External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Saturday signed a Memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Secretary-General of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Nayef  Al-Hajraf on the mechanism of consultations between India and the GCC.

The MoU was signed between the Secretariat General of the cooperation council for the Arab States of the Gulf and the Government of India.

Besides, Jaishankar held a bilateral meeting with the Secretary-General and discussed the relevance of India-GCC cooperation in context with the current regional and global situation.

“Productive meeting with GCC Secretary General Dr Nayef  Al-Hajraf. Signed the MoU on mechanism of consultations between India and GCC. Exchanged views on the current regional and global situation and the relevance of India-GCC cooperation in that context,” Jaishankar tweeted.

The External Affairs Minister is on a two-day visit to Saudi Arabia from 10-12 September 2022, his first trip to the Kingdom as India’s External Affairs Minister.

“Began my visit to Saudi Arabia with an interaction with our community. Appreciated the contribution of our Diaspora in facing national challenges. Spoke to them about our country’s resilience, especially during time of the Covid & national transformation that is underway in India,” Jaishankar tweeted.

Upon reaching Saudi Arabia, Jaishankar addressed the Indian diaspora in Riyadh. During his address, Jaishankar highlighted that India has made powerful efforts to actually grow its economy and move toward becoming a higher-income country.

“A lot of this required a vision, prudent management of our fiscal resources. It has required policies which made it easier for banks to lend .. to make it easier for small and medium companies to get lending, for self-employed people to get lending.”

He said that India thinks about the ways in which it can change its credit, banking, education and labor policy. “Many big reforms have taken place and we can see the result of that in two very interesting developments. In the year ending 31 March, 2021 we have posted the highest export that we have ever done. Our total exports were 670 billion USD. We had to trade in goods for 400 billion USD.”

Jaishankar stressed that the idea of India as a trading power has become credible today.

He noted that despite the challenges posed by the Ukraine crisis, India is confident that it will be the fastest-growing major economy in the world this year with at least 7 per cent growth.

Noting the world is facing many fallouts of the Ukraine crisis such as rising oil prices, Jaishankar while addressing the Indian diaspora in Riyadh said, “We are very confident that India will be the fastest growing major economy in the world this year. We will get at least 7 per cent growth.”

The External Affairs Minister said that when he holds the meeting, his Saudi counterpart will be meeting “the Foreign Minister of the fifth largest economy, the Foreign Minister of a country that not only responded to the COVID challenge but also come out of it very strongly, one whose digital infrastructure capabilities such as health infra has grown in this period and despite the challenges posed by the Ukraine crisis, India is confident that it will be the fastest-growing major economy in the world this year with at least 7 per cent growth, a country whose ability to take care of its people abroad has also been demonstrated.”

Jaishankar also lauded the growing ties between India and Saudi Arabia. “During the past few years, we saw our international friendships. Saudi Arabia was very helpful and provided supplies of oxygen. Two years of Covid are when the country was tested but we came through,” said Jaishankar.

Speaking about the key role the Indian diaspora plays in the ties between the two countries he expressed appreciation for the Indian community in Riyadh.

“In many ways, all of you shaped the image of India and what Saudis think about India and what we are about. Consciously or unconsciously, all of you through your achievements, contributions, profession, and friendships have collectively built up what is the total Saudi perception of India. For that, your country will be always grateful.”

“I would like to express my appreciation for the government and the country for all of you. We know, it’s not always easy living abroad,” said Jaishankar.

“We have two and half million Indians living in Saudi Arabia, at the time the numbers have been more. Naturally, you will have your concerns, your interests, your problems and it’s very useful for me to know that, to understand that, so, that when I engage with the authorities, with my counterpart or with the officialdom, I have also your interest at heart. In some way, we as the govt or I as Foreign Minister or the Embassy or the foreign ministry can be helpful to advance your interest to make you more comfortable, to ensure that your requirements are met and your problems in whatever way may be addressed,” he added.

During his two-day visit, the external affairs minister will co-chair the inaugural Ministerial Meeting of the Committee on Political, Security, Social and Cultural Cooperation (PSSC), established under the framework of the India-Saudi Arabia Strategic Partnership Council, with his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud.

“The two Ministers will undertake a comprehensive review of the entire bilateral relationship and will discuss the progress under the four Joint Working Groups of the PSSC Committee, namely Political & Consular; Legal and Security; Social and Cultural and Joint Committee on Defence Cooperation,” the MEA said.

The meetings of these Groups and Senior Officials (at the Secretary level) have been held over the past few months, the release added.

“Both sides will also discuss regional and international issues of mutual interest including their cooperation at the United Nations, Group of Twenty (G20) and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC),” the MEA said.

India-Saudi Arabia relations have strengthened considerably over the past few years including in political, security, energy, trade, investment, health, food security, cultural and defence fields.

The top leadership of both countries remained in close touch even during the Covid-19 pandemic.


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