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India-Saudi Arabia Strategic Partnership Council Meeting

Context:

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud and PM Modi co-chaired the first summit-level meeting of the India-Saudi Arabia Strategic Partnership Council (SPC). The Saudi Crown Prince is on a daylong State Visit to India post the G20 Summit.

Relevance:

GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. India-Saudi Arabia Strategic Partnership Council (SPC)
  2. Key Outcomes of Recent Meeting
  3. India-Saudi Arabia Bilateral Relations

India-Saudi Arabia Strategic Partnership Council (SPC):

  • The agreement to establish the India-Saudi Arabia Strategic Partnership Council (SPC) was signed during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia in October 2019.
  • The SPC was created to provide a high-level framework for steering and enhancing the bilateral relationship between the two countries.
Pillars of SPC:

The SPC consists of two primary pillars:

  1. Committee on Political, Security, Social, and Cultural Cooperation: This committee focuses on various aspects of political, security, social, and cultural cooperation between India and Saudi Arabia.
  2. Committee on Economy and Investments: This committee is dedicated to economic and investment-related matters.
Functional Levels:

Both sub-committees, Political, Security, Social, and Cultural Cooperation, and Economy and Investments, operate at four functional levels of engagement:

  1. Summit Level: Involves discussions and decisions at the highest level, typically between the Prime Minister of India and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.
  2. Ministerial-Level: Includes discussions and coordination among relevant ministers from both countries.
  3. Senior Officials’ Meetings: Involves senior officials from both sides convening to discuss and plan cooperation.
  4. Joint Working Groups (JWGs): Specialized working groups that focus on specific areas of cooperation and facilitate practical collaboration.

Key Outcomes of Recent Meeting:

  • West Coast Refinery Project: India and Saudi Arabia decided to expedite the implementation of the $50-billion West Coast refinery project. This project involves the construction of a 60 million tonnes refinery-cum-petrochemical complex on the Maharashtra coast.
  • Areas for Intensified Cooperation: Energy, defense, semiconductor, and space were identified as areas for intensified cooperation. Additionally, cooperation in security, education, technology, transportation, healthcare, tourism, and culture were highlighted.
  • Comprehensive Energy Partnership: Both sides agreed to diversify their existing hydrocarbons relationship into a comprehensive energy partnership.
  • Pacts Signed: During the meeting, the two countries signed eight pacts to boost cooperation in various areas, including digitization and investment.
Indian Community in Saudi Arabia:

Size and Significance:

  • The Indian community in Saudi Arabia is approximately 2.2 million strong, making it the largest expatriate community in the Kingdom.

Economic Contribution:

  • Indians make up around 7% of the population of Saudi Arabia, and they play a significant role in the country’s economic growth and development.

Integration of Migration Systems:

  • During Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Riyadh in October 2019, it was announced that India’s e-Migrate system would be integrated with Saudi Arabia’s e-Thawtheeq system.
  • This integration aims to streamline the migration process for workers, enhancing the efficiency of labor mobility between the two countries.

Hajj Pilgrimage:

  • The annual Hajj pilgrimage is another important component of Indo-Saudi bilateral relations. Saudi Arabia hosts millions of pilgrims from around the world, including India, during this religious event.
  • During the visit of the Saudi Crown Prince to New Delhi in February 2019, it was announced that India’s Hajj quota would be increased by 24,975 in 2019. This increase allowed 200,000 Indians to perform Hajj in August 2019, strengthening the cultural and religious ties between the two nations.

India-Saudi Arabia Bilateral Relations:

Historical Ties:

  • India and Saudi Arabia share a history of cordial and friendly relations, rooted in centuries-old economic and socio-cultural connections.

Diplomatic Relations:

  • Diplomatic relations between the two countries were established in 1947, and since then, there have been numerous high-level visits that have strengthened the bilateral ties.
Recent Key Visits:
  • 2010 – Riyadh Declaration: During the visit of then-Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Saudi Arabia in 2010, the ‘Riyadh Declaration’ was signed. This declaration elevated the bilateral relationship to a ‘Strategic Partnership,’ signifying its growing importance.
  • 2016 – Highest Civilian Honor: In 2016, King Salman of Saudi Arabia conferred the Kingdom’s highest civilian honor on Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit.
  • 2019 – Investment Commitment: During Crown Prince Salman’s visit to India in February 2019, Saudi Arabia announced its decision to invest approximately US$100 billion in India, signifying a significant economic partnership.
  • 2019 – Strategic Partnership Council Agreement: During Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Riyadh in 2019, the Strategic Partnership Council (SPC) Agreement was signed, further solidifying the strategic and multifaceted relationship between the two nations.
Economic Cooperation between India and Saudi Arabia:
Trade:In the fiscal year 2022-23, the bilateral trade between India and Saudi Arabia reached a record high of $52.75 billion. India’s exports to Saudi Arabia increased to $10.7 billion, up from $8.8 billion in 2021-22. Saudi Arabia is India’s second-largest trading partner, while India is Saudi Arabia’s fourth-largest trading partner.
Investment:Indian investments in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have amounted to approximately USD 2 billion. Saudi Arabia is the 18th largest investor in India, with investments totaling $3.14 billion as of March 2022. During the visit of the Saudi Crown Prince to India in February 2019, it was announced that Saudi Arabia would invest $100 billion in India across various sectors.
Energy Partnership:Energy cooperation is a cornerstone of the bilateral relations between India and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia plays a crucial role in ensuring India’s energy security. Saudi Arabia remained India’s third-largest source for crude oil and petroleum product imports in the fiscal year 2022-23. India imported 39.5 million metric tons (MMT) of crude oil from Saudi Arabia in FY23, accounting for 16.7% of its total crude imports. Additionally, India’s LPG imports from Saudi Arabia stood at 7.85 MMT, making up 11.2% of its total petroleum product imports in FY23.
Defence Partnership:In December 2020, the Chief of Naval Staff of India, General Manoj Mukund Naravane, made a landmark visit to Saudi Arabia. Two editions of the bilateral naval exercise “Al Mohed al Hindi” have been conducted to date. Both countries also have close cooperation in the defense industry and capacity building. These aspects of economic, energy, and defense cooperation underscore the multifaceted and strategic nature of the relationship between India and Saudi Arabia, contributing to mutual growth and development.

-Source: The Hindu


March 2024
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