India, Saudi Arabia to deepen economic, political ties

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (SPA)
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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (SPA)
Updated 01 December 2018
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India, Saudi Arabia to deepen economic, political ties

  • The meeting took place ahead of the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires
  • During the meeting, the crown prince accepted India's invitation for Saudi Arabia to join the initiative of the International Solar Energy Federation

NEW DELHI: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are to establish a mechanism to scale up Riyadh’s investments in the energy, infrastructure and defense sectors in India. The decision is a result of a meeting that took place on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires and is a major boost to the bilateral economic and political relationship between the two countries.
“It was a cordial and warm meeting,” Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said in a media briefing.
He said that “the crown prince spoke of India as an important partner” and talked about “finalizing an initial investment in the National Infrastructure Fund.”
“Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that Saudi Arabia referred to the future prospects for investment in the technology sector, the agriculture sector and energy sectors,” Gokhale said.
“The two leaders have agreed that we will now set up a mechanism at the leadership level which will go into the possibilities of concrete actions in terms of investment, in terms of technology, in terms of manufacturing across various sectors — from energy to food security and to infrastructure to defense,” he said.
“This mechanism will be worked out shortly and we will expect that in the next two to three years there will be significantly scaling up in Saudi investments in India,” Gokhale said.
The foreign secretary also told the media that the Indian prime minister stressed the importance of having stable and predictable energy prices. The two leaders discussed how Saudi Arabia can help in stabilizing energy prices, particularly for India.
“Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was mindful of the contributions that Indians have made in the building of Saudi Arabia over the years and he specifically expressed appreciation for this,” Gokhale said.
Later in the day, Prime Minister Modi wrote on Twitter: “Had a fruitful interaction with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al-Saud. We discussed multiple aspects of India-Saudi Arabia relations and ways to further boost economic, cultural and energy ties.”
The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), a prominent industry body in India, welcomed the meeting and said that “Saudi Arabia is going to be one of the biggest trading partners in the coming years.”
“The engagement between the two countries has been going on and has gone up in recent years and it will go higher and higher. Saudi Arabia is diversifying and expanding the relationship with India as part of that deeper and growing engagement,” a CII representative told Arab News.
New Delhi-based foreign policy expert Zakir Hussain said that “the issues discussed between two leaders are very important to promote and enhance our economic, infrastructure, technology, energy security, people-to-people relations and other issues related to our mutual interests.”
“In the past 15-and or 16 years Saudi Arabia’s investment has not been more than $50 million to $60 million, which is not much, far less than Kingdom’s potential,” said Hussain, author of the book “Saudi Arabia in a Multipolar World: Changing Dynamics.”


Saudi sources deny ‘unsubstantiated’ reports of permitting alcohol

Updated 16 June 2019
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Saudi sources deny ‘unsubstantiated’ reports of permitting alcohol

  • “The leadership has made it clear from day one; it is simply not happening,”SCTH source tells Arab News
  • The SCTH is responsible for licensing and rating hotels and restaurants

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has no plans to allow the sale or public consumption of alcohol, a senior government source has told Arab News.

The official with access to relevant decision-makers categorically denied “unsubstantiated” media reports in some international and regional news outlets.

“If you read the fake news, you will notice it is all based on hearsay and tweets by accounts known to have a questionable agenda when talking about the Kingdom,” he said.

“As the country moves forward with its reform plans, we expect much speculation and attempts by critics to hold us back. And while people are allowed to speculate and criticize, their speculation should not be treated as the truth.”

A second source at the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) also denied such reports. “The leadership has made it clear from day one; it is simply not happening,” he told Arab News. “I have not heard of any plans to allow alcohol in major cities, free zones or new projects.”

The SCTH is responsible for licensing and rating hotels and restaurants. Any plans for the sale or consumption of alcohol would have to go through the commission for implementation. 

Saudi Arabia has witnessed substantial social reforms over the past three years, such as the curbing of the previously unchecked power of the religious police, reopening cinemas and allowing women to drive.

There has also been a major shift on previously prohibited public entertainment and gender mixing. International artists including Mariah Carey, Yanni, Andrea Bocelli, Enrique Iglesias and Black Eyed Peas have all performed.

Tourism projects have included pop-up versions of international restaurants such as Signor Sassi, Nusr-Et and Nobu. None has served alcohol.

“Officials have repeatedly said all changes were and will always be in line with Islamic teachings and traditions,” the senior source told Arab News.