NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud held a bilateral meeting in New Delhi on Monday and discussed cooperation in areas such as energy security, trade and investment, defence and security, healthcare and food security.
The Crown Prince, who arrived here on a three-day State visit, attended the G20 summit in the national capital over the weekend.
This is his second state visit, the first being in February 2019.
Prior to his meeting with PM Modi, the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince received a ceremonial reception at Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Several MoUs signed
During the first leaders’ meeting of the India- Saudi Arabia Strategic Partnership Council, PM Modi and the Crown Prince reviewed the progress made under the two Ministerial Committees of the Strategic Partnership Council i.e. the Committee on Political, Security, Social and Cultural Cooperation; and the Committee on Economy and Investments Cooperation.
Over two dozen Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) were signed between India and Saudi Arabia companies, ranging from IT, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, and human resources, among other sectors.
External affairs minister S Jaishankar, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and other top officials were present in the meeting.
Saudi Arabia important strategic partner: PM Modi
In his opening remarks, PM Modi said: “For India, Saudi Arabia is one of its most important strategic partners. As two large and fast-growing economies of the world, our mutual cooperation is important for peace and stability in the entire region. In our talks, we have identified several initiatives to take our partnership to the next level. Today’s talks will provide new energy and direction to our relations. This will provide us inspiration to work together for the welfare of humanity,” he said.
He also hailed the “strategic” partnership with the oil-rich nation, days after unveiling a major trade and transport route linking Europe, the Middle East and India as part of a broad alliance.
“Together, we made the historic start to establish an economic corridor,” PM Modi said.
India and Saudi Arabia have historically close and friendly relations with extensive people-to-people contacts. The trade between both countries reached all-time high of $52.75 billion in FY 2022-23.
India is Saudi Arabia’s second-largest trading partner whereas Saudi Arabia is India’s fourth-largest trading partner. Both countries also have a strong partnership in the area of energy.
Later, PM Modi posted on X: “His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and I had very productive talks. We reviewed our trade ties and are confident that the commercial linkages between our nations will grow even further in the times to come. The scope for cooperation in grid connectivity, renewable energy, food security, semiconductors and supply chains is immense.”
Mega infra link
After the reception at Rashtrapati Bhavan, the Crown Prince spoke to reporters and congratulated India on the historic agreement to launch the mega India-Middle East-Europe shipping and railway connectivity corridor.
“Well done India, a lot of announcements made that will benefit both our countries, the G20 countries and the whole world. So I want to say to India well done, and we will work to create a future for both countries,” said the Crown Prince
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Speaking at the G20 Summit, Prince Mohammed bin Salman had said, “We look forward to the integration of the initiative and the economic corridor project. I would like to thank those who worked with us to reach this founding step to establish this important economic corridor.”
PM Modi said the mega-deal would give a sustainable direction to connectivity and sustainability across the world. “It will provide economic growth and digital connectivity between these regions,” he said, adding: “Cooperation between India and Saudi Arabia in the economic sector is vital for the peace and stability of the entire region.”
The corridor that will connect India to the Middle East and Europe is being dubbed as a “game-changer” by experts.
US President Joe Biden, who was among those who announced the multinational project, called it a “very big deal”.
The connectivity corridor is being seen as a rival to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
According to the Engineering Exports Promotion Council India (EEPC India), the proposed ‘India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor’ will prove to be a game-changer project and provide huge impetus to global trade
The corridor will also make the “global supply chain more resilient”, EEPC India chairman Arun Kumar Garodia said.
This will redefine the movement of goods and services across the continents as it will bring down logistics costs and ensure quicker delivery of shipments, he said.
It will also help boost trade ties between India and the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia.
In his remarks on Monday, PM Modi also thanked the Crown Prince for his work for the welfare of Indians residing in Saudi Arabia.
The Crown Prince noted that 7% of the population of Saudi Arabia comprise of Indians who have a large part in the economic growth of his country.
“We consider them to be a part of Saudi Arabia. We watch and take care of them like we take care of our own citizens. We hope that this council will meet the aspirations of our people and we wish us success,” the Saudi Crown Prince said.
(With inputs from agencies)
Watch PM Modi, Mohammed Bin Salman discuss issues of mutual interest during bilateral meet