Major streets of oil-rich Saudi Arabia’s capital have been decked up with Indian flags to welcome Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is scheduled to arrive here late this week on an important official visit to the Kingdom.
Senior officials from the two countries are busy making arrangements to host the Indian political and business leaders as well as fine-tune several agreements to be signed during the visit, the first by an Indian premier since 1982.
“The visit of Prime Minister Singh, which takes place four years after the Saudi King Abdullah’s visit to New Delhi, will boost Saudi-Indo relations further and change the dynamics of our strategic ties,” Saudi Ambassador to India Faisal H Trad was quoted by Arab News as saying.
Trad said that some 11 agreements, including an extradition treaty, had been finalised for signing during the three-day official visit of Singh, who will be accompanied by ministers and senior officials.
“History will be made in Saudi-Indo relations when Singh holds talks with King Abdullah,” said Trad.
A media office has been set up by the Indian Embassy at the Riyadh Palace Hotel to help local journalists and take care of the needs of the newspersons accompanying the premier.
Referring to major agreements to be signed during the visit, Trad pointed out that an agreement to promote media cooperation involving the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) and the Press Trust of India (PTI) would be signed.
This will be in addition to a MoU to be signed by the Naif Arab University for Security Sciences and India’s Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. Another MoU will be signed to promote cultural cooperation by organising cultural weeks and events in respective countries.
Ambassador Trad also said that other agreements such as an extradition treaty and an agreement to facilitate the transfer of sentenced prisoners had been reported in the Saudi and Indian media.
The visit, he said, will also boost cooperation in education, economy and the manpower sectors.
“The Saudi mission in New Delhi alone issues 600,000 visas every year to Indian nationals for visits and employment. I am not including Haj visas, which amount to another 170, 000,” Trad said.
“There are 365 recruitment agencies listed with our embassy in New Delhi, besides 400 in Mumbai,” he said.
India used to import oil from the UAE, but now Saudi Arabia has edged past the UAE to become the biggest supplier of crude to India, he noted.
Some 500,000-600,000 barrels of crude a day are exported from Saudi Arabia to India, he added.
He pointed out that Indian manufacturers and suppliers could now be big winners, since a Saudi Aramco procurement subsidiary had also opened an office in India.
“This will make it easier for Indian manufacturers to provide materials and equipment to Saudi Aramco for use in its industrial facilities and massive construction projects,” he said, adding thus it will boost Indian exports to Saudi Arabia in a big way.