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[email protected]: Set to become world's technological and economic powerhouse
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 26 - 01 - 2022

On the joyous occasion of the 73rd Republic Day of India, I would like to extend my warm greetings and felicitations to all Indian nationals, Persons of Indian Origin, and Friends of India in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
This Republic Day coincides with the ongoing celebrations of 'Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav', commemorating 75 years of India's independence and its achievements. As a newly independent state, India reached out to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to consolidate its age-old and historical trade and people-to-people ties into formal diplomatic ties.
As a comparatively young nation, India has emerged as one of the leading nations on the global stage in terms of educational, scientific, technological and economic progress, making it one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. In this journey, the country was guided by its core democratic principles of justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity, evolving into a truly pluralistic society, embracing diversity, and committing to provide equal opportunities for all its citizens.
As the world is gradually recovering from the economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is looking keenly at the growth story of a technology-enabled India, which has shown an appetite for innovation, adoption of technology, digitalization and automation. India is poised to become the world's reliable partner in global supply chains.
According to the latest Global Economic Prospects report by the World Bank, India's GDP growth is estimated to be 8.3% this fiscal year and 8.7% in 2022-23, outpacing other developing economies like China, Indonesia, and Bangladesh.
India is now a $3.1 trillion economy, which is the sixth-largest economy in the world, behind the US, China, Japan, Germany, and the United Kingdom. India is likely to overtake Japan as Asia's second-largest economy by 2030 when its GDP is projected to surpass that of Germany and the UK to rank as the world's No. 3.
India has the third-largest startup ecosystem in the world after the USA and China. Indian startups raised a total of $42 billion in 2021, up from $11.5 billion in 2020. In 2021 India added 46 new unicorns, doubling the number of its unicorns to 90 with a total valuation of $320 billion. It is expected that by 2025 the number of India's unicorns would grow to around 180-200 with a cumulative valuation of $600-700 billion, offering tremendous opportunities for investors in sectors like Ed-tech, Fintech, Health-tech and Software as a service (SaaS).
In the last 75 years, India has carved out a prominent place for itself in global politics, emerging as a strong voice in the United Nations and other international bodies in taking up critical issues such as counter-terrorism, reform of global institutions, maritime security, peacekeeping, climate change and sustainable development.
India is a proponent of reformed multilateralism and stands for a free, open, inclusive region, in our common pursuit of progress and prosperity, in which freedom of navigation and over-flight and unimpeded commerce is guaranteed. India advocates a democratic, rules-based and fair international order that emphasizes respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and equality of all nations, irrespective of size, population and military might.
Moving forward in the next 25 years, as we look at India@2047 when the country will be celebrating its centenary of independence, we could visualize India becoming the world's technological and economic powerhouse while bolstering our democratic and pluralistic values.
Since Independence, India's bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia have progressively evolved into a multi-faceted and mutually beneficial strategic partnership encompassing several key areas of engagement which include defense and security cooperation, investments, healthcare, technology, energy security, and food security.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman telephonically reviewed various aspects of bilateral relations during 2021. External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar had wide-ranging discussions with his Saudi counterpart, Prince Faisal Bin Farhan, during his visit to New Delhi in October 2021. The energy ministers of both countries have also been consulting each other to review bilateral energy cooperation.
In the domain of bilateral defense ties, the first joint naval exercise between the two countries, Al Mohed-Al Hindi, was conducted in August 2021 to carry out tactical maneuvers, search and rescue operations, and an electronic warfare drill to enhance interoperability. The exercise was carried out using guided-missile destroyer INS Kochi, the flagship destroyer of the Indian Western Naval Fleet.
Earlier in April 2021, INS Talwar carried out a Passage Exercise (PASSEX) with the Royal Saudi Naval Ship HMS Khalid in the Arabian Gulf as part of 'Operation Sankalp'.
India has been deploying its ships regularly in the region on missions varying from safeguarding maritime trade, conducting anti-piracy and anti-narcotic operations, carrying out EEZ surveillance at the request of partner countries in Asia and Africa, imparting training to naval officers, and conducting hydrographic surveys.
Trade and commerce continued unabated despite the pandemic with the bilateral trade touching $25 billion in the period April-November 2021. India's exports during this period crossed $5.75 billion and going by the trend, the exports are likely to surpass the pre-pandemic levels and even create new records. India has emerged as the second-largest trading partner of the Kingdom during 2021 while Saudi Arabia remains India's fourth-largest trading partner.
Indian companies are bullish about making investments in the Kingdom in the light of various opportunities that have emerged under 'Vision 2030' in diverse sectors. Currently, there are 745 Indian companies registered with the Ministry of Investment of Saudi Arabia (MISA) with a total investment exceeding $2 billion in a range of sectors such as construction, information and technology, transportation, hospitality, and healthcare.
Leading Indian mineral resources company Vedanta Limited is keen to explore the huge potential Saudi Arabia has in minerals, including zinc, gold and silver, while companies like Tata Group and KEC International are keen to expand their existing operations.
India's multi-super speciality hospital, Medanta, has held preliminary discussions to explore the possibility of opening its branch in the Kingdom. Healthcare is one of the 13 strategic sectors identified by the Public Investment Fund which has recently invested in India-based health and fitness startup HealthifyMe. The Embassy is in close contact with NUPCO and SFDA in the Kingdom and PHARMEXCIL in India to promote healthcare cooperation between the two countries.
In the field of energy, the Kingdom continues to be the second-largest supplier of crude to India after Iraq, accounting for around 18% of India's total crude imports. During FY 21-22 (April-Nov 2021), India imported 23.3 MMT of crude oil from Saudi Arabia valued at $12.6 billion.
Saudi Arabia is also the third-largest source for LPG imports by India after Qatar & the UAE accounting for 22.3% of our total LPG imports. For FY 2020-21, India's hydrocarbons trade with Saudi Arabia accounted for around 61% of its total bilateral trade with the Kingdom.
Renewable energy is a promising sector offering huge potential for enhancing bilateral energy cooperation. Saudi companies such as the Al Fanar group and ACWA Power have made sizable investments in the renewable energy sector of India.
In the field of education, several Saudi universities are keen to forge meaningful collaborations with reputed institutions of higher learning in India such as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), Indian Institute of Management (IIM) and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), besides leading universities in India. IIT, Delhi is exploring the possibility of opening a campus in the Kingdom.
During last year, I have traveled extensively within the Kingdom, visiting provinces such as Al Qassim, Asir, Jazan and Najran, besides AlUla and noticed that these provinces offer huge potential for investments and collaborations in areas such as hospitality, tourism, culture & entertainment, IT, technology and innovation.
At the regional level, the visit of the Secretary-General of GCC Dr Nayef Falah Mubarak Al-Hajraf to India in November 2021 has opened new vistas of cooperation between India and the GCC. Both sides have agreed to conclude an MoU for institutionalizing the annual political dialogue and begin negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement.
Saudi Arabia hosts around 2.3 million Indians whose contribution to the socio-economic development and cultural enrichment of the Kingdom is widely acknowledged and appreciated. Over the years, the profile of the Indian Diaspora in the Kingdom has diversified significantly to include entrepreneurs, investors, bankers, and CEOs of companies, besides doctors, engineers, and academicians. The Indian Diaspora in Saudi Arabia has emerged as the third-largest source for foreign remittances in India.
As we commemorate 75 years of the establishment of diplomatic ties between India and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, I would like to avail myself of this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman for guiding the bilateral relations in a new direction and enabling the two countries to realize the full potential existing between them.
Long live India-Saudi Relationship!
Dr. Ausaf Sayeed

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