Indian PM Narendra Modi: ‘We value the Kingdom’s vital role’

Indian PM Narendra Modi: ‘We value the Kingdom’s vital role’
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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have met five times. (SPA)
Indian PM Narendra Modi: ‘We value the Kingdom’s vital role’
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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Arab News Deputy Editor-in-Chief Tarek Mishkhas during Modi's visit to the Kingdom. (AN Photo)
Indian PM Narendra Modi: ‘We value the Kingdom’s vital role’
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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Arab News Deputy Editor-in-Chief Tarek Mishkhas during Modi's visit to the Kingdom. (AN Photo)
Indian PM Narendra Modi: ‘We value the Kingdom’s vital role’
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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Arab News Deputy Editor-in-Chief Tarek Mishkhas during Modi's visit to the Kingdom. (AN Photo)
Updated 30 October 2019

Indian PM Narendra Modi: ‘We value the Kingdom’s vital role’

Indian PM Narendra Modi: ‘We value the Kingdom’s vital role’
  • Visit to Saudi Arabia is the second by the Indian leader in a span of three years
  • Agreement on Strategic Partnership Council praised as beginning of a 'new era'

RIYADH: On the occasion of his visit to Saudi Arabia, his second in three years, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Arab News that the two countries have been working together within the G20 to reduce inequality and promote sustainable development.
Modi said with the signing of an agreement on a Strategic Partnership Council, already robust and deep bilateral ties in various fields will only strengthen further.
Saying stable oil prices are crucial for the growth of the global economy, he praised the Kingdom’s role as an important and reliable source of India’s energy requirements.




Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Arab News Deputy Editor-in-Chief Tarek Mishkhas during Modi's visit to the Kingdom. (AN Photo)

Q You met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on many previous occasions on the sidelines of G20 meetings, and during his historic visit to New Delhi last year. Can you tell us about the excellent chemistry that exists between you and him?
A Since my first visit to the Kingdom in 2016, I have personally witnessed a remarkable growth in our bilateral relations. I have met His Royal Highness (HRH) Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman five times. I recall with warmth my previous meetings with him, and look forward to meeting him again during this visit.
I am confident that under the leadership of His Majesty King Salman and HRH Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, bilateral relations between India and Saudi Arabia will only grow stronger.

Q India and Saudi Arabia signed the Riyadh Declaration in 2010 and called it “Toward a New Era in Strategic Partnership.” What has been the progress since then?
A “Neighborhood First” continues to be the guiding vision for my government’s foreign policy. India’s relations with Saudi Arabia are one of the most important bilateral relationships in our extended neighborhood.
The visit of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, as the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, to India in 2014, my visit to Riyadh in April 2016, and the state visit of HRH Mohammed bin Salman earlier this year in February have further consolidated this special relationship.
During this visit to Saudi Arabia, we are going to sign an agreement on a Strategic Partnership Council, which will begin a new era of cooperation across sectors. Our ties across various dimensions such as trade, investment, security and defense cooperation are robust and deep, and will only strengthen further.
Q Going by media reports, there seems to have been considerable cooperation and coordination between the two countries on security issues. Are you satisfied with the level of cooperation?
A I believe that Asian powers like India and Saudi Arabia share similar security concerns in their neighborhood. In that respect, I am happy that our cooperation, particularly in the field of counterterrorism, security and strategic issues, is progressing very well. My national security adviser just visited Riyadh for a very productive visit.
We have a Joint Committee on Defense Cooperation that holds regular meetings. We have identified a number of areas of mutual interest and cooperation in the field of defense and security. We are also in the process of entering into agreements on security cooperation, collaboration in defense industries, and also agreed to hold a comprehensive security dialogue mechanism between the two countries.

Q The Middle East, or West Asia as the region is known in India, is in turmoil. It is going through one of its worst phases of conflict and violence. What constructive role can India play in reducing tensions in the region?
A We believe that a balanced approach is required to resolve the conflicts, while respecting the principles of sovereignty and non-interference in each other’s internal matters.
India shares excellent bilateral relations with all the countries in the region, and a very large Indian diaspora, numbering over 8 million, resides in the region. A dialogue process that encourages the participation of all stakeholders is important to bring peace and security to this very important region.

Q India and Saudi Arabia are members of the G20. How do you view the global economic outlook?
A The global economic outlook is strongly dependent on the path chartered by the large developing countries such as India. As I mentioned in my speech at the UN General Assembly in September, we sincerely believe that we need collective efforts, for the growth of all, with everyone’s trust.
Economic uncertainty is an offshoot of unbalanced multilateral trade systems. Within the G20, India and Saudi Arabia have been working together to reduce inequality and promote sustainable development. I am happy to note that Saudi Arabia will be hosting the G20 Summit next year and India will host it in 2022, which is also the 75th anniversary of our independence.




Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Arab News Deputy Editor-in-Chief Tarek Mishkhas during Modi's visit to the Kingdom. (AN Photo)

Q Western economies are still sluggish. In such a bleak scenario, what can Asian countries, including Saudi Arabia and India, do to mitigate the effects of the global economic downturn?
A India has undertaken many reforms to create a business-friendly environment, and to ensure that we remain a major driver of global growth and stability. Our reforms for ease of doing business and introducing investor-friendly initiatives have contributed to improving our position in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index from 142 in 2014 to 63 in 2019.
A number of major flagship initiatives, like Make in India, Digital India, Skill India, Swatchh Bharat, Smart Cities and Startup India, are offering a lot of opportunities to foreign investors. Similarly, I am happy to note that Saudi Arabia too has embarked upon a reform program as part of their Vision 2030.

Q Saudi Arabia is a leading supplier of oil to India. Low prices are good news for India, and Saudi Arabia wants to retain its market share. How can the two countries integrate these two aspects for a mutually beneficial, long-term energy relationship?
A India imports around 18 percent of its crude oil from the Kingdom, making it the second-largest source of crude oil for us. From a purely buyer-seller relationship, we are now moving toward a closer strategic partnership that will include Saudi investments in downstream oil and gas projects.
We value the Kingdom’s vital role as an important and reliable source of our energy requirements. We believe that stable oil prices are crucial for the growth of the global economy, particularly for developing countries. Saudi Aramco is participating in a major refinery and petrochemical project on India’s west coast. We are also looking forward to the participation of Aramco in India’s Strategic Petroleum Reserves.

Q India is building smart cities and Saudi Arabia has considerable experience, having successfully built smart cities in Yanbu, Jubail and Rabigh. Would you be willing to invite Saudis to help with those massive smart city projects announced by your government?
A One of the major areas of cooperation between India and Saudi Arabia is in investments in our infrastructure projects. During his visit to India in February 2019, the crown prince had indicated an intent to invest in excess of $100 billion in India across various sectors.
We welcome greater Saudi investments in our infrastructure projects, including the Smart Cities program. We also welcome Saudi interest in investing in the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund.

Q Which areas, other than energy, can and should India and Saudi Arabia cooperate in? Are there any specific proposals?
A I am happy to share with you that during my visit this time, India and Saudi Arabia plan to enter into agreements in various areas, including defense, security, renewable energy etc.
Other major initiatives include the proposal to launch the RuPay card in the Kingdom, which will facilitate payments and remittances by the Indian diaspora; integration of the e-Migrate and e-Thawtheeq portals, which will facilitate the process of migration of Indian labor into the Kingdom; and an agreement on training diplomats in our respective academies.
India is known for its world-class capacity-building centers, and there are many initiatives to provide training to the Saudi youth in different fields. We are also discussing mutual cooperation in the field of space research.

Q What is your message to the Indian diaspora in Saudi Arabia?
A Nearly 2.6 million Indians have made Saudi Arabia their second home, contributing to its growth and development. Many Indians also visit the Kingdom every year for the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage, and for business purposes.
My message to my fellow citizens is that your country is proud of the place that you have made for yourself in the Kingdom, and your hard work and commitment have helped to generate a lot of goodwill for the overall bilateral relationship.
I am confident that you will continue to remain the binding force in our ties with the Kingdom, and further contribute to the strengthening of the historic ties between the two countries, which are based on people-to-people contacts over several decades.


Saudis divided between electronic, traditional Eidiya

Saudis divided between electronic, traditional Eidiya
Updated 14 May 2021

Saudis divided between electronic, traditional Eidiya

Saudis divided between electronic, traditional Eidiya
  • Due to the ongoing pandemic, many Saudis turn to electronic payments to give out Eidiyas this year as opposed to cash in hand

JEDDAH: As Muslims around the world are celebrating Eid Al-Fitr in their own unique ways, children in every nation tend to always steal the spotlight with their tireless demands for Eidiya money.

Similar to Halloween in the west, children wait eagerly for this time of the year so they can dress up, visit one household to the next, and receive as much Eidiya money (and chocolates) as possible.

However, due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many Saudis turned to electronic payments to give out Eidiyas this year. Still, others prefer the old-fashioned way of handing out Eidiyas in cash while also taking COVID-19 health precautions into consideration.

Saudi dentist Jameela Al-Ghamdi, 29, said being deprived of family gatherings for Eid Al-Fitr last year was frustrating. 

“It was so strange to go through,” she told Arab News. “We never skipped visiting our families on such special occasions.”

She is now relieved because people in her family susceptible to the virus have received the vaccine jab and these special occasions can happen again. 

“I am so happy to dress up with my sisters and also visit family members I have not seen in an unfairly long time,” Al-Ghamdi said.

Her family, although mostly vaccinated, prefers to give out Eidiyas electronically, as Al-Ghamdi says she is a fan of technology. 

“We tried giving out Eidiyas through STC Pay last year and it was very quick, simple and convenient. No need to break down SR100 at minimarkets anymore,” she said.

Ali Mansour, a 33-year-old Saudi industrial engineer at Saudia airline, said the best part of Eid is visiting family. He also added the occasion is not the same without gatherings. Mansour’s family started giving out Eidiyas electronically long before the pandemic because of its convenience.

HIGHLIGHTS

•Similar to Halloween in the west, children wait eagerly for this time of the year so they can dress up, visit one household to the next, and receive as much Eidiya money (and chocolates) as possible. •However, due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many Saudis turned to electronic payments to give out Eidiyas this year. Still, others prefer the old-fashioned way of handing out Eidiyas in cash while also taking COVID-19 health precautions into consideration.

“Way before the pandemic and the creations of such platforms like STC Pay, we gave out Eidiyas through bank transfers,” he told Arab News. “Electronic payments are not something new to us. My dad would always transfer the Eidiya into my account, never in cash.” He added that the last time he received Eidiya in cash was probably back in high school.

Young children are the most significant part of the Eid celebration, said Mansour, as they will receive Eidiyas in cash since they cannot use devices.

Saudi Lujain Al-Jehani, 27, said Eid Al-Fitr is extra special this year because people were deprived of the holiday gatherings last year.

“Due to the pandemic, we did not have the opportunity to celebrate together,” she told Arab News. “We are so excited and thrilled. We are going to prepare cakes and activities that we were deprived of last year.”

Al-Jehani’s family prefers to give out Eidiyas in person: “The experience is different, holding cash in your hand,” she said.

Al-Jehani added that most of the elderly in her family do not know how to use electronic payment platforms.

Saudi medical student Renad Bajodah, 25, said Eid celebrations are important experiences and will have a lasting impact on a child’s memory.

“Eid means joy to me. It means coming together and honoring the days of our lives, and celebrating after the completion of the holy month of Ramadan,” Bajodah told Arab News. 

“The excitement of Eid’s eve is what is most beautiful to me, seeing kids wearing their new pajamas all happy on the night of Eid. It also teaches parents how to give to their children. To give them the best experience and beautiful childhood memories.” 

While Bajodah’s family still prefers Eidiyas in cash, they sanitize them thoroughly before delivering in carefully closed envelopes. They like the “traditional old school style,” he said.

Saudi Yara Ahmad, 27, who works in the market research industry, said Eid Al-Fitr means a lot to her. The whole experience from new clothes, delicious food and candy, family gatherings and Eidiya money is something adults and children alike look forward to every year.

Electronic Eidiya did not bode well for her family which continues to distribute cash to children while keeping in mind the sanitization part and necessary precautions.

Saudi Salman Al-Otaibi, 32, who prefers the old-fashioned way of giving out Eidiyas while following hygienic measures, said a new voting poll for Eidiyas that has been circulating a week before Eid Al-Fitr takes away a special element.

“The idea has nothing to do with the purpose of Eidiyas and bringing a smile on children and adults’ faces,” he told Arab News. 

“Because it has become a contest and everyone is running after people in groups and social media sites to vote. I think it is far from what Eidiya is supposed to mean.”


Taif rose oil a ‘treasure to be discovered’, says French envoy

Taif rose oil a ‘treasure to  be discovered’, says French envoy
Updated 14 May 2021

Taif rose oil a ‘treasure to be discovered’, says French envoy

Taif rose oil a ‘treasure to  be discovered’, says French envoy
  • Taif roses have, throughout history, expressed the cultural identity of Taif city, says Mayor Ahmed Al-Qathami

TAIF: “Treasure to be discovered,” were the words used by the French ambassador to the Kingdom describing the rose oil industry in Taif, after his recent visit to the 14th Taif Rose Festival held at Al-Radf Park and organized by the Taif Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Ludovic Pouille toured the old town of Taif at night with representatives from the province and the Ministry of Culture, expressing his happiness to discover the vital market on the eve of the celebrations of Eid Al-Fitr, and to drink traditional coffee in the historic neighborhood of the capital of roses.

He also discovered the traditional professions in the old city of Taif, discussing with the mayor the tourist capacity of the city and opportunities to cooperate with France.

Mesmerized by the fragrance and the pink scenery around him, the envoy walked the roses’ stairway in the festival covered in roses from both sides, describing it as a “stairway to heaven.”

French Ambassador Ludovic Pouille

Dr. Ahmed Al-Qathami, mayor of Taif Province, said that the visit of the French envoy reflects the importance and reputation of Taif roses across borders, “one of the most important tools in promoting the Kingdom’s tourism, culture and economy.”

Al-Qathami told Arab News that Taif roses have, throughout history, expressed the cultural identity of Taif city, symbolizing its beauty thanks to their odor and perfume.

“Taif roses are a source of cultural inspiration to all Saudis for whom the roses are a way of life and a cultural destination that attracted dignitaries and important figures throughout history,” he added.

He added that the visit of the French ambassador indicates the depth of friendship and love he has for Saudi Arabia. “This visit reflects his knowledge and appreciation for the efforts made to sustain the Taif rose industry, and develop its products and promote them at local and global levels.”

Al-Qathami pointed out that Taif roses were, and still are, an “honorable image” for Taif province, and all the celebrations and festivals held in the past and the accompanying exhibitions contributed in shaping its identity as a cultural hub that helped in strengthening the
ties of communication between the city and those who love and admire it.

Adel Al-Nimri, a rose factory owner in Al-Hada, Taif, said that the prominent and important figures who visit Taif and admire the great efforts “give us the impetus to continue and improve the product to reach the highest standards of
production, and export them abroad after gaining widespread fame.”

He stressed the importance of caring for the Taif rose industry and teaching people about it for future generations, adding that Taif roses are known for their purity and fragrance.


Saudi interior minister greets security personnel for Umrah success

Saudi interior minister greets security personnel for Umrah success
Updated 13 May 2021

Saudi interior minister greets security personnel for Umrah success

Saudi interior minister greets security personnel for Umrah success

RIYADH: Saudi Interior Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Saud bin Naif on Thursday conveyed the congratulations of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the personnel of the Ministry of Interior and security sectors on the success of security plans for the Umrah season and the advent of Eid Al-Fitr.

Prince Abdul Aziz, who is also the chairman of the Umrah Supreme Committee, expressed thanks to the leadership for the support that enabled the security sectors to perform their duties in this year’s exceptional Umrah season, expressing his pride in the efforts made by security men in the service of Umrah performers and visitors.

Muslims performed Eid Al-Fitr prayer throughout Saudi Arabia on Thursday.

In Makkah, the prayer was performed at the Grand Mosque and led by the Imam of the Grand Mosque Sheikh Saleh bin Abdullah bin Humaid. The prayer was attended by Makkah Gov. Prince Khalid Al-Faisal and a number of princes.

In Madinah, the prayer was performed at the Prophet’s Mosque. The prayer was attended by Madinah Gov. Prince Faisal bin Salman.

The prayer was also performed in various regions and attended by regional governors and senior officials.

The imams who led the prayer congratulated Muslims on Eid Al-Fitr, praying to Allah to accept their fasting, prayers, charity and good deeds.


Iraqi PM thanks King Salman for hospital donation

Iraqi PM thanks King Salman for hospital donation
Updated 14 May 2021

Iraqi PM thanks King Salman for hospital donation

Iraqi PM thanks King Salman for hospital donation
  • The king ordered Wednesday that the hospital, designated for COVID-19 cases, which was gutted by fire in April be rebuilt
  • Saudi Arabia will take on critical cases to provide them with medical care at the king’s expense

BAGHDAD: Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi on Thursday expressed his country’s gratitude to Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, who ordered that a Baghdad hospital that was destroyed by fire, be reconstructed.
On Wednesday, King Salman ordered that the Ibn Al-Khatib hospital, which was gutted by fire on April 24 in the Iraqi capital, be rebuilt.
Al-Kadhimi conveyed his appreciation and thanked King Salman for his initiative and for the hospital donation.
Nearly 110 victims were injured and at least 82 people killed after a fire broke out at the hospital that was designated for COVID-19 patients.
The king’s directives were announced by Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Iraq that said “based on the ties of brotherhood, good neighborliness, and the historical relations between the two countries and peoples,” according to SPA.
The embassy said the gesture was King Salman’s gift to the Iraqi people and to support them following the fire incident.
Saudi Arabia also said it will take on critical cases to provide them with medical care in the Kingdom’s hospitals at the king’s expense.


Who’s Who: Dr. Mohammed Al-Nuwairan, CEO of Saudi National Center for Palms and Dates

Who’s Who: Dr. Mohammed Al-Nuwairan, CEO of Saudi National Center for Palms and Dates
Updated 13 May 2021

Who’s Who: Dr. Mohammed Al-Nuwairan, CEO of Saudi National Center for Palms and Dates

Who’s Who: Dr. Mohammed Al-Nuwairan, CEO of Saudi National Center for Palms and Dates

Dr. Mohammed Al-Nuwairan has been the chief executive officer of the Saudi National Center for Palms and Dates (NCPD) since April 2016.

He heads a number of initiatives aimed at improving the management and efficiency of the sector’s supply chains, from farms to local and international consumers, and is involved in highlighting palm and date-related investment opportunities in areas such as services, technology, and bi-products.

Al-Nuwairan and his NCPD team have been working to transform the sector’s digital offering with the launch of electronic platforms covering aspects of the business including e-marketing, quality marks, government support, and subsidies.

Under his stewardship, the center has established strategic partnerships with companies such as Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (SABIC), Takamol Holding, and Taibah Valley along with other major international firms.

He sits on several government committees with sector interests and has participated in numerous international industry conferences and workshops.

Al-Nuwairan helped set up the Kingdom’s annual international dates conference, along with the International Council for Dates, the Saudi Dates Mark certification scheme, and a dates exhibition in Riyadh.

From July 2003 until joining the NCPD, he was an assistant professor at King Faisal University’s business school.

He gained a Ph.D. from the University of Manchester’s business school, specializing in supply chain management, a master’s degree in manufacturing management from Canada’s University of Windsor, and a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management from King Faisal University, in Al-Ahsa.