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A wind of change
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 18 - 03 - 2017

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By Hassan Cheruppa
A wind of change or of transformation that is blowing in both Saudi Arabia and India as well as the geopolitical elements are the most favorable factors set to take the bilateral ties to greater heights, according to Ahmad Javed, ambassador of India, and Mohammed Noor Rahman Sheikh, consul general of India. Addressing the annual general meeting of Saudi Indian Business Network (SIBN) at Jeddah Intercontinental Hotel on Wednesday evening, they called for more synergies to tap the full potential of vast opportunities available in the Kingdom and India for the benefit of both the nations.
Echoing similar views, other speakers of the evening also emphasized that Vision 2030 has opened up a huge vista for further enhancing bilateral economic cooperation and sealing business deals in key sectors. Formally launched on March 13, 2005, SIBN aims to be the nodal point for high-level interaction between the business communities of India and Saudi Arabia.
Javed, the chief guest and patron of SIBN, said that Saudi Arabia is passing through a great phase of change with adoption of the National Transformation Program (NPT) and Vision 2030 and that constitute a huge platform and road map aimed at totally transforming the country's economy from an oil-based one into a diversified one. "The focus of the Vision is to move away from dependence on oil, and instead focus on diversifying economy by attracting more investments and joint ventures in key sectors, such as education, IT, mining, healthcare, health tourism, defense and so on. In all these verticals, the Kingdom can take advantage of India's vast expertise and experience," he said while drawing attention to the great opportunities that have been laid open with the launching of several ambitious programs by the Indian government such as Make in India, Digital India, Skill India and Start up India.
Javed lauded the historic bonds that bind the two nations since several centuries. "We have a unique traditional relationship that was not happened overnight but dates back to millennia as the people to people relationship has grown from strength to strength since thousands of years. The relations since the period of traders who sailed between the two nations transporting spices have developed dramatically so much so that today there are around three million Indians who are playing a key role in the nation building process in all parts of the Kingdom, making up its largest expatriate community." While thanking the Saudi leadership for this great gesture in hosting such a big number of Indians, the ambassador noted that the Saudi leadership has high regard for the contributions of the Indian Diaspora. "This was very evident during the meetings of Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and other leaders in April last year."
Javed said India boasts of having all the potential to contribute immensely to the Kingdom's Vision 2030. "India has vast potential in several key areas that contribute to the Kingdom's ambitious drive to diversify its economy. The geopolitical situations have changed tremendously in favor of further enhancing bilateral cooperation by taking advantage of the available opportunities."
He pointed out that India has established its position as the e-leader across the world and as such IT and education are key areas for young Saudis, who make up 60 percent of the population. "The Indian government's ambitious programs are to be tapped for developing the potential of young Saudis. India is one of the best destinations for English language learning courses for young Saudis as it is characterized for better quality at affordable rates. Mining and healthcare are among other key sectors for partnership."
While underscoring India's present status as the fastest and healthiest growing economy in the world, Javed emphasized SIBN's growing role in furthering the economic ties. "SIBN must have an institutionalized mechanism to achieve sustainable growth in bilateral economic and business relations between the two countries," he added.
In his speech, Sheikh, who is vice patron of SIBN, lauded the efforts of SIBN in boosting bilateral business relations. "The kind of enthusiasm and zeal shown and the kind of talent and new ideas put forward by SIBN members in further strengthening the ties are commendable. There has been an immense urge on both sides to mutually embrace ideas and build great friendship and partnership," he said while emphasizing that clinching business deals is in a way joining of hearts of Indian and Saudi businessmen. He also called on the SIBN members to explore all available opportunities to tap the full potential of both sides.
"As far as economic policies are concerned, both India and Saudi Arabia have similar targets in terms of finding more investments, trying to diversify economies, creating more jobs, and trying to see an increase in growth rate. To strengthen and deepen relations in several key sectors such as medical tourism, mining, healthcare and education we need to go verticals and deepen with increasing mutual trust, friendship and partnership between the two countries," he said while noting that the geopolitical scenario is very favorable for this.
Addressing the gathering, Mussab Al-Muhaidib, president of SIBN, said the organization is very keen on optimum use of the vast opportunities available in both countries, especially in service sectors. "Saudi Arabia is passing through an important transition and transformation period with government shedding its reliance on oil and is eager to utilize opportunities in other areas, with allowing the private sector to play a significant role. SIBN sees this as a very good opportunity to act," he said. The SIBN chief said that the Saudi government, under the Vision 2030, is very keen to attract investments in private sector and partnering joint ventures that are helpful to generate diverse non-oil income. "The government is listening to everybody and meeting everyone to know what are the ways to bring in more investments and generate more revenues so as to make the Vision a great success," he said, adding that SIBN is determined to play a crucial rule in grabbing this opportunity.
In his speech, Mohammed Alungal, vice president of SIBN, said there are lots of opportunities for Indian businessmen and investors in the Kingdom. "The Vision 2030, with its emphasis on increasing productivity and curbing unnecessary expenses, is to be tapped for the utilization of opportunities in both countries. SIBN team should take over the mission of optimum utilization of these opportunities," he said while drawing attention to the opportunities in healthcare, healthcare tourism and education for Saudis in India. Alungal, who is president of Abeer Medical Group, also explained the efforts being made to introduce Kerala's traditional Ayurveda treatment into the Kingdom for which a license is yet to be granted.
Dr. Hani Fetyani, a Saudi mining expert and businessman, said the Vision 2030, which aims at total economic transformation, enables them to bring Indian expertise into the Kingdom. "Minerals are the precious resources that have never been touched for generations in Saudi Arabia and it has the highest quality reserves of silica sand in the world, which is yet to be exploited," he said. Dr. Hani, who had spent one third of his life in mining industry, said: "We have the resources but we don't have the required expertise and experience in the mining industry," he said while noting that the Kingdom can use the vast expertise of India in this vital field through expanding cooperation in mining field so as to accomplish the Vision's goals.
Dr. Fetyani won applause from the audience when he mooted the idea of establishing an Indian Market in Jeddah in the pattern of China Market in Dubai. "I would like to see an exclusive Indian city in Jeddah where all Indian-made products are available. The good quality, reasonable price, usability, appearance, safety, durability, and user friendly are the factors for which I prefer Indian products," he said.
Consul General Sheikh and Alungal have also said it is high time to open such a city and offered full support in making this a concrete reality.
In his address, Mir Gazanfar Ali Zaki, general secretary of SIBN, said that SIBN looks forward to have more close interaction among the Saudi and Indian businessmen in 2017. Speaking to Saudi Gazette, Zaki said that the huge presence of Saudi businessmen and businesswomen at the annual event is an example for the avid interest and seriousness shown by them in investing and tying up with their Indian counterparts.
Mohammed Shahid Alam, deputy consul general and Haj consul, several other consuls, senior officials of SIBN, including Joint Secretary Adnan Ahmad Zagzoog and PRO Sultan Fouad Masoom were among those who attended the event.
Dr. Mohammed Nurul Hasan, consul for commerce and convener of SIBN, welcomed the gathering and Vijay Soni, treasurer of SIBN, proposed a vote of thanks. Numan Abdul Majeed briefed all on the major activities and events conducted by SIBN last year. He also shed light on the major events in the upcoming financial year, the most notable among them is the Indian Expo slated for October in Jeddah. SIBN will organize Indian Food Festival and Islamic art and calligraphy event in the end of March. Danish Abdul Gafoor was the master of ceremony.


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