India and Saudi Arabia firmed their strategic partnership by signing an agreement to form a council headed by Prime Minister Modi and King Salman.
This is a major development since Saudi Arabia is now only the fourth country with whom India has an inter-governmental mechanism headed by the prime minister. Germany, Russia and Japan are the other three.
Apart from the formation of a council, the two sides stressed on energy security and “Strategic Petroleum Reserves” (SPRs). ISPRL (Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Limited) signed an agreement with Saudi Aramco to lease part of the 2.5 million-tonne Padur storage in southern Karnataka state and Indian Oil Corp signed a preliminary deal with Saudi Arabia’s’ Al Jeri company for cooperation in the downstream sector, including setting up fuel stations in the kingdom.
Addressing the Future Investment Initiative (FII) forum on Tuesday, Prime Minister Modi said, “By 2024, we aim to invest $100 billion in refining, pipelines, gas terminals. I am happy that Saudi Aramco has decided to invest in West Coast Refinery Project - which will be the largest refinery of Asia.”
Prime Minister Modi held bilateral talks with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and signed the Strategic Partnership Council agreement. He met separately King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud for lunch.
Keeping the focus on key sectors, the Indian premier met with the Minister for Energy, Foreign Affairs, Environment, Water and Agriculture.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi focussed extensively on India’s infrastructure as he said that there was no room for “capital saturation” in India.
“We have also dramatically increased our speed and scale of building infrastructure. The growth of infrastructure in India will be in double digits, and there is no possibility of capacity saturation. Due to this, investors will also be assured of returns,” he said speaking at FII forum at the King Abdulaziz Convention Centre.
Making a pitch for ease of doing business and ease of living with divinity, the prime minister spelt out a “One India” vision for the nation.
“One Nation One Power Grid, One Nation One Gas Grid, One Water Grid, One Nation One Mobility Card, One Nation One Optical Fibre Network are some of the initiatives through which we are integrating India’s infrastructure,” he said.
While India made an impressive show not just with the prime minister but also with top Indian businessmen like Mukesh Ambani, Anand Mahindra, et al, participating at the event; Pakistan was conspicuous with its absence.
A former Indian diplomat said, “India has made great strategic moves with Saudi Arabia and UAE, both of these countries that move together. Pakistan certainly is at a loss.”
Speaking of the changing world order, Prime Minister Modi called for UN reforms and without naming Pakistan or China said that erring nations should be brought on to the right track through isolation.
“We have to think whether the UN has risen to the occasion when it comes to conflict resolution… A body like the UN shouldn’t merely be an institution but also an instrument for positive change. There are some countries that don’t follow rules… We all should stand united and isolate such powers in order to bring them on the right path,” PM Modi said.
List of MoUs and agreements signed between India and Saudi Arabia on Tuesday
MoU on defence industries collaboration
MoU in cooperation on renewable energy
MoU on medical products regulation
MoU on prevention of Narcotics trafficking and drug demand reduction
MoU between Saudi ARAMCO and Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Ltd.
MoU between foreign services institutes
MoU for Atal Innovation Mission
MoU between stock exchanges
MoU on Haj related cooperation
MoU on RuPay card
Agreement on security cooperation
Bilateral air services agreement
Agreement between Middle East unit of Indian Oil Corp and Saudi Arabia’s Al Jeri Group for downstream cooperation including retail outlets in Saudi Arabia