NEW DELHI: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is expected to announce a $1 billion investment in India’s infrastructure and farming sectors during his first visit to the South Asian nation, experts said.
The crown prince arrived in New Delhi on Tuesday to a warm reception.
India is hoping the crown prince will announce an investment in its National Investment Infrastructure Fund (NIIF), a sovereign wealth fund that includes private companies and foreign investors. The fund focuses on upgrading India’s infrastructure, including railways and highways.
“We can expect a commitment of around $1 billion,” said Dr. Muddassir Quamar, an associate fellow at the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, a New Delhi-based think tank.
India and Saudi Arabia have traditionally had friendly relations which Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sought to strengthen in recent years in a bid to improve ties with major Muslim nations.
The Kingdom is India’s top energy supplier and home to more than 3.5 million Indian expatriates. Much of bilateral trade between New Delhi and Riyadh has been based on energy, but both countries are now seeking to broaden ties.
Earlier this week, the Saudi Press Agency said the Kingdom was considering an investment deal in NIIF. Meanwhile, India announced that its Cabinet had approved an agreement between the two countries on investment in infrastructure.
However, Talmiz Ahmad, a former Indian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said it is up to New Delhi to take advantage of the opportunity and make sure it gets the investment.
“There is plenty of room for investment in infrastructure, but the perception across the region is that India is not business friendly,” Ahmad said. “We need to improve things like acquisition of land, the tax regime and to speed up approvals.”
Apart from investments in energy, India also expects to see deals in agriculture.
India already exports cereals and agricultural products to the Kingdom, and can be an additional source of Saudi food security, Quamar said.
“We talk a lot about promoting joint ventures,” said Ahmad. “But none of them has any meaning if the region is mired in terrorism.”