India and Saudi Arabia on Wednesday exchanged memorandums of understanding (MoUs) after talks by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
MoUs on tourism, cooperation in the field of housing, International Solar Alliance among others were exchanged between the two countries.
On his first state visit to the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed the Saudi Crown Prince saying that Saudi Arabia was India’s “close friend”.
India and Saudi Arabia have a longstanding relationship, PM Modi said adding that in the 21st century, Saudi Arabia was among India’s most important strategic partners.
The Prime Minister, in a joint press conference with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also welcomed Saudi investment in Indian infrastructure.
In a major development, Saudi Arabia also joined the International Solar Alliance, informed PM Modi adding that the two leaders also discussed how to further strengthen the defence cooperation between the two nations.
“We have agreed to strengthen their cooperation in the areas of renewable energy. We welcome Saudi Arabia to the International Solar Alliance. The peaceful use of nuclear energy, especially water desalination and health, will be another dimension of our cooperation,” PM Modi said.
Speaking on the Pulwama terror attack that killed at least 44 CRPF personnel, the Prime Minister said the two leaders agreed on the need to destroy the infrastructure of terror and clamp down on countries supporting terror.
“We have also vowed to increase pressure on any country that promotes terror activities,” the Prime Minister said.
This comes after Salman’s high-profile tour of Pakistan on January 17 where he said dialogue was the only way to resolve “outstanding issues” between India and Pakistan.
Addressing the joint press conference, Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said his country shares India’s concerns over terror.
“Terrorism is a common concern. We will cooperate with India in every way, like intelligence sharing. India has played a positive role,” he said.
He also thanked the people of India and the Government for the warm welcome.
“The relationship between India and Saudi Arabia is over thousands of years old. It is even older than history, and this relationship has grown stronger in the last 50 years. Our objectives are similar be it in energy, agriculture or technology,” he added.
Salman also called for common planning between the two nations to tackle various issues and said that “Saudi Arabia has invested $44 billion in India”.
Earlier in the day, PM Modi and Salman held delegation-level talks on key areas of mutual interest such as trade and investment, energy, defence and security, nuclear and space, civil aviation, renewables, counter-terrorism, community welfare and regional challenges.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj also met Salman and discussed ways to add further momentum to the strategic ties between the two nations besides deepening engagement in areas of trade and investment.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Saudi Crown Prince was accorded a ceremonial reception at the Rashtrapati Bhawan by President Ram Nath Kovind.
After meeting President Ram Nath Kovind, the Saudi Arabia Crown Prince said, “Today we want to be sure that this relation is maintained and improved for the sake of both countries. With the leadership of the President and the Prime Minister, I am sure we can create good things for Saudi Arabia and India”.
Earlier on Tuesday, in a special gesture, Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke the protocol to personally receive the Saudi prince and welcomed him with a warm hug at the Palam airport.
External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had said that the first state visit of the Saudi Crown Prince marks a “new chapter in bilateral relations between the two countries”.
Salman’s visit comes in the backdrop of the escalating tension between India and Pakistan following the Pulwama terror attack carried out by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terror group in which at least 44 CRPF personnel were killed.
Saudi Arabia had on Friday said it stood with India’s fight against terrorism and extremism and denounced as “cowardly” the attack.
India’s bilateral trade with Saudi Arabia was USD 27.48 billion in 2017-18, making Saudi Arabia its fourth largest trading partner.
Saudi Arabia is also a key pillar of India’s energy security, being a source of 17 per cent or more of crude oil and 32 per cent of LPG requirements of India.
The Crown Prince is expected to travel to China from India.