INDIA-SAUDI ARABIA BILATERAL RELATIONS

 

India and Saudi Arabia enjoy cordial and friendly relations reflecting the centuries old economic and socio-cultural ties. The establishment of diplomatic relations in 1947 was followed by high-level visits from both sides.

 

King Saud visited India in 1955 and the Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru visited the Kingdom in 1956. The visit of the Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to Saudi Arabia in 1982 further boosted the bilateral relations. In the recent times, the historic visit of King Abdullah to India in 2006 resulted in signing of ‘Delhi Declaration’ imparting a fresh momentum to the bilateral relationship. The visit provided the framework for cooperation in all fields of mutual interest. The reciprocal visit by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to Saudi Arabia in 2010 raised the level of bilateral engagement to ‘Strategic Partnership’ and the ‘Riyadh Declaration’ signed during the visit captured the spirit of enhanced cooperation in political, economic, security and defence realms. The visit of the then Crown Prince, His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (now King) to India in 2014 has further deepened the relations between our two countries.

 

The visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Riyadh from April 2-3, 2016 could be seen as a turning point in our growing engagements with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which has taken an upward strategic direction. The official engagements of Hon’ble Prime Minister included the meetings with King Salman, (the then) Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif, (the then) Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman {now Crown Prince, Deputy Premier and Minister of Defence}, Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir, Health Minister and Chairman of the Executive Board of Saudi Aramco Khalid Al Falih {now Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources}, and interaction with top Saudi business leaders at the Council of Saudi Chambers. In a special gesture, King Salman honoured Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the ‘Sash of King Abdulaziz’, the highest civilian decoration awarded by the Kingdom. A Joint Statement highlighting the various aspects of our relations was also issued at the conclusion of the visit.

 

On the side lines of the G-20 Hangzhou Summit in September 2016, Prime Minister held bilateral meeting with the Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during which the two leaders discussed ways of further strengthening and diversifying bilateral engagements.

 

(The then) MoS for External Affairs Shri M.J.Akbar led the Hajj goodwill delegation from 28 Aug -3 Sep, 2017 and met Governor of Makkah & Advisor to King Salman Prince Khalid bin Faisal and Saudi Minister of Hajj & Umra Mohammad Saleh bin Taher Benten.

 

Minister of State for External Affairs Dr. (Gen) V. K. Singh (Retd) visited Riyadh (3-5 Feb) and jointly addressed the press conference with the Saudi Minister of National Guard Prince Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al Ayyaf on the 32nd Saudi National Heritage and Culture Festival Janadriyah 2018.

 

External Affairs Minister Smt. Sushma Swaraj visited Riyadh (6-8 Feb) and inaugurated the India pavilion at the 32nd Saudi National Heritage and Culture Festival Janadriyah 2018, where India was accorded the ‘Guest of Honour’ status. On the sidelines, External Affairs Minister met King Salman, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir and Saudi National Guard Minister Prince Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al Ayyaf.

 

Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitely visited Riyadh (18 - 19 Feb, 2018) to co-chair the 12th Joint Commission Meeting along with the Saudi Minister of Commerce & Investment Dr. Majid Al Qassabi. Finance Minister had an audience with King Salman and met Saudi Finance Minister Mr. Mohammad Al Jada’an and Saudi Minister for Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources Eng. Khalid Al Falih. Finance Minister also addressed the Council of Saudi Chambers.

 

More recently, Hon’ble PM Narendra Modi met the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (29 Nov, 2018) on the side-lines of G-20 Summit in Argentina, and discussed aspects of bilateral cooperation.

 

Economic & Commercial Relations: Saudi Arabia today is our 4th largest trade partner (after China, USA and Japan) and is a major source of energy as we import around 17 % of our crude oil requirement from the Kingdom. In 2017-18, the India-Saudi bilateral trade has increased by 9.56 % to US $ 27.48 billion. During this period, our imports from Saudi Arabia reached USD 22.06 billion, registering an increase of 10.50 % over previous year (USD 19.97 billion) whereas our exports to Saudi Arabia reached USD 5.41 billion registering an increase of 5.88 % over previous year (USD 5.11 billion). The current bilateral trade (April - Nov 2018 provisional figures) is valued USD 23.24 billion. The business and visit visa fees for the Indian nationals were decreased and fixed on reciprocal terms.


Saudi Arabia is the 15
th largest market in the world for Indian exports and is destination to 1.85% (2017-18) of India’s global exports. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia is the 3rd largest source (4.74% in 2017-18) of India’s global imports. For Saudi Arabia, as per 2017 data, India is the 4th largest market for its exports, accounting for 8.88 % of its global exports. In terms of imports by Saudi Arabia, India ranks 7th and is source of around 4.13 % of Saudi Arabia’s total imports.

 

 

 

India-Saudi Trade (in billion USD)

Year
( April – March)

Imports from Saudi Arabia

Exports to Saudi Arabia

Total trade

% increase in bilateral trade

% increase in Indian imports

% increase in Indian exports

2013-2014

36.40

12.21

48.62

11.05

7.08

24.86

2014-2015

28.10

11.16

39.26

-19.24

-22.79

-8.65

2015-2016

20.32

6.39

26.71

-31.97

-27.70

-42.71

2016-2017

19.94

5.13

25.08

-6.12

-1.85

-19.70

2017-2018

22.06

5.41

27.48

+9.56

+10.50

+5.88

Source: Department of Commerce, GOI. (www.dgft.gov.in)

 

Investments: According to Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA), there are 322 Indian companies as joint ventures/100% owned entities of worth USD 1.4 billion in the Kingdom till Dec, 2017. These licenses are for projects in diverse sectors such as management and consultancy services, construction projects, telecommunications, information technology, pharmaceuticals, etc. Several Indian companies have established collaborations with Saudi companies and are working in the Kingdom in the areas of designing, consultancy, financial services and software development. On the other hand, as per available data, Saudi Arabia is the 48th biggest investor in India with investments from April 2000 to June 2018, amounting to USD 208.38 million. In addition, Saudi Petrochemical Giant SABIC had set up its R&D Centre in Bangalore with an investment of over USD 100 million in November 2013. Aramco Asia India Ltd, the India office of Aramco was inaugurated on 8 Oct, 2017. Saudi Aramco signed a MoU in April 2018 with the Indian consortium (IOC, HPCL & BPCL) to acquire 50% stake in India’s largest refinery project ‘Ratnagiri Refinery & Petrochemicals Limited’ of worth US $ 44 billion. Later, ADNOC too signed an agreement to take 25 % stake of Saudi Aramco’s share in the Ratnagiri Project. Saudi Company Al- Fanar is currently executing a 300 MW power project in Kutcch. Several other Saudi companies have also invested in India through their non-Saudi subsidiaries.

 

Cultural ties: A cultural troupe from ICCR comprising of a Shehnai and a Qawwali group, performed in Jeddah and Riyadh from 25-29 January 2012, coinciding with the Republic Day celebrations. A 45-member Saudi youth delegation visited India on 10-day tour from March 22, 2012, to strengthen the cooperation in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector and to step-up efforts to promote understanding and friendship among the youth of the two countries. A 54-member cultural delegation visited the Kingdom to participate in the ‘Indian Cultural Week’, organized in Riyadh in collaboration with the Saudi Ministry of Culture from November 3-7, 2012. In January-February 2017, an ICCR sponsored 5-member Qawwali troupe performed in Riyadh, Dammam, Jubail and Jeddah.

 

Janadriyah 2018: India successfully participated as ‘Guest of Honour’ in the 32nd edition of the prestigious Saudi National Festival of Heritage and Culture – Janadriyah from February 7 – 28, 2018. The “Guest of Honour’ privilege comes in the backdrop of the historic visit of Hon’ble PM to Riyadh in April 2016 and the historic bilateral relations. Hon’ble EAM Smt. Sushma Swaraj jointly inaugurated the India Pavilion with His Majesty King Salman. During the visit, EAM called on King Salman and held official talks with Saudi Foreign Minister H.E Adel Al Jubeir and Saudi Minister of National Guard H.E Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al Ayyaf.

 

The India pavilion comprised the friendship wall, traditional & contemporary India, business stalls, states part, flavours of India and information desk. The friendship wall was a collection of rare and historic photographs of the historic bilateral relations and its discourse over the years. The traditional India segment comprised the ‘Incredible India’, AYUSH, Handicrafts, Textiles and the much desired ‘Yoga Man’ while the contemporary India segment concentrated more on the modern technological skills of India displaying Ordnance Factories Board (OFB), Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Ministry of Shipping, National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and Ministry of Food Processing Industries. The business stalls included the Indian companies/firms displaying their prominence in their respective sectors and distributed brochures, etc which attracted huge gathering to the India pavilion. The Arabic calligraphy exhibits were also well received by the Saudi citizens.bThe States Component involved the participation of 11 states (Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar) decorating the states stalls with models, banners, roll-ups, handicraft items, textiles indigenous to their respective states and presenting the Indian concept of ‘Unity in Diversity ‘ to the visitors. The visitors were really awe-struck by the cultural diversity and also the historic richness, economic potential & investment opportunities and culinary skills each state had to offer. The Cultural part comprising Yoga demonstrations, dances, martial arts, and screening of Indian films/documentaries was well applauded by the Saudi audience resulting in the flooding of the cultural area completely jam-packed.

 

IDY 2018

4th International Day of Yoga was celebrated on June 21, 2018 with enthusiasm and fervor in the prestigious Al-Madi Park of the King Abdulaziz Historical Centre, Riyadh with full support of the Saudi authorities. This marked the first celebration of Yoga in public domain in the Kingdom. The event witnessed huge participation from Saudis, diplomatic corps, officials, journalists, businessmen and Indian diaspora. Two Saudi female Yoga trainers led the Yoga demonstrations on the occasion.

 

Indian Community in Saudi Arabia: The 2.7 million (as of Dec, 2018) strong Indian community in Saudi Arabia is the largest expatriate community in the Kingdom and is the ‘most preferred community’ due to their expertise, sense of discipline, law abiding and peace loving nature. The contribution made by Indian community to the development of Saudi Arabia is well acknowledged. In April 2013, His Majesty King Abdullah announced a grace period allowing overstaying expatriates to correct the status, get new jobs or leave the country without facing penal action till the end of the grace period i.e. November 3, 2013. More than 1.4 lakh Indians availed the amnesty and returned back to home without facing penalty. Again, Saudi authorities announced amnesty (April – November, 2017) during which around 70, 000 undocumented Indians were issued travel documents to return back to India. The Haj pilgrimage is another important component of bilateral relations. The Hajj Quota was increased by 5, 000 in 2018, enabling 1, 75, 025 Indians performing Hajj. A large number of Indians also visit the Kingdom to perform Umrah every year.

 

Useful Resources

Website of the Mission:    www.indianembassy.org.sa
Mission’s Facebook Page:  https://www.facebook.com/IndiaInSaudiArabia

Mission’s Twitter: twitter.com/IndianEmbRiyadh