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India can play key role in our economic transformation: Saudi Arabia

Gandhinagar, Jan 11 (IANS) Saudi Arabia on Wednesday invited India to play a key role in the kingdom's economic transformation as it seeks to reduce is dependence on oil exports following a long period of decline in crude prices and emergence of new fuels by diversifying its sources of income and attracting foreign investment.

"We are now looking to a post-oil age that will usher in an era of world-class technological research, start-up development, entrepreneurial vigor and vast investment opportunities," Saudi Ambassador to India Saud Al Sati said at the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit here.

"We welcome India as a central participant in this exciting new phase of our country's profound growth," he said.

The Gulf nation has sent a 20-member high-profile business delegation to investors' meet.

In his address at the Saudi Arabia country seminar at the summit, the ambassador elaborated on the Kingdom's Vision 2030 plan to "transform the entire foundation of the Saudi economy.

"Through this program, we are aiming to free the Saudi economy from dependence on oil by diversifying the Kingdom's sources of income, attracting foreign investment and making Saudi Arabia a manufacturing hub."

"While Saudi 'Vision 2030' emphasizes future focus on the non-hydrocarbon sector, the oil sector of our economy will, of course, remain vital for years to come, and we will continue to meet India's energy needs," Al Sati said.

He recalled the visit of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Saudi Arabia in 2010 and the signing of the Riyadh Declaration elevating bilateral ties to "a new era of strategic partnership, leading to enhanced cooperation in political, economic, security and defence spheres."

Noting that bilateral trade in 2015 was worth nearly $40 billion with India importing a fifth of its oil needs from Saudi Arabia, the ambassador mentioned some latest milestones in Indo-Saudi economic relations.

"Indian IT services company Tech Mahindra has just announced a joint venture with the Saudi company Midad Holdings that will work towards localizing information and communication technologies in the Kingdom," the envoy said.

"Indian pharmaceuticals manufacturer Aurobindo is among the latest to launch its factory in Saudi Arabia," he added.

In April last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Saudi Arabia when five new bilateral agreements were signed covering intelligence-sharing on terrorism financing, increasing private investment in pharmaceuticals, transport, infrastructure and energy, as well as one on enhancing defense cooperation.

"The Saudi General Investment Authority reports that 426 licenses have been issued to Indian companies to invest in the Kingdom, and long-established Indian companies have made very significant investments in our country," Al Sati said.

--IANS

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