PM leaves for Saudi; Financial conference, meeting King Salman on the agenda
New D Delhi, Oct 28: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several other world leaders will attend the third edition of Saudi Arabia's high-profile annual financial conference beginning on Tuesday, which is aimed at wooing foreign investors to help the Gulf Kingdom diversify its oil-based economy.
Prime Minister Modi, who will arrive in Riyadh late Monday night on a two-day visit, will deliver the keynote address under the title 'What's next for India?' at the forum, which is dubbed as 'Davos in the Desert'. Besides addressing the forum he will hold bilateral talks with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The two sides are expected to sign a number of agreements in several key sectors including oil and gas, renewable energy and civil aviation to bolster their ties. The three-day Future Investment Initiative (FII), as the forum is officially known, will host financiers, governments, and industry leaders who would discuss global trade and explore the trends, opportunities and challenges shaping the global investment landscape over the coming decades.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and President Donald Trump's advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner will also attend the economic forum. Some media reports said Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan will attend the conference for the second consecutive year. However, there has been no official announcement on Khan's participation in the conference held by Saudi Arabia, Pakistan's close ally.
"India and Saudi Arabia have enjoyed traditionally close and friendly relations. Saudi Arabia has been one of the largest and reliable suppliers of India's energy needs," Modi said in his departure statement in New Delhi.
He noted that defence, security, trade, culture, education and people-to-people contacts are the other important areas of bilateral cooperation with Saudi Arabia. The two sides would also sign an agreement to establish a Strategic Partnership Council to coordinate on key issues. The council will be headed by Prime Minister Modi and the crown prince and it will meet every two years.
"The Agreement for establishment of the Strategic Partnership Council will further elevate the India-Saudi Arabia Strategic Partnership to a new level," the prime minister said in his statement.
This would be Prime Minister Modi's second visit to the Gulf Kingdom. During his first visit in 2016, King Salman conferred Saudi's highest civilian award on him. The Crown Prince visited India in February 2019, giving a further fillip to the bilateral ties. India's relations with Saudi Arabia have been on an upswing over the last few years. India's bilateral trade with Saudi Arabia was at USD 27.48 billion in 2017-18, making Saudi Arabia its fourth largest trading partner.
Saudi Arabia last month said that it was looking at investing USD 100 billion in India in areas of energy, refining, petrochemicals, infrastructure, agriculture, minerals and mining. At the FII forum, Prime Minister Modi will speak on India's economy, its challenges and opportunities for equitable growth and prosperity.
"I will speak about the growing trade and investment opportunities for the global investors in India as the country marches forward to a 5 trillion dollar economy by 2024," Modi said.
🇮🇳-🇸🇦| Transforming India-Saudi strategic partnership!— Raveesh Kumar (@MEAIndia) October 28, 2019
PM @narendramodi emplanes for Riyadh to participate in the 3rd @FIIKSA Forum on an invitation of HM @KingSalman. Coupled with a strong bilateral component, the visit will strengthen a relationship that goes back centuries. pic.twitter.com/2lfoMX6inB
The high-profile forum faced widespread boycott in 2018 in the aftermath of killing of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered in the Kingdom's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey by Saudi security agents.
This year a number of world leaders such as King Abdullah of Jordan, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyattta and former British prime minister David Cameron are among the speakers at the forum, which would be attended by more than 6,000 people from over 30 countries. Mukesh Ambani, Chairman & Managing Director, Reliance Industries Limited, India will also speak at the forum on the topic 'The next decade: How will a new era of economic ambition shape the global economy?'.
The FII is organised by the Public Investment Fund, the Kingdom’s main investment arm and one of the world's leading sovereign wealth funds. The forum is intended to project the Kingdom as the future investment hub in the region. Under vision 2030 of Crown Prince Mohammed, the oil-rich Saudi Arabia plans to diversify its economy while reducing its economic dependence on petroleum products.