NEW DELHI: Relations between Saudi Arabia and India have reached an unprecedented level of engagement, a top Indian foreign affairs official told Arab News after a flurry of cooperation agreements signed during the Saudi crown prince’s recent visit.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was on a state visit to India, after participating in the G20 Summit in New Delhi earlier this month.
This was his second official trip to New Delhi, following a visit in February 2019, during which Saudi-Indian ties began to see a new level of engagement. In October of that year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Riyadh, where the two countries agreed to establish a strategic partnership council to navigate bilateral ties.
The council’s first meeting was held on Sept. 11 and co-chaired by both leaders, who also witnessed the signing of a landmark agreement on energy, including renewable energy cooperation, as well as memoranda on partnerships in digitization and electronic manufacturing, investment, banking, anti-corruption efforts, and seawater desalination.
Dozens of other bilateral deals in entrepreneurship, chemicals, and advanced manufacturing were signed during the Saudi-India Investment Forum on the sidelines of the crown prince’s visit.
“We should give credit to both the crown prince and our Prime Minister Modi for bringing this relationship now to unprecedented levels,” Dr. Ausaf Sayeed, secretary in charge of the Gulf region at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, told Arab News in a recent interview.
Sayeed, who has spent 10 years in Saudi Arabia, serving as New Delhi’s ambassador to Riyadh and earlier as its consul general in Jeddah, has observed over the years how it has been navigating its position as the “biggest player” in the whole region of West Asia, and a “geopolitical power.”
He saw significant potential for India to contribute to the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 transformation plan and its ongoing megaprojects such as the multibillion-dollar NEOM smart city.
“There are many ways in which in India can contribute,” he said. “There are many Indian companies that have the technology expertise and international recognition to play a part in the construction of the cities like NEOM and all the projects that are there.”
He estimated that at least 2,700 Indian enterprises have been registered with the Saudi Ministry of Investment and India’s investment in the Kingdom has reached $2.15 billion, with investors interested particularly in the pharma, green hydrogen, renewable energy, IT, and cybersecurity sectors.
“The PM has already discussed with the crown prince the possibility of a start-up bridge. India is one of the biggest ecosystems of startups in the world. At the same time, Saudi Arabia has developed their own very good ecosystem to support startups,” Sayeed said.
“Although we are strategic partners, so many new initiatives are coming. There are ample opportunities, where the potential is not fully utilized yet.”