Ministry of External Affairs of the Republic of India

10/30/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 10/30/2019 01:00

Transcript of Media Briefing by Secretary (ER) in Riyadh during visit of Prime Minister to Saudi Arabia (October 29, 2019)

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Friends, Namaskar Good afternoon and welcome to this special briefing from Riyadh on the visit of Prime Minister to Saudi Arabia. You are all aware that Prime Minister arrived in Riyadh late last night and since today morning he had a series of engagements, a series of meetings. We just wrapped up a very good meeting with His Majesty, the King of Saudi Arabia.

To share more details about Prime Minister's engagements today and also some of the engagements which are going to come up after this briefing, I have with me Secretary (ER) Shri T S Tirumurti. I also have Jt. Secretary (Gulf) Shri Nagendra Prasad. I don't think we have time, in fact we have to leave for the next engagement so we will see if we can take maybe one or two questions. With this sir, the floor is yours.

Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti: Thank you very much Raveesh and thank you all for coming this evening. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi is on an official visit to Saudi Arabia at the invitation of His Majesty, the King of Saudi Arabia. Prime Minister arrived yesterday night in Riyadh where he was received by the Hon'ble Governor of Riyadh and other Saudi dignitaries. A ceremonial welcome was accorded to him at the airport.

This morning Prime Minister met His Majesty, the King of Jordan. It was a very warm meeting where both leaders recalled Prime Minister's visit to Jordan in February 2018 and the subsequent state visit of His Majesty, the King of Jordan to India a month later. The leaders expressed satisfaction at the excellent state of our bilateral relations including our cooperation in setting up the center for IT excellence in Oman by India, our trade and investment ties and also decided to convene the joint committee for trade and investment to explore ways of enhancing our trade and economic ties even more.

Prime Minister also appreciated the role of His Majesty, the King of Jordan in promoting harmony and moderation and speaking out forcefully against terrorism at the recently held UN General Assembly. Regional issues were also discussed. Further, this morning three Saudi ministers, separately called on Prime Minister. This included the Saudi minister of Energy, minister of Labor and Social Development and the minister of Environment, Water and Agriculture.

During these meetings issues related to bilateral trade and investment, energy sector cooperation including strategic petroleum reserves, West Coast Refinery, renewable energy cooperation, maritime and energy security cooperation, innovative technologies and the transformation of buyer-seller relationship in energy into a strategic partnership, streamlining of recruitment of manpower and related issues, skill development and training, mapping of future requirements for manpower and also their welfare, enhancing cooperation in agriculture and agro industries, dairy farming and aqua-culture, water related cooperation especially after the creation of new ministry of Jal Shakti were some of the issues which were discussed during these meetings with the three Saudi Ministers.

This afternoon His Majesty, the King Salman bin Abdul Aziz al Saud hosted a lunch in honor of Prime Minister. This was followed by a bilateral meeting with His Majesty, the King.

During the meeting with His Majesty, the King, His Majesty congratulated the Prime Minister on his historic victory in the general elections held recently. His Majesty lauded India's achievements in various fields. He also added that India's achievements have earned the attention and respect of the entire world. Prime Minister recalled his highly successful visit to Riyadh in April 2016 and his meeting with His Majesty during that visit.

Both leaders expressed their deep satisfaction at the excellent state of relations between India and Saudi Arabia, at the important decisions taken during the visit of His Royal Highness the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia to India and expressed their happiness at the Strategic Partnership Council which is being launched and the agreement for which will be signed later in the evening. Both leaders agreed that this high level mechanism will strengthen partnership in all areas including political, defence and security, culture and people to people contacts, trade and investments etc.

Prime Minister thanked His Majesty in enhancing energy cooperation as well as ensuring regular supply of crude to India including in the aftermath of the attacks on Aramco installations. He welcomed the King's vision 2030 and the desire of corporate India to participate in this process. Both leaders condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and appreciated the close cooperation on security matters between the two countries. His Majesty commended the contribution of nearly three million strong Indian community to the progress and development of Saudi Arabia.

There has been considerable progress since the visit of His Royal Highness, the Crown Prince to India in February 2019. Saudi Arabia has immediately increased the Haj quota for Indian nationals to 200 thousand this year itself as agreed upon in February 2019. 450 Indian prisoners have also been released so far. Several MoUs will also be signed later in the evening which will reflect the progress which has taken place in our relations since February 2019.

Later this afternoon, Prime Minister will be addressing the third session of the Future Investment Initiative Forum where he will deliver the keynote address. The FII is organized by the Kingdom's sovereign wealth fund, the public investment fund. The forum is also popularly referred to as the Davos in the Desert.

Prime Minister will also be meeting His Royal Highness, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia in delegation level talks this evening. The recently appointed Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs will also be calling on Prime Minister separately. After the meeting with His Royal Highness, the Crown Prince the agreement on setting up the Strategic Partnership Council will be signed by the Prime Minister and the Crown Prince. In addition to this there are several agreements and MoUs which we expect to sign after the meeting.

Just to give you a sense of the various MoUs and agreements which will be signed, I would like to read out the following list.

1 - MoU on defence industries collaboration,

2 - Agreement on security cooperation,

3 - The bilateral Air Services agreement,

4 - MoU on cooperation in renewable energy,

5 - MoU on cooperation of medical products regulation,

6 - MoU on drug demand reduction and prevention of local trafficking in narcotic drugs etc.

7 - MoU between the Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserves Ltd. And Saudi Aramco.

8 - MoU between the Foreign Service Institutes, the diplomatic institutes of both countries,

9 - Agreement between the Indian Oil Corporation Middle East and the Al-Jeri Corporation of Saudi Arabia, this is for downstream cooperation in Saudi Arabia for retail outlets,

10 - MoU on the Atal Innovation Mission,

11 - MoU between the two stock exchanges,

12 - MoUs on Haj related cooperation, and also

13 - MoU on Rupay card.

This is what I have for you today. Thank you very much.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Thank you very much sir. We have time for maybe one or two questions.

Question:Any kind of investment figure that India has committed to invest in near future in Saudi Arabia, and the sectors?

Question:Can you clarify on strategic ……… (Inaudible)………

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: That will happen, that will be clarified when it is being signed.

Question:Can you give any figures on strategic reserves, how much we are looking at expanding and also what is the latest status on West Coast refinery?

Secretary (ER), Shri T S Tirumurti: As regards the investment figures, of course there is a commitment from the Saudi side to invest $100 billion in India and that is something in which we have progressed quite far. Apart from the West Coast Refinery investment, there are also other investments that we are looking at, for example the NIIF, we are also looking at investments.

On the other hand as far as Indian investments in Saudi Arabia is concerned, we of course have substantial investments here. Many-many important companies are taking projects and they are also looking at various other projects and in fact His Majesty welcomed the participation of the Indian private sector in Saudi Arabia but I don't think that we have given an indication of the amount or the overall amount, we are not really pledging anything as such but we are confident that there will be a huge spurt in Indian investment into Saudi Arabia.

As regards the Strategic Petroleum Reserves, we are looking at Padur, I think that's what we are looking at and that is something which the Saudi Arabia side is also very keen to take up. So it will be a matter of time before we clinch the details and the terms and conditions and the MoU of course is being signed during this visit.

And on the West Coast Refinery, there has been some requirement for a study which they are conducting. As you know it is not just Aramco but it is also ADNOC which is participating in it apart from Indian public sector companies. So they are looking at confirming some of the parameters of the project. And once these parameters of the project are confirmed, I think there is determination on all sides to take this forward and they also identified a newer location in Maharashtra and we are confident that this should be taking off very soon.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Thank you very much. We don't have time and we have to leave very soon, thank you all for joining.