He talks to King about steps needed to make ties substantive
RIYADH: India and Saudi Arabia have begun to give shape to a road map to advance their relationship by evolving a partnership. During his meeting with King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz on Saturday, the visiting External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee spoke about the steps required to make the relationship substantive.
Recalling the Delhi Declaration of 2006, Mr. Mukherjee emphasised the need for greater private sector participation in oil and gas exploration as well as the petrochemicals industry. Saudi Arabia plans to spend around $ 117 billion on petroleum refining and petrochemicals in the next two years and is looking for foreign participation in these ventures.
Speaking at a press conference, the Minister pointed out that he had apprised King Abdullah of India’s requirement of a massive investment of $500-600 billion to develop its infrastructure.
He said the visit to Saudi Arabia by Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia next month would identify joint ventures in infrastructure and petroleum. At present, Saudi Arabia fulfils nearly 26 per cent of India’s oil requirements.
Mr. Mukherjee said the Indo-Arab Investment Projects Conclave (IAIPC) already identified projects worth around $200 billion in the energy and infrastructure sectors.
The next IAIPC meeting in November would include the Trade and Investment Ministers, apart from leaders from industry and business.
Eventually, greater political content would be added to an expanded economic relationship. “We are looking for establishing a strategic partnership step by step by focussing on specific projects,” Mr. Mukherjee said.
India and Saudi Arabia had started working together on human resource development. Top Indian companies in the Information Technology sector including Infosys, Wipro and Tata Consultancy Services already made their mark in the Kingdom, the Minister said.
Saudi Arabia has established the Knowledge Economic City (KEC) for attracting foreign participation in the IT sector. The Kingdom’s leading GSM provider Mobily has begun making an investment of around Rs. 90 crore in Bangalore.
The first batch of Saudi students would leave for India under the King Abdullah Scholarships Programme (KASP). The government had identified The Educational Consultants India Ltd. as a “Single Window Coordinating Agency” for placement.
Mr. Mukherjee said he apprised the King also of India’s position on the West Asia peace process. Its commitment to the Palestinian cause was “firm and undiluted.” He expressed the hope that all sides to the conflict would show restraint so that an atmosphere for dialogue could emerge.