India’s prime minister Modi meets King Salman in Saudi Arabia
RIYADH // King Salman on Sunday met India’s prime minister Narendra Modi during his first official visit to the kingdom.
Mr Modi’s visit underscored the major business ties between the two countries, despite Saudi Arabia’s historically close relationship with India’s long-standing rival Pakistan.
Saudi Arabia is home to a large number of Indian labourers and traditionally the largest supplier of crude oil to India, one of the world’s largest consumers. Trade between the two countries reached US$39 billion (Dh143bn) in 2014, according to a joint statement released after Mr Modi’s meeting with King Salman.
Saudi Arabia is seeking to keep its edge over rival Iran, which is looking to increase its own oil exports to India. The kingdom is also rushing to diversify its economy as lower global oil prices affect revenue.
During their meeting, the sides signed five agreements, including plans to cooperate in intelligence sharing related to terror financing and money laundering, as well as a labour cooperation agreement and another to promote bilateral investments in the private sector.
They also agreed on the need to intensify defence cooperation through mutual visits by military experts and joint military exercises.
In a joint statement, King Salman and Mr Modi said they strongly condemned terrorism and reject any attempts “to link this universal phenomenon to any particular race, religion or culture.”
Mr Modi gave King Salman a gold-plated replica of a mosque in the Indian state of Keralathat was built by Arab traders in the early 7th century. King Salman awarded Mr Modi Saudi Arabia’s highest civilian honour, the King Abdulaziz Sash.
Mr Modi also met the Saudi crown prince and interior minister Mohammed bin Nayef and held talks with foreign minister Adel Al Jubeir and the board chairman of Saudi oil giant Aramco, Abdulaziz Al Faleh, who is also the health minister.
Earlier on Sunday, he spoke at the Saudi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, met members of India’s business community and visited an all-women information technology centre run by India’s Tata Consultancy Services in Riyadh.
Mr Modi kicked off his tour Saturday with a visit to a labour camp where he ate a traditional dinner with Indian workers.
* Associted Press
Updated: April 4, 2016 04:00 AM