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

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 health authorities ready to join trials of COVID-19 vaccines

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health is working with a different Chinese company to evaluate whether the vaccine it is developing is effective. (REUTERS)
Updated 22 September 2020

Saudi health authorities ready to join trials of COVID-19 vaccines

  • Ministry of Health and King Abdullah International Medical Research Center have been working with two Chinese drug companies

JEDDAH: King Abdullah International Medical Research Center (KAIMRC) in Saudi Arabia is preparing to take part in advanced trials of one or two COVID-19 vaccines.

About 40 potential vaccines are being tested on humans, nine of which are at the advanced stage of clinical trials to evaluate their safety and effectiveness in protecting people against a virus that has infected more than 31 million people around the world.

The center confirmed its readiness to cooperate with the Kingdom’s Ministry of Health and the Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) and participate in tests of one or two of the nine vaccines that are in the third phase of clinical trials, during which large-scale testing on humans takes place.

Dr. Naif Al-Harbi, the head of KAIMRC’s drug-development unit, told Al-Ekhbariya TV news channel that it is unprecedented to have nine vaccines in stage three of clinical trials so soon, less than a year, after the emergence of a new virus.

“Approval or disapproval of any drug normally follows the third stage of its clinical trials, which is the last stage,” he added. “Since the pandemic, KAIMRC has been in continuous contact with a number of drug companies in four countries (that are developing vaccines).”

KAIMRC has been working with one Chinese pharmaceutical company in particular to help evaluate and accelerate the development of its vaccine, he said.

“Over the past two months, we have been in contact with Sinovac to scientifically evaluate its product, in term of the tests on animals and a study of the results of stages one and two on humans,” Al-Harbi said.

He added that the Kingdom’s Ministry of Health is working with a different Chinese company to evaluate whether the vaccine it is developing is effective. A number of factors are taken into consideration when reaching a conclusion.

“We examine the drugs and make sure they have caused no side effects when tested on humans, or that they just caused insignificant side effects,” said Al-Harbi. “We also look into the manufacturing company’s profile to ensure it follows the standards of the good manufacturing practices, and that the company’s products are consistently produced and controlled according to quality standards.”

He added that SFDA is also doing a great job in ensuring that vaccines are safe, to avoid any risks to the health of people in the Kingdom.

In a message posted on Twitter, KAIMRC said that some countries, such as Russia, China and the UAE, have given doctors the green light to use some vaccines on patients before that have been approved, but only in emergency cases and when the results of early clinical studies indicate that the vaccine is safe.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia announced 27 additional COVID-19-related deaths. The death toll in the country now stands at 4,512.

Meanwhile, 492 new cases have been confirmed in the Kingdom, bringing the total number of people infected by the virus to 330,246. Of those, 14,235 cases remain active and 1,133 patients are in a critical condition.

The Ministry of Health said Makkah recorded the highest number of new cases, with 58, followed by Jeddah with 53, and Madinah with 38.

A further 1,060 people in the Kingdom have recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries to 311,499. A total of 6,093,601 tests for the virus have been carries out in the country, including 43,652 in the past 24 hours.