Saudi Arabia and India have signed a historic pact in New Delhi to enhance cooperation in the defense sector, in the presence of Crown Prince Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense, and Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari.
Syed Akbaruddin, spokesman of India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), told Arab News that Nizar Obaid Madani, Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, and Jitendra Singh, Indian minister of state for defense, signed the memorandum of understanding for defense cooperation.
The vice-president earlier received Crown Prince Salman as he arrived in India to a red carpet welcome.
Crown Prince Salman, who is on a three-day official visit to India, described the cooperation between the two countries as exemplary and fruitful.
“The pact for defense cooperation will allow for shared use and exchange of defense-related information, military training and education, as well as cooperation in areas varying from hydrography and security to logistics,” he said.
The crown prince, in his arrival statement, said his visit to India comes “within the framework of the desire of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah to consolidate cooperation between the two countries in all fields and hold consultations on regional and international issues of common concern.”
He recalled the visits of King Abdullah to India in 2006 and of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Saudi Arabia in 2010.
Prince Salman highlighted the growing Saudi-Indian ties. “We are happy to see the Saudi-Indian friendship expanding to new horizons as a result of cooperation and partnership in economic, commercial, cultural and scientific fields,” the crown prince said.
He added: “Saudi Arabia and India have a joint vision for achieving prosperity for their peoples and establishing peace and stability in the region.”
Addressing a dinner banquet hosted by Ansari, Prince Salman called for strengthening of cooperation between Saudi and Indian companies by setting up more joint ventures.
On Thursday, Crown Prince Salman will call on Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Singh and hold wide-ranging talks on bilateral, regional and international issues.
“Joint efforts should be made to promote the spirit of cooperation among allies and partners, who share similar concerns on a range of issues and challenges facing the world today,” the crown prince said.
Sibi George, charge d’affaires at the Indian mission, said the visit of Crown Prince Salman heralds a new era of relationship. India and Saudi Arabia share friendly relations based on close people-to-people contact, he said.
In recent years, he said there has been significant progress in bilateral cooperation in key areas of mutual interest, including energy security, trade and infrastructure development projects.
He said the Saudi–Indian Joint Business Council will hold talks in New Delhi on the sidelines of the visit of Crown Prince Salman. The discussions are aimed at boosting investment opportunities between the two countries.
Ministers and members of the business and investment communities from both countries will attend the meetings.
Saudi Arabia ranks as the fourth largest commercial partner with bilateral trade in excess of $43 billion reported during the last financial year.
Saudi Arabia is also India’s largest crude oil supplier accounting for about one-fifth of India’s total imports.
Indians also form the largest expatriate community in Saudi Arabia and their positive contribution to the progress and development of their host country is well recognized.
There are more than 2.8 million Indian nationals presently living and working in Saudi Arabia.