Jaishankar’s first visit as Foreign Minister to Saudi Arabia

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External Affairs Minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar is currently on a two-day trip to Saudi Arabia which will last till September 12, 2022. This is his first official visit to the gulf nation since taking office as India’s Minister of External Affairs.

It is also the first high-level meeting between the two nations following controversial comments made by former BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma against the Prophet earlier this year.

Earlier today, Jaishankar also addressed the diplomats at the Prince Saud Al Faisal Institute of Diplomatic Studies in Riyadh. The importance of the India-Saudi strategic relationship was highlighted in the context of today’s time when the world is at a crossroads.

Jaishankar's first visit as Foreign Minister to Saudi Arabia
Image Source – twitter.com/DrSJaishankar

He further states that collaboration between the two countries holds the promise of shared growth, prosperity, stability, security, and development.

Yesterday, Jaishankar signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Nayef Falah Mubarak Al-Hajraf, to establish a forum for consultations between India and the GCC.

In a separate bilateral meeting, Dr. Jaishankar and Mr. Nayaf discussed the importance of cooperation between India and the GCC in light of the current domestic and international circumstances. In a tweet, Jaishankar described it as a “productive meeting” that concluded with the signing of the MoU.

During his visit, Jaishankar also interacted with the Indian diaspora in Riyadh and noted the importance of the Indian diaspora in facing national challenges.

He also spoke about the economic transformation India is undergoing, with many big reforms taking place in banking, labor policies, and education to grow economically and become a higher-income country.

He also emphasized that, despite the difficulties brought on by the Ukraine crisis, India is certain that it will have the fastest-growing major economy in the world this year, with a growth of at least 7%.

Along with his Saudi colleague, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Jaishankar will co-chair the first Ministerial Meeting of the Committee on Political, Security, Social, and Cultural Cooperation during this visit.

This Ministerial level meeting will be held as per the Strategic Partnership Council (SPC) Agreement signed during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Riyadh in October 2019. The SPC’s goal is to create a high-level council to direct Indo-Saudi ties.

During Modi’s visit, many MoUs were signed in a variety of sectors, including energy, security, military manufacturing, civil aviation, medical products, strategic petroleum reserves, small and medium-sized companies, and diplomat training.

India-Saudi Bilateral Relationship

The history of the diplomatic relationship between India and Saudi Arabia can be traced back to 1947, after which, over the years, high-level visits have taken place from both sides.

In a reciprocal gesture to consolidate the bilateral relations between the two countries, Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Dr. Manmohan Singh, and Narendra Modi have visited Saudi Arabia in a reciprocal gesture.

The bilateral relationship was upgraded to a “Strategic Partnership” by the “Riyadh Declaration,” which was signed in 2010 during Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s visit to Saudi Arabia.

Jaishankar's first visit as Foreign Minister to Saudi Arabia
Image Source- Diplomat

Over the years, cooperation between the two countries has deepened, especially in the defense sector. Saudi Arabia has committed to investing over $100 billion in India in 2019 through several agreements in the areas of investment, tourism, housing, and the exchange of audio-visual programming.

Saudi investment in India totaled $3.13 billion as of March 2021. The Al Batterjee Group, ARAMCO, SABIC, ZAMIL, and E-holidays are some of the significant Saudi investment firms. SoftBank Indian start-ups like Delhivery, FirstCry, Grofers, Ola, OYO, Paytm, and PolicyBazaar have also received funding from SoftBank’s “Vision Fund.”

More than 18% of India’s imports of crude oil come from Saudi Arabia, which is its fourth-largest trading partner. Besides trade, India and Saudi Arabia’s relationships also stood strong during the pandemic.

Both countries cooperated to maintain the flow of food, medication, and other necessities during the pandemic by exchanging national experiences and supporting one another.

India gave Saudi Arabia 4.5 million COVISHIELD vaccines in 2021, while Saudi Arabia gave India COVID-relief supplies, mainly liquid oxygen, in the second wave.

Additionally, the Saudi government extended its healthcare system to the Indian community during the pandemic and offered free medical care.

Jaishankar’s visit to strength relationship

The current visit by the Minister of External Affairs Jaishankar to Saudi Arabia will further strengthen the strategic relationship between the two countries. The Indian diaspora in the Gulf region plays an important role in the Indian economy as well as in the host country.

Cooperation between India and Saudi Arabia is especially critical in the context of present world affairs. The high-level visit underlines the strategic importance of bilateral ties between the two nations.

 

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Maitreyee Chaudhary
Maitreyee Chaudhary
Maitreyee Chaudhary is currently pursuing her master’s and, in her free time, likes to read and watch shows. She is curious about how the polity and society of a nation interact with the world and the interlinks between them. She enjoys researching a wide range of topics to learn about their intricate features. She uses an accessible approach to demystify numerous issues.

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