Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s first visit to India is being seen as a milestone in relations for both the nations. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke the routine protocol and received the Crown Prince at the airport with a bear hug.
This is the second meeting between the two leaders in a pace of three months with the last meeting taking place on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina in November. The past decade has witnessed the strengthening of India and Saudi Arabia relations, moving beyond oil and energy to trade, security and politics. Both countries have declared their interest in increasing cooperation in a variety of economic and cultural spheres, including defence and security, energy, trade and investment, education and research, technology transfer, diaspora relations and cultural people-to-people ties. India and the Kingdom are also pursuing cooperation in the peaceful uses of space, cyber and maritime security, counter-terrorism, counter-extremism and de-radicalization.
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Saudi Arabia sees India as one of the eight strategic partners in its future growth. Moreover, India has a historical socio-economic-cultural bonding with the people in the Arabian Peninsula. New Delhi has applauded the Kingdom’s ambitious ‘Vision 2030’ and the ‘National Transformation Program’ which was initiated by the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. India will be participating in its mega projects like the Red Sea Project, NEOM and Qiddiya etc.
Talmiz Ahmad, a former ambassador to Riyadh, said “India has excellent relations with all the countries in West Asia, and New Delhi is well placed to address some of the concerns that all the countries have with each other”.
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The Prime Minister Narendra Modi said India has also taken up flagship initiatives such as ‘Make in India’, ‘Smart Cities’ and ‘Digital India’ which can complement Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and national transformation program. PM Modi said “These will further deepen our growing bilateral trade and investment cooperation and present India and Saudi Arabia with the opportunity for win-win cooperation.”
Modi further said that energy security remains a key pillar of their strategic partnership. “Saudi Arabia has been a time-tested reliable supplier of crude oil to India,” PM added.
Furthermore, the Prime Minister stated that India is ready to share experience and expertise with Saudi Arabia in solar and wind energy. The International Solar Alliance (ISA) was India’s joint initiative with France during the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in November 2015. Since then, the framework for the ISA has since been signed by 75 countries. Modi said India has set an ambitious target of production of 100GW of solar energy by the year 2022. He welcomed Saudi into the ISA.
Meanwhile, India is working towards establishing India Saudi Arabia ‘Strategic Partnership Council’. This will consolidate bilateral cooperation in specific areas under the Kingdom’s newly constituted ‘Saudi Centre for International Strategic Partnership’ (SCISP).