes at a time when India is looking to counter the Pakistani narrative on India’s move to revoke Article 370
- One of the chief takeaways of the visit is expected to be the creation of the India-Saudi Arabia Strategic Partnership Council
NEW DELHI : India and Saudi Arabia are likely to sign a dozen agreements on energy, defence procurement and civil aviation during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two-day visit to the West Asian nation this week. The visit will set bilateral ties on a strategic trajectory, Indian officials said.
“There are 12 agreements being signed. The important ones pertain to the defence procurement industry, renewable energy and then there is one in civil aviation. We look forward that this visit becomes a landmark visit once again after Modi’s 2016 visit," said Ausaf Sayeed, India’s ambassador to Riyadh.
Modi will arrive in Riyadh on 28 October following which he will meet the Saudi monarch Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on 29 October and address the Future Investment Initiative Forum organised by the Saudi Arabia’s Sovereign Wealth Fund – the Public Investment Fund.
The forum is popularly known as the ‘Davos in the Desert’ and has been hosted by Riyadh since 2017 to project the kingdom as the future investment hub in the region.
The visit comes at a time when India is looking at ways to counter Pakistan’s narrative on India’s move to revoke article 370 of its constitution and integrate Kashmir with the rest of the country.
Saudi Arabia is an influential voice in the Islamic world because it houses Islam’s two most revered pilgrimage sites—the Mecca and Medina mosques. Having India on its side will benefit Saudi Arabia as it is facing criticism from international community for the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year.
A key takeaway of the visit is expected to be the creation of the India-Saudi Arabia Strategic Partnership Council that will be chaired by Modi on the Indian side and by King Salman for Saudi. This would enable regular monitoring of the progress of the strategic partnership.
The council will have two parallel mechanisms under it — one to look at political and diplomatic ties and the second to supervise commercial and energy ties. For both the mechanism, the council will report to Modi and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The first mechanism will be headed by India’s foreign minister S. Jaishankar and his Saudi counterpart and the second will be headed by commerce minister Piyush Goyal and his counterpart.
The two countries had decided to establish this council during King Salman’s visit to New Delhi in February.
“Under its Vision – 2030, Saudi Arabia has selected eight countries for forging strategic partnership. These include India, China, the UK, the United States, France, Germany, South Korea and Japan," TS Tirumurthy, secretary economic relations, in the Indian foriegn ministry told reporters on Thursday.
Ausaf Sayeed said India will be the fourth nation to sign agreements with Saudi Arabia for establishment of the strategic partnership council.
Another takeaway expected is the signing of a pact to enable the launch of India’s Rupay card in Saudi Arabia. This would help around 2.6 Indian expatriates in Saudi Arabia as well as those Indians travelling to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj pilgrimage, Sayeed said.
After United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, Saudi Arabia will be the third country in the Gulf region where India’s Rupay card will be operationalised.
“We also hope to sign a MoU on a joint venture between Indian Oil Middle East with Al-Jeri Company of Saudi Arabia for downstream cooperation for inter-alia setting up retail outlets in Saudi Arabia," Tirumurthy said.
“Energy security has been the main area of India’s engagement with Saudi Arabia. We are well on our way to transforming the buyer-seller relationship in this sector into a much larger strategic partnership. We deeply appreciate the fact that they have been meeting our energy requirements on a reliable and sustainable basis. We have also invited the Saudi side to participate in India’s strategic petroleum reserves and we hope to finalize the MoU during this visit," he said.
Besides this, India is also hoping to finalise investments from Saudi Arabia in National Infrastructure Investment Fund. Both countries are in the process of finalising the details, Tirumurthy said.