Saudi Arabia's investments in India on track despite economic downturn, says Ambassador Saud bin Mohammed Al Sati

We will continue to invest in India as our strategic partnership continues to deepen in all sectors, said the Kingdom’s Ambassador Saud bin Mohammed Al Sati

Updated - May 03, 2020 09:25 pm IST

Published - May 03, 2020 08:07 pm IST - New Delhi

 Saudi Ambasador to India Saud bin Mohammed Al Sati. File

Saudi Ambasador to India Saud bin Mohammed Al Sati. File

Despite a massive 50% drop in oil revenues and a downturn in the economy, Saudi Arabia’s investments in India will not be affected, the Kingdom’s Ambassador to India Saud bin Mohammed Al Satisaid in a written interview. At a time when a UN body has predicted a cut in about 1.7 million jobs in the Gulf region due to GDP losses the envoy says that worries of retrenchments are premature, but added that the Saudi government is working with India on the repatriation of those who need to return.

What measures has Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) adopted to counter the virus? Has KSA, like Kuwait and UAE requested Indian medical teams to help manage the situation, and also treat Indians who may be affected?

There are a large number of expatriates living in Saudi Arabia, which includes around three million Indians. As per King Salman’s Royal decree, the Kingdom is providing coronavirus related medical care free of charge to all residents in the country, including those who are staying illegally in the Kingdom.

Also read | Coronavirus lockdown: Jaishankar thanks Saudi, Omani Ministers for looking after Indian community

As for the Indian medical professionals, some of them were on leave when the COVID pandemic hit. We have been working closely with the government of India to ensure that they are able to return to Saudi Arabia. There is also the continuation of medical exports from India to the Saudi market.

Saudi Arabia’s General Directorate of Passports has also decided to extend the validity of exit and return visas that expire between February 25 and May 24, 2020, at no charge. The extension will continue for an additional three months for them.

How many Indians are estimated to require to return from KSA, and what can you tell us about the preparations and arrangements made in Saudi Arabia for food and shelter for stranded Indians?

In Saudi Arabia these numbers are relatively small. Most of the Indian nationals who will be coming back in the coming days are people whose contracts have ended or those who would like to go home for personal reasons or were Umrah pilgrims who weren’t able to return on time because of the suspension of flights.

Also read | Saudi Arabia favours stronger ties with India

Considering the large Indian community in the Kingdom these numbers are within the range of several thousands. In addition to this, there will be those who may get short term leave from their employers until business activities can revert to their usual state before lockdown. We are cooperating to make sure that those who would like to come back can be accommodated.

There are worries in India that there will be massive retrenchments in KSA, owing to falling revenues, and many Indian migrants will lose their jobs. How can India and Saudi Arabia cooperate to mitigate these losses?

While efforts in the Kingdom and regionally are being focused towards combating the COVID-19 disease, efforts are also made to ensure that people don’t lose their jobs. It should be noted though, that even in this environment the Kingdom did not announce any intentions to delay any projects. Activities will resume to what they were before the pandemic hit. This will be across all economic sectors as the situation stabilises and the markets gradually continue to open.

Last September, you had said that Saudi Arabia had planned investments in India worth $100 billion in various areas including oil infrastructure. Would these investments be affected by the economic impact of the coronavirus?

These investments were announced during the historic visit of HRH Crown Prince to India in February 2019. Meetings of ministerial committees concerning investment, energy, trade , political and security cooperation, and senior officials meetings for the same will be convened soon. India is one of the fastest growing economies today and also one of the largest. We will continue to invest in India as our strategic partnership continues to deepen in all sectors. Our plans regarding investment in India are on track.

Also read | Narendra Modi announces formation of India-Saudi Strategic Partnership Council

In particular, what will be the impact due to a fall in Aramco's profits (21%) on its projected investment in India?

I think I answered this question. Our investment plans are on track.

I ask because Saudi Finance minister Muhammad Al Jadaan has just said that there will be major cuts in government expenses, and a number of tough and painful measures may be necessary given the economic “crisis”….

As I said, our plans to invest in India remain on track as of now.

The OIC, which is headquartered in Saudi Arabia issued a strong statement this month calling on India to protect its minorities, and spoke of a “growing tide of Islamophobia”. Has this been discussed bilaterally, and what is Saudi Arabia's position on the OIC statement?

I would rather not comment about this. This is not a bilateral issue for us.

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