India seeks more Saudi investment in infrastructure, oil sectors

April 19th, 2008 - 11:44 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
(Night Lead)
By Aroonim Bhuyan
Riyadh, April 19 (IANS) India will seek more Saudi participation in developing its infrastructure sector besides changing its current buyer-seller relationship with the Gulf nation in the petroleum sector to a more participatory one, according to India’s External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee. “Our economy is growing at 8 percent and we require huge investments,” Mukherjee said, briefing newsmen after an audience with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz here Saturday, the first day of his two-day visit.

This is the most important bilateral visit from the Indian side after King Abdullah’s visit to India in 2006 when the historic Delhi Declaration was signed by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Saudi ruler.

“Our infrastructure sector particularly can absorb $500-600 billion more,” the minister said, adding that he informed King Abdullah that Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia would be visiting Saudi Arabia next month to explore various possibilities between the two sides.

“In the petroleum sector, we can change our buyer-seller relationship to a more participatory one for mutual benefit. We can jointly explore and exploit oilfields in both countries.”

According to the Delhi Declaration, signed by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and King Abdullah, both sides agreed to develop a strategic energy partnership based on complimentaries and inter-dependence which would include reliable, stable and increased volum of crude supplies to India.

Among other highlights of the declaration are setting up of cooperative and joint ventures in up and down stream oil and gas sectors in India, Saudi Arabia and third countries and setting up of Indo-Saudi joint ventures for gas-based fertilizer plants in Saudi Arabia.

The minister said that during Saturday’s meeting with the Saudi ruler he recalled his participation in the Indo-Arab Investments Projects conclave,

Possibilities of private sector participation in petroleum, gas and petrochemicals also came up for discussion.

The minister added that both countries “can have both-way investment in various sectors”.

The minister said the meeting with the Saudi monarch was held in an extremely cordial and warm atmosphere.

“His Majesty recalled his very successful visit to India with warmth and recalled the momentous signing of the Delhi Declaration.”

The minister told King Abdullah that the latter’s landmark 2006 visit had opened up possibilities of cooperation in political, economic and cultural fields.

He also thanked the Saudi ruler for the “excellent conditions in which 1.6 million Indians stay here and for excellent Haj arrangements for 157,000 Indian pilgrims”.

Regional and international issues, particularly the Middle East process, also came up for discussion during the course of the meeting.

Earlier, after his arrival at the Royal Terminal of the King Khalid International Airport here on a special Indian Air Force aircraft Saturday afternoon, Mukherjee was met by Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Nazaar Obaid Madani.

The Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for West Asia C.R. Gharekhan, who is part of the minister’s delegation, was also present at the airport along with India’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia M.O.H. Farook.

Other members of the delegation include Secretary (East) in the external affairs ministry, N. Ravi, Joint Secretary and foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna and Vikram Misri, director.

Mukherjee’s visit is the most important bilateral visit from the Indian side since King Abdullah’s historic visit to India in 2006 when the historic Delhi Declaration was signed.

“The visit is most important from both sides’ point of view in terms of rediscovering each other in the post-Cold War stage,” a senior diplomatic official here said.

“Because of Saudi Arabia’s size and clout in the region, enhanced Indo-Saudi ties will have a positive impact in terms of India’s relations with the rest of the region,” he said.

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