RIYADH: India and Saudi Arabia plan to strengthen their long-held ties through sustainable initiatives that will expand the opportunities for both nations, said the Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal.
On an official visit to the Kingdom from Sept. 18-19, the minister met his counterpart Saudi Minister of Commerce Dr. Majid bin Abdullah Alkassabi to discuss economic ties between the Kingdom and India.
He is also set to co-chair the inaugural Ministerial Meeting of the Economic and Investments Committee alongside the Saudi Minister of Energy, Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman.
The areas of collaboration between the two nations will include the West Coast Refinery project, Trans-Ocean Grid connectivity and food security, besides encouraging trade in green hydrogen, pharmaceutical and energy security.
“The economy and trade relations play a vital role in today’s world. My visit this time is intended to create that enabling environment, which will help businesses from both countries engage with each other,” Goyal told Arab News.
“It will help expand opportunities for our young boys and girls, particularly in innovation,” he added.
Convergence in vision
With the Vision 2030 plan to bolster small and medium enterprises by paving the way for more significant opportunities, India plays a great role in encouraging startups in the Kingdom through the Make in India initiative.
The minister explained that Saudi Arabia could significantly benefit from the Indo-Saudi partnerships between startups and financing companies, gaining a greater understanding of the market’s development from one of the leading economies.
India holds the world’s third largest startup ecosystem, with over 70,000 startups registered under the Ministry of Commerce and 107 unicorns in the country, each valued at over $1 billion and collectively at $340 billion.
“This ecosystem can grow in India, given the strength of financing and the support that Saudi Arabia can provide in terms of capital…We don’t compete with each other; we complement each other,” the minister told Arab News.
One of the critical goals of the meeting was to accelerate progress on the $100 billion investment by the Kingdom toward growing various economic sectors in India, announced by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in 2019.
The minister said: “Because of the global uncertainties, some of our ambitious plans on investment flow from Saudi Arabia to India could not fructify, but given the commitment of both sides and the huge opportunities that are available in India, I do see this now going forward in mission mode.”
Exploring new synergies
Goyal highlighted the various sectors of opportunity for the fund as discussed with his Saudi counterpart, including clean energy production, the startup ecosystem, food trade, semiconductors, pharmaceuticals and petrochemicals.
While India is one of the largest importers of oil from the Kingdom, Saudi’s economic diversification, notably the transition toward a non-oil economy and into newer avenues, was commended by the minister.
“In this day and age when fossil fuels are facing challenges of climate change, there is an effort to create alternative and renewable energy sources. It’s important that Saudi Arabia also embarks on diversifying its portfolio to prepare the country for the future,” the minister said.
“[It] clearly shows that the leadership of Saudi Arabia is truly progressive, modern and visionary,” he added.
As the recent pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war have significantly affected most economies, India continues to be one of the fastest growing economies globally, with a 7 percent growth in its gross domestic product.
The nation has also mandated the Reserve Bank of India, its central bank, to closely monitor and tame growing inflation rates.
“We’ve shown a lot of resilience. Our management of COVID has been widely appreciated. I must acknowledge and thank the Saudi government, the crown prince, and the people of Saudi Arabia for their support during the time,” he said, crediting the Kingdom for providing essential medical oxygen supplies to the nation.
Sustainability in spotlight
One of the biggest initiatives taken by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the dedication to protecting the environment, addressing climate change, creating sustainable lifestyle methods and creating renewable energy sources.
The minister said: “Intergenerational equity demands that we leave behind a better planet than the one we inherited, and I think both Saudi Arabia and India are committed to that. We will work together and ensure that both countries work toward a better future for our children.”
India aims to produce 25 million tons of green hydrogen annually by 2047 as a first step to reducing energy imports. The country has also been developing the idea of a Trans-Ocean Grid, designed to harness solar energy and potentially distribute power globally.
“We have already initiated some studies to see how we can connect the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries and India through undersea cables and maybe create a transmission grid between the two regions,” he said.
The minister hopes trade relations will also carry onto food and energy security to the two nations on a grander scale.
“We are looking at creating a bridge between India and Saudi Arabia, so that food security of Saudi Arabia will become a responsibility that India will carry. Just like we believe that India’s energy security is the responsibility that our Saudi Arabian friends can carry,” he said.
“I see this partnership flourishing under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi and His Highness Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, to very high levels,” added the beaming minister.