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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 26 March 2019

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman: Investment opportunities in India exceed $100bn

Prince Mohammed says he is ready for intelligence and political co-operation between Saudi Arabia and India

UPDATE: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrives in China

Saudi Arabia is looking to tap into over $100 billion in investments in India, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said on Wednesday on the final day of his state visit to New Delhi.

He also offered cooperation in intelligence sharing to thwart the scourge of terrorism that the world’s largest democracy is facing.

In a joint press conference with Prime Minister Narendra Modi soon after the conclusion of state-level talks, Prince Mohammed, who is on a two-day state visit to India, said: “Today, we expect the opportunities we are targeting in India in various fields to exceed $100 billion (3.67bn) in the coming two years… we want to work with you, Mr Prime Minister, to ensure these investments are made and to ensure useful returns for both countries.”

He said the key areas of investment would be in energy, agriculture, technology, culture and social services. The crown prince added that Saudi Arabia had invested $44 billion in India since 2016.

The two countries signed agreements on investment on infrastructure, housing and tourism. The Saudi side also signed the framework agreement on the International Solar Alliance, a treaty-based international body for the promotion of efficient exploitation of solar energy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, according to India’s External Affairs Ministry. It was launched by India and France on the sidelines of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference.

The agreement aims at creating credit mechanisms, crowdfunding and sharing of technological breakthroughs to promote solar energy in 121 countries associated with the treaty.

Prince Mohammed also said that he “shared India’s concern on terrorism.” He did not make any reference to Pakistan, but said his visit to India will improve centuries-old ties between the countries, which he said are “in our DNA.”

The Saudi heir to the throne arrived in India after visiting Pakistan, just days after a bloody explosion in the disputed Kashmir region killed over 40 Indian paramilitary forces. India blamed Pakistan, who has denied the accusation.

Mr Modi, in his remarks, referred to the recent attack on Indian soldiers and said that effective steps would be taken to punish the perpetrators and their supporters. He didn’t elaborate.

“Saudi Arabia and India share views on increasing cooperation in counterterrorism and tackling cybercrimes,” said Mr Modi.

As well, the Indian prime minister called for a strong action plan for combating extremism so that the powers spreading violence and terror cannot mislead the youth.

Tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours, India and Pakistan, have heightened since the blast claimed by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed militant group.

Before arriving in India, Prince Mohammed was on a two-day state visit to Islamabad. He flew back to Riyadh on Monday evening after India objected to his direct arrival from Pakistan in the wake of the attack. The Saudi delegation said they would step in to calm the situation and the UN also interceded.

Breaking protocol, the Indian prime minister received the crown prince at the New Delhi airport on his arrival late on Tuesday night. The move signalled the significance that India attaches to its strategic relationship with the kingdom.

On Wednesday morning, Prince Mohammed was given a ceremonial guard of honour at the Presidential Palace. Later in the day, Mr Modi hosted a lunch at Hyderabad House in honour of the crown prince.

In Pakistan, the crown prince and Prime Minister Imran Khan signed several investment deals and agreements, worth $20 billion (Dh73.45 billion), in the South Asian country’s power, mining and petrochemicals sectors.

Saudi Arabia is India’s fourth-largest trading partner. Bilateral trade was $27.5 billion during the 2017-18 financial year.

“Saudi Arabia contributes significantly to our energy security needs by supplying about 20 per cent of India’s crude oil requirements,” the Indian government said previously in a statement.

India, on average, imports about 25 million barrels a month from Saudi Arabia. The kingdom is India’s second-largest supplier of crude oil after Iraq.

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UPDATE: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrives in China

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Recently, state-owned Saudi Aramco, in partnership with Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, entered a joint venture worth $44 billion with India’s Ratnagiri Refinery and Petrochemical Project Ltd.

About 2.7 million Indians live and work in Saudi Arabia, which makes it community the largest expatriate group in the kingdom. More than 175,000 Indians also make the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia every year.

Prince Mohammed is scheduled to wind up his maiden India tour Wednesday evening, shortly after his dinner engagement with India’s head of state, Ram Nath Kovind, at the Presidential Palace.

A joint statement is expected to be issued on conclusion of the Saudi Crown Prince’s state visit to India, an official at India’s Ministry of External Affairs said.

Prince Mohammed is next flying off to China on a two-day state visit.

Updated: February 21, 2019 12:38 PM

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