M A I N   N E W S

India, Saudi role crucial in global economy: PM
Says Indian economy to grow at 7% this year

Riyadh, February 28
The role of emerging economies like India and Saudi Arabia would be crucial to the restructuring of the global economic and financial architecture, said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“The integration of our economies with the rest of the world has created new opportunities and also brought new challenges,” the Prime Minister said here today. He was addressing the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry during the course of his visit to this affluent Gulf nation, one of the world’s largest oil producers and home to Islam’s holiest sites.

“The global financial crisis has thrown up a broad agenda for global action and reforms. The role of emerging economies such as India and Saudi Arabia within the G-20 framework, and otherwise, will be crucial to the restructuring of global economic and financial architecture,” he added.

Stating that the robust growth of the economies of the two countries threw up immense opportunities for business communities from both sides, Manmohan Singh said Indian investments into the kingdom had risen considerably and now stood at more than $2 billion, covering 500 joint ventures.

Stating that India’s need for high quality modern infrastructure was vast, he called upon Saudi investors and entrepreneurs to explore investment opportunities in India.

“I would specially refer to the construction, manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, health, agriculture, energy, telecommunications, biotechnology, tourism and other service sectors,” he said.

From India’s side, he offered the country’s expertise in the knowledge-based sector. “Education and skill development are of primary importance to both our countries.

India has a proven track record in the field of knowledge-based industries, which have great potential for improving the skill set of workforce,” he said. “India would be happy to share its experience with Saudi Arabia in the area of human resources development,” he added.

As for energy cooperation, he said conditions were ripe for moving beyond a traditional buyer-seller relationship to a comprehensive energy partnership. “Indian companies are well equipped to participate in upstream and downstream oil and gas sector projects in Saudi Arabia,” he said. Coming to the Indian economy, he said, despite the global financial crisis, “we hope to achieve a growth of over 7 per cent in the current financial year”.

“We expect to get back to the growth level of about 9 per cent per annum within two years. Our domestic savings are high, and can support investment rates of as high as 38 per cent of the gross domestic product,” he said. Prior to the prime minister’s address, Saudi and Indian businessmen participated in an open dialogue moderated by Fahd Al-Sultan, secretary-general of the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Stating that the Saudi private sector was keen to have economic ties with India, Al-Sultan sought multiple-entry visas for Saudi businessmen. “We need Indian expertise to support our small and medium enterprises,” he said. — IANS



T for Tharoor, Trouble, Twitter
Now, MoS says Saudi Arabia can be interlocutor for India, Pak

Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 28
Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor has the knack for courting controversy. He has done so again while being part of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s entourage to Saudi Arabia.

News agencies quoted him as saying in Riyadh that Saudi Arabia, with its close ties with Islamabad, could be a ‘valuable interlocutor’ in improving India’s ties with Pakistan. “We feel Saudi Arabia has a long and close relationship with Pakistan and that makes Saudi a more valuable interlocutor to us,” he reportedly said.

The minister sought to retract his statement on learning that the media had publicised his remark widely. “No chance of my saying Saudi Arabia should be a mediator.... Never said that or anything like it,” Tharoor said later. On his social networking site Twitter also, he commented: “If I speak to u (you), u are my interlocutor! I mentioned the Saudis as OUR interlocutors, ie the people we are here to speak to. Some misinterpretn (misinterpretation)”. He also stated that a good day of meetings had been marred by some misunderstanding over the word interlocutor. According to him, an interlocutor is someone you speak to, nothing more. But the damage had already been done.

The BJP reacted sharply to Tharoor’s comment, saying it would seek a clarification on it from the Prime Minister in Parliament.

Tharoor’s comment was “utterly irresponsible and we thoroughly condemn it,” BJP spokesman Ravishankar Prasad said. “Has the statement been made with the consent of the Prime Minister? Is this a trial balloon?” Prasad asked.

Describing Tharoor’s remark as an insult to India’s sovereignty, the BJP spokesman noted that since the time of first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, either there have been no talks with Pakistan or the talks were bilateral.

CPI leader D Raja was equally agitated over the minister’s statement, asserting that there was no question of India allowing any third party mediation in its disputes with Pakistan. “Who has authorised him (Tharoor) to make such a statement. Did he have the sanction of the government to make the statement,” he wondered. Raja said the Prime Minister must explain how his Minister of State for External Affairs has made the statement.

Government sources were quick to play down the minister’s remark, saying he had already clarified his position. They said New Delhi’s position in the matter was known to the world community. There was no question of India accepting any third party involvement in the resolution of its problems with Pakistan. “There is simply no room for any third party mediation in India-Pakistan relations,” they added.

Congress sources also said: “India's position on no to third party mediation in India-Pakistan issues is unchanged. There is no change in the Congress position.”

Pakistan has of and on attempted to involve the US, China and other nations in settling its differences with India. However, India has stood firm, contending that its bilateral problems with Pakistan could only be resolved through bilateral talks.

Recently on the eve of the Foreign Secretary-level talks between the two countries, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, during a visit to Beijing, spoke about giving a blank cheque to China in India-Pakistan affairs. Defence Minister A K Antony quickly rejected the suggestion.

Ever since he was inducted into the government, Tharoor, a former UN diplomat, has got into trouble on a few occasions for his tweeting habit. His controversial statements on Twitter on the government’s austerity measures and the stringent visa rules put in place by the Home Ministry had earned him the wrath of his seniors in the government and the Congress.



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