Saudi FM’s visit points to ‘growing strategic partnership’ with India

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi receives Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in New Delhi. (SPA)
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India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi receives Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in New Delhi. (SPA)
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi receives Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in New Delhi. (SPA)
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India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi receives Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in New Delhi. (SPA)
Saudi FM’s visit points to ‘growing strategic partnership’ with India
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Saudi FM’s visit points to ‘growing strategic partnership’ with India
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Saudi FM’s visit points to ‘growing strategic partnership’ with India
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India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi receives Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in New Delhi. (SPA)
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India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi receives Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in New Delhi. (SPA)
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Updated 21 September 2021

Saudi FM’s visit points to ‘growing strategic partnership’ with India

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi receives Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan in New Delhi. (SPA)
  • Prince Faisal meets Modi; tells local media Riyadh-New Delhi ties ‘major priority’

NEW DELHI: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan held talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, concluding his two-day visit to the South Asian nation that experts said was a step forward in bolstering bilateral ties.
Officials remained tight-lipped about the agenda of the meeting, and the Foreign Ministry did not release details either.

But the Saudi official’s visit marks the first high-level interaction between the two nations since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak early last year.

Dr. Muddassir Quamar, from the Institute of Defense Studies and Analysis, a New Delhi based think  tank, said that it “signifies the intent of both nations to overcome the disruptions caused by the pandemic.”

“The fact that the Saudi minister has come for a stand-alone visit to India is significant in terms of bilateral relations. In terms of economic, bilateral and trade ties, investments are the pillar and backbone of Saudi and India’s relationship,” Quamar told Arab News.

He cited figures from the past five to six years showing Saudi investment in India was $50 million in 2014, and almost $3 billion today”.

“Though it has not reached the target of $100 billion investment which both the countries set out to achieve in 2019, this will not take much time,” Quamar, associate editor, Contemporary Review of the Middle East, explained.
Others said that it would cement India’s role with “critical and strategic investments” in the Kingdom.

“The visit of the Saudi foreign minister is very timely and a continuum of our growing strategic partnership across the whole spectrum,” Anil Trigunayat, former Indian ambassador to Jordan and Libya, told Arab News.
“While the Kingdom has ambitious plans in accordance with its Vision 2030, India is also looking forward to greater critical and strategic investments which will be futuristic and mutually beneficial,” he said.
Trigunayat said that maritime and cybersecurity, technological collaboration, including green sectors, would be the “new areas for closer cooperation.” Quamar agreed, adding that Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy priority “makes India a favorite destination for investment.”
“The global economic nerve center is shifting from the west to Asia, and Saudi Arabia is the country whose foreign policy aspect is an investment. It can invest in a growing market. It is a strategic step that Riyadh is choosing to invest in India,” he said.
“One very important thing that we ignore is the growing security and defense partnership between India and Saudi Arabia. Since 2008, the security and defense relations between both the nations have gone up — both in terms of counter-terrorism and military-to-military relationship,” he said.
On Sunday, Prince Faisal met Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar, who described the talks as a “cordial and productive meeting.”
The two officials also reviewed progress in implementing the Strategic Partnership Council Agreement, signed during Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia in October 2019, and agreed to “work closely” to deal with pandemic-related challenges, a statement by India’s foreign ministry said.
Later, in interviews with local media, Prince Faisal said that Saudi Arabia’s relationship with India was “critically important to us.”
“It’s a major priority,” he told New Delhi-based English daily, The Times of India, adding that his visit was intended to “make sure the momentum in the relationship keeps going.”
“The depth and breadth of the relationship have expanded exponentially over the past four years, driven to a great extent by . . . prime minister Modi and the (Saudi) king and the crown prince . . . politically, of course, also . . . in the security field, counter-terrorism, counter-extremism areas where we work closely together,” Saudi’s top diplomat said.
In 2019, Saudi Arabia pledged a $100 billion investment in India, with Prince Faisal saying that despite the “challenges” posed by the pandemic, India had become the Kingdom’s third-largest trade partner.
“It’s a significant growth in both trade and also investment. When this announcement was made, we had $500 million direct investments, and we are more than $3 billion now,” he told English daily, The Hindu, on Monday.
According to Indian foreign ministry data, more than two million Indians live and work in the Kingdom. However, the COVID-19 pandemic rendered thousands jobless, with a majority unable to return to work due to travel curbs.
Jaishankar urged an early resumption of direct flights to Saudi Arabia, while both nations “agreed to work closely on all COVID-19-related challenges.”
In April and May, Saudi Arabia supplied more than 140 tons of medical oxygen to India to help it amid a deadly second wave of the coronavirus that claimed the lives of more than 400,000 people.


Saudi border patrols arrest 150 suspected drug smugglers along Yemen border

Saudi border patrols arrest 150 suspected drug smugglers along Yemen border
Updated 20 October 2021

Saudi border patrols arrest 150 suspected drug smugglers along Yemen border

Saudi border patrols arrest 150 suspected drug smugglers along Yemen border

JEDDAH: Saudi border patrols in Jazan, Najran, and Asir on Tuesday thwarted attempts to smuggle more than one ton of cannabis and 66 tons of qat into the Kingdom.

Border Guard spokesman, Col. Misfir Al-Qarni, said 150 people were arrested in connection with the smuggling bid, 47 of them Saudis, and 103 illegal immigrants of which 89 were Ethiopian, 10 Yemenis, three Somalis, and one Eritrean.

Al-Qarni said that the border guards will be not lax in carrying out their duties to confront anyone who tries to endanger the security of the Kingdom or transfer such substances through its borders illegally.

Saudi authorities, in cooperation with their UAE counterparts, recently prevented an attempt to sneak 1.5 million amphetamine pills into the Kingdom through Batha port hidden in a truck carrying grain.

A Saudi citizen, and a resident of Syria were arrested in Riyadh.

In May, Saudi authorities foiled a plot to smuggle almost 1,000 kg of hashish into the Kingdom through its southern borders. Twenty-four people — 18 Ethiopians, four Yemenis and two Saudis. were arrested. AN Jeddah


Rap star Pitbull to launch Riyadh Season with sold-out concert

Rap star Pitbull to launch Riyadh Season with sold-out concert
Updated 20 October 2021

Rap star Pitbull to launch Riyadh Season with sold-out concert

Rap star Pitbull to launch Riyadh Season with sold-out concert
  • Grand parade and fireworks display in opening ceremony of the Middle East’s largest entertainment festival

RIYADH: The Cuban-American rap star Pitbull will launch this year’s Riyadh Season festival with a sold-out concert on Wednesday that will be broadcast live.
The opening ceremony of the Middle East’s largest celebration of music, dining, and entertainment will also feature a parade and fireworks show.
The festival site covers 5.4 million square meters, divided into 14 zones — Boulevard Riyadh City, Al’Athriyah, Oasis, Combat Field, Riyadh Front, Qariat Zaman, Winter Wonderland, the Groves, VIA Riyadh, Riyadh Safari, Nabd Al Riyadh, Alsalam Tree, Almurabaa, and Khaloha.
There will be 16 events this month alone — WWE Crown Jewel on Oct. 21, Rush Gaming Festival from Oct. 22 to 26, the Crystal Maze live experience on Oct. 22, the Global Town Festival on Oct. 27, the Champions of Magic show on Oct. 27, and the Messi 10 Cirque Du Soleil show on Oct. 29.
And that’s just the start, with a total of 7,500 events, programs and activities for all age groups and interests. This year, children and fans of the nursery rhymes show CoComelon will be able to meet the characters while visiting their home, school, and farm in the Winter Wonderland zone.
Most events are free, and those that require tickets will be listed on the Riyadh Season 2021 website. Visitors must link their tickets to the Tawakkalna app, which has a new security feature to prevent tickets being misused or resold.
The entertainment sector will be a key contributor to the growth of the economy as part of Vision 2030. Riyadh Season will support the tourism and leisure sector and provide a unique experience for visitors. It continues until March 2022.


KSA’s Red Sea Film Festival opens in-person accreditation

KSA’s Red Sea Film Festival opens in-person accreditation
Updated 20 October 2021

KSA’s Red Sea Film Festival opens in-person accreditation

KSA’s Red Sea Film Festival opens in-person accreditation

JEDDAH: The 3rd annual Red Sea Film Festival has opened its doors to cinema world enthusiasts to register and receive accreditation for the inaugural in-person edition of the most anticipated cinematic event of the year.

From red carpet premieres  and concerts, an industry program, workshops, interactive community events to acclaimed festival gems and beautifully restored treasures, the festival will be held in Saudi Arabia’s most evocative historical quarter — Jeddah Old Town — from Dec. 6-15.  It is an annual festival, launched in 2019, but the past two editions were held virtually due to the pandemic.

With more than 100 films from around the world to be showcased, including the best cinematic works from the region, the festival will provide industry professionals with an exclusive opportunity to be part of a unique experience.

The festival provide a platform for Arab filmmakers and industry professionals from around the world to connect, host feature and short film competitions, and present a series of events, master classes, and workshops to support emerging talent. 


Saudi Arabia calls for greater global efforts toward disaster relief

Saudi Arabia calls for greater global efforts toward disaster relief
Updated 20 October 2021

Saudi Arabia calls for greater global efforts toward disaster relief

Saudi Arabia calls for greater global efforts toward disaster relief

NEW YORK: Saudi Arabia has urged the need for greater international efforts toward disaster relief assistance at the UN in New York.

It came as the Kingdom addressed the UN Sixth Committee, the body’s primary forum for legal questions.

The 76th session of the UN General Assembly was held Monday to discuss agenda item 87, “the protection of persons in the event of disasters.”

In a speech, Nidaa Abu Ali, a member of the Kingdom’s permanent delegation to the UN in New York, addressed item 87 as a “fundamental principle” of humanitarianism.

Abu Ali said that the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic “demonstrated the fast-paced speed at which disasters occur,” urging the need for a global response framework and cooperation in disaster situations.

She added that the Kingdom is a leading country in implementing strong and immediate measures in response to emergency crises while also assisting at the international level by providing humanitarian relief and economic assistance to developing countries.

Abu Ali noted that since its establishment in 2015, the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center has contributed to meeting urgent needs in cooperation with international organizations by combating disasters and food scarcity through financial and logistical support. During the Kingdom’s 2020 G20 Presidency, Abu Ali said that the most notable effort in combating the global pandemic and salvaging the global economy was the $11 billion allocated for medical support in developing countries.

On a national level, Abu Ali stressed the Kingdom’s initiative, associated with the Sustainable Development Goals, to activate a national strategy to reduce disaster risks, integrating measures into local development activities.

The strategy will aid in the reduction of risk, especially in vulnerable groups such as women, children, the elderly and people with disabilities.

In her final comments, Abu Ali urged the need to find a common legal framework to facilitate international humanitarian aid and international cooperation.

She expressed the Kingdom’s support for preparing an international legal instrument and convention to ensure the protection of people during times of disaster in a manner that does not conflict with the sovereignty or national legislation of countries around the world.


Saudi Arabia postpones return of elementary students to classrooms

Saudi Arabia postpones return of elementary students to classrooms
Updated 20 October 2021

Saudi Arabia postpones return of elementary students to classrooms

Saudi Arabia postpones return of elementary students to classrooms
  • Pupils under the age of 12 will continue to be taught remotely for safety reasons pending further studies, officials said

JEDDAH: With less than two weeks to go until elementary students were due to return to classrooms in Saudi Arabia, the Ministry of Education has announced that they will continue to be taught remotely until further notice, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.

The proposed Oct. 31 return to in-person teaching has been postponed for safety reasons, the ministry said.

It added that it requires further epidemiological data about the COVID-19 situation in the Kingdom as part of a risk assessment before a decision can be made on the resumption of in-person learning for children below the age of 12.

“The ministry will continue its efforts to offer virtual learning to the age group through ‘Madrasati’ (online platform) for the elementary level and ‘Rawdaty’ for preschool level,” it said.

The Ministries of Health and Education have been working together to ensure the successful resumption of in-person education for middle-school and high-school students.

In August, the Ministry of Education announced that, in accordance with regulations issued by the Health Ministry, fully vaccinated students over the age of 12 would return to classrooms. Those who are not fully vaccinated will continue to be taught remotely, with classwork uploaded to the ministry-approved Madrasati platform.

On Oct. 12, the Ministry of Education issued a directive urging education authorities across the Kingdom to ensure that all students are fully vaccinated, and reiterating that those who are not will have to remain at home. Students were given two weeks from the start of the semester to complete the vaccination process.

Meanwhile, the Saudi Ministry of Health on Tuesday reported 49 new COVID-19 cases in the Kingdom and two related deaths.

The latest figures put the total number of cases so far recorded in the country at 548,018 and the overall death toll at 8,767.

Health officials said there were currently 2,214 active cases, of which 90 patients were in a serious or critical condition.

Among the newly reported cases, 16 were in Riyadh, nine in Jeddah, three in Jubail, and two in both Al-Darb and Makkah.

The ministry also announced that 38 patients had recovered from COVID-19, taking the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 537,037.

A further 45,275 polymerase chain reaction tests had been carried out in the last 24-hour period, meaning that to date more than 29.8 million PCR checks had been conducted in the country.

Meanwhile, it was revealed that at least 44.8 million COVID-19 vaccine doses had been administered since the Kingdom’s immunization campaign started and more than 20.8 million people were now fully vaccinated.