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Saudi Arabia has emerged as most economically competitive countries in the world
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 23 - 09 - 2021

On behalf of the government and people of India, I extend warm greetings to the government and the friendly people of Saudi Arabia on the occasion of 91st National Day of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Over the years since its inception, the Kingdom has not only emerged as the biggest economy in the Middle East but also one of the most economically competitive countries in the world. In particular, the unprecedented socio-economic reforms that were introduced in the Kingdom during the last five years have transformed it into a modern and progressive nation, driven by relatively young leaders as well as the population.
Of course, the location of Islam's two holiest shrines — Makkah Al Mukarramah and Madinah Al Munawwara — undoubtedly gives a unique position to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as the undisputed leader of the Islamic World.
India and Saudi Arabia share a unique bond shaped by centuries-old economic, social and people-to-people contacts. The formal diplomatic relationship between India and Saudi Arabia is 75 years old during which the two countries have progressively evolved as strong strategic partners, keen to forge a robust partnership in a wide range of areas such as defence cooperation, security, new and innovative technologies, energy, food security, healthcare, education and sustainable development.
There is growing convergence between the two countries on issues of global importance ranging from climate change to combating transnational terrorism. The Indo-Saudi collaboration in multilateral fora such as UN, G-20 and the GCC has been strengthening significantly. India wholeheartedly welcomed the Kingdom's recent entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as a Dialogue Partner.
The honest and mutually respectful relationship between the top leaders of the two countries has worked as a catalyst in strengthening our bilateral ties in contemporary times. The second half of last decade saw multiple bilateral visits, including those of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2016 & 2019, and that of Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman in 2019, which culminated in the formation of the Strategic Partnership Council (SPC) as the highest bilateral mechanism between the two countries.
The recently-concluded visit of Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal Bin Farhan to India is a continuum of these high-level consultations between the two sides focussed on bilateral, regional and international developments.
Prince Faisal had wide-ranging discussions with his Indian counterpart Dr. S. Jaishankar on a range of issues, with both leaders resolving to fast-track bilateral economic partnership in the identified areas as envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman. During his meeting with Prime Minister Modi, the PM expressed India's keenness to see greater economic engagement with Saudi Arabia including in key sectors like energy, IT and defence manufacturing.
It is pertinent to mention that the economic ties between India and Saudi Arabia act as a fulcrum for the depth and diversity of our multi-faceted engagement. During the first half of 2021, India has emerged as the second-largest trade partner of Saudi Arabia with a bilateral trade of $14.87 billion. Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and volatility in the oil market, the two countries demonstrated their will and resilience to steer bilateral economic growth to new heights as well as to shore up mutual investments.
The Saudi investments in India have crossed $3.3 billion after new investments were made by the Kingdom's Public Investment Fund (PIF) in different economic verticals in India. The number and range of Indian investments in the Kingdom have also expanded rapidly reaching $1.5 billion. The Kingdom has identified 17 new opportunities for making investments in India in future.
The Indian companies can take advantage of the numerous opportunities that are emerging in the Kingdom as the Vision-2030 program is being implemented successfully inter alia creating mega projects such as NEOM, Al-Qiddiya, Red Sea Tourism Project and Amala. The Indian companies can emerge as key developmental partners of the Kingdom by sharing their knowledge, technology and experience.
On the cultural front, the two countries are exploring greater cooperation in the fields such as film co-production, film festivals, joint art, painting and theatre festivals, mega Bollywood entertainment programmes, documentary production, and promoting tourism. In 2018, India was chosen as the Guest of Honor in the Saudi cultural and heritage festival of Janadiriyah. We are keen to host cultural festivals in both countries as we celebrate the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav or the 75 years of India's Independence during the next two years.
Yoga is becoming increasingly popular in the Kingdom as testified by the signing of an MoU for collaboration in Yoga between the two countries on the sidelines of the 7th International Yoga Day. The MOU would pave the way for the establishment of formal yoga standards and courses in the Kingdom.
We are keen to establish an Indian Culture Centre in Riyadh, which would only be the second such centre in the Middle East after the Maulana Azad Cultural Centre in Cairo which was established in 1991. In addition, the proposed "Little India" project in Riyadh and the possible development of an 'India Theme Park' will leave a permanent footprint of Indian culture in the Kingdom. In the times ahead, the two sides are also keen to expand cooperation in the field of sports by promoting cricket in a big way in the Kingdom.
I would like to avail of this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman for their steadfast support in constantly improving the bilateral relationship and for ensuring the welfare of all residents in the Kingdom, including Indian nationals, during these challenging times in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.
I once again wish all our Saudi friends a very Happy National Day!
— Dr. Ausaf Sayeed

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