With India eyeing an investment of nearly $1 trillion over the next 5-7 years, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee pitches for focussing on the proposed $ 750-million fund to be set up in cooperation with Saudi Arabia for development of infrastructure, promotion of joint exploration and production of hydrocarbons.

The investment fund, “to be jointly set up by the Public Investment Fund, Saudi Arabia, and a counterpart Indian agency, needs to be given high priority as it is mutually beneficial,” Mr. Mukherjee said in his opening remarks at the 9th India-Saudi Arabia Joint Commission meeting here on Thursday.

While economic ties were an important component of the strategic partnership between the countries, with bilateral trade exceeding $ 25 billion last year, the basket of goods comprised mainly petroleum and its by-products. “There is a great scope to expand our bilateral trade basket to include non-oil products and we need to mount a concerted effort to enlarge and widen our trade basket.

Equally important, the Minister said, was to move into areas of investment and joint ventures. “There is immense potential for increasing our trade in services as well.”

The rapidly expanding Indian economy had a growing requirement of crude to sustain its development momentum. “We hope that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will be able to assist India in meeting its energy security needs in the years to come.” Mr. Mukherjee offered India's expertise in the hydrocarbons sector as it has vast experience. “We have specialists in both the upstream and downstream areas, including in training, capacity building and research and development. “India would be happy to participate in the exploration and production activities with Saudi Arabia in our two countries and also in third countries… The Joint Working Group on Hydrocarbons could explore mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation initiatives.”

He underscored the need for a “memorandum of understanding on labour and employment keeping in view our large expatriate workforce in Saudi Arabia.”

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