“Mission accomplished” must have been the dominant thought in the mind of Crown Prince Salman, deputy prime minister and minister of defense, as he boarded the plane at the Air Force Station, Palam, New Delhi, at the end of his high-profile three-day official visit to India.
There are three major takeaways from the crown prince’s India visit which will inevitably steer the Saudi-India bilateral relationship to newer heights.
These are in the fields of energy, business and investment and defense, a quick analysis of the joint statement released at the end of the visit reveals.
The icing on the cake perhaps is the two sides’ decision to transform their buyer-seller relationship in the energy sector to one of deeper partnership focusing on investment and joint ventures bilaterally and also in third countries.
They agreed to hold further discussions on this during the next meeting of the annual India-Saudi Arabia energy consultations.
Saudi Arabia, the largest supplier of crude oil to India, assured the Indians that it will meet any such future oil requirements of India.
This is not a new initiative and has figured prominently in the Delhi (2006) and Riyadh (2010) declarations.
This process got a fillip during the crown prince’s talks with his Indian interlocutors as the two sides agreed to explore ways and means to translate this thought into reality.
The Delhi Declaration was signed during the historic visit of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah to India in 2006 — a visit which laid the foundation for establishing a strategic partnership and developing cooperation between India and Saudi Arabia.
The Riyadh Declaration was signed during the landmark visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Saudi Arabia in 2010.
The second major takeaway of the crown prince’s India visit is that business and investment plans are going to put on a fast track by involving not just the two governments but also the private sectors of the two countries in such diverse fields as infrastructure, technology transfer, and skilled human resources in information technology, electronics and telecommunications.
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“The two sides directed the authorities concerned in both countries to finalize the framework agreement between the General Investment Authority in Saudi Arabia (SAGIA) and Invest India, which will facilitate investments by the private sectors in the two countries, especially in the fields of the petrochemical industries, pharmaceuticals, medical equipments, and for the establishment of joint ventures in these fields. The two sides agreed to address the issues hindering the growth and flow of investments and promotion of trade between the two countries,” the joint statement said.
Defense was another key thrust area during the Crown Prince’s India visit.
Defense ties between the two countries have steadily burgeoned but the two sides do feel the need for forging even closer ties in this vital area.
Only one bilateral agreement was signed during the Crown Prince’s visit to India — a far cry from the Chinese and the Russians who are known to sign a large number of bilateral documents whenever their top leaders visit abroad. This sole agreement was a memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation.
No wonder then that the two sides expressed their satisfaction over the developing defense cooperation between the two countries, especially in the fields of exchange of expertise and training.
In this context, the two sides renewed their condemnation of the phenomena of terrorism, extremism and violence, affirming that it is global and threatens all societies and is not linked to any race, color or belief.
Realizing that the people-to-people between the two countries cannot be elevated to a higher level without the help of the media, the Crown Prince used this opportunity to come up with some concrete deliverables in this context too.
Therefore, the two sides agreed on strengthening cooperation in the area of radio and television, as also in fields of media coverage, exchange of programs and training.
They agreed on exchanging expertise in the regulation of audiovisual media between the concerned regulatory bodies of the two countries, as well as on activation of the agreement signed between Saudi Press Agency (SPA) and the Press Trust of India (PTI).
The Crown Prince also discussed with top Indian leadership a number of regional and international issues of mutual interest, including the developments in Syria, the Iranian nuclear issue, the situation in Afghanistan and the Palestinian issue.
“The two sides expressed their hope for achieving a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative and the international legitimacy, in a way that guarantees the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, including the establishment of their independent, united and viable state, with East Jerusalem as its capital,” the joint statement said.
On Syria, the two sides expressed grave concern over the seriousness of the situation, emphasized the urgent need to stop the killing of innocent people and supported full implementation of the Geneva Communiqué of 30 June 2012, which called for negotiations between all parties, leading to the formation of a transitional governing body