New Delhi, September 11
India and Saudi Arabia today kick-started their stalled $50 billion refinery project and separately announced two joint working groups to channel Saudi investment into energy, railways, freight corridor, highways, gas grid, optical fibre and information technology.
This came as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman held the first Leaders’ Meeting of the Strategic Partnership Council. The Crown Prince is on a state visit here. The strategic partnership council has two verticals — foreign affairs and commerce.
Eight pacts & 2 joint working groups
- Two joint working groups formed on investment in energy, railways, freight corridor, highways, gas grid, optical fibre and information technology
- 8 pacts inked on cooperation in energy, digitalisation, electronics manufacturing, investment, export-import banks, desalination of seawater, lending to MSMEs
- Both to explore cooperation in space & semiconductors; exchange draft pact for space cooperation on wider scale; discuss trade in local currencies
- Will also look to expand defence ties; have conducted joint naval exercises and are looking at expanding these to other services
Both leaders spoke about the ‘refinery on the west coast’ of India for which $50 billion has been earmarked by Riyadh, said Ausaf Sayeed, Secretary (Overseas Indian Affairs), External Affairs Ministry.
There have been delays, he admitted. The focus today was on how to expedite the project. A committee would look into this. “Both sides are keen that this is realised sooner than later,” said Sayeed, who was India’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia when the refinery was first suggested in 2019. Saudi Aramco, UAE’s Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and an Indian partner are jointly participating in the refinery. Initially, land had been identified at Raigad, Maharashtra, but things did not move ahead. Asked about the way forward, Sayeed said the committee would soon come out with an ‘early implementation’ plan.
One of the Key strategic partners
Saudi Arabia is one of our most important strategic partners. Our mutual cooperation is vital for peace and stability of the entire region. —Narendra Modi, Prime Minister
The two joint working groups are separate and will look at all other sectors. The Saudis want to invest some $100 billion in India, including the refinery. Among other issues, the two sides have spoken about fintech and discussed possibility of trading in local currencies. The PM, at the meeting, mentioned critical minerals, food security and collaboration in education. Agreements have been signed on cooperation in energy, digitalisation, electronics manufacturing, between investment entities, EXIM (export-import) banks, desalination of seawater and banks lending to MSMEs. The two sides have identified space and semiconductors as other areas of cooperation, and have further exchanged a draft agreement that will apply to space cooperation on a wider scale.
New Delhi and Riyadh will also look to expand defence cooperation.
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