New Delhi: India and Saudi Arabia on Wednesday discussed the global challenges in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic; with Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking on phone with King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
This comes in the backdrop of Saudi Arabia, which holds the G20’s rotating presidency this year and India working towards coordinating and drawing up a strategy at the G20 level.
“The two leaders exchanged views on the global challenges in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Prime Minister Office (PMO) said in a statement.
Once seen in Pakistan’s corner, Saudi Arabia recently has been seemingly supportive of India’s position on Kashmir. Since coming to office in 2014, prime minister Narendra Modi has reached out to countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and others in the wider Gulf region in a bid to shore up India’s economic interests – investments, diaspora as well as energy – as well as to blunt Pakistan’s influence in groups like the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
“Prime Minister expressed his appreciation for the leadership provided by Saudi Arabia during its ongoing Presidency of the G20 grouping. The leaders agreed that the initiatives taken at the level of the G20 had helped in promoting a coordinated response to the pandemic. They also discussed the main priorities presently on the agenda of the G20,” the statement added.
Last year, then Indian foreign minister late Sushma Swaraj was invited by the UAE to attend the foreign ministers’ meet of the OIC States — the first such invite in five decades.
“The two leaders expressed their satisfaction at the state of bilateral relations between India and Saudi Arabia, and committed to further strengthen cooperation in all areas. Prime Minister expressed his special thanks to His Majesty King Salman for the support provided to Indian expatriates by the Saudi authorities during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the statement said.
India has also been trying to rope in Saudi Arabia, that is the second largest supplier of crude and cooking gas to the country for participation in its Strategic Petroleum Reserves programme. State run Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest crude oil producer is also a joint venture partner in the proposed 60 million-tonne-per-annum $70 billion Ratnagiri Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd (RRPCL) project in Maharashtra, that has been delayed.
Ties between the two countries have transformed in recent years with Riyadh beginning to refashion its ties with New Delhi in consonance with its Vision – 2030 programme under which Saudi Arabia has chosen eight countries to forge strategic partnerships with. These include India, China, the UK, the United States, France, Germany, South Korea and Japan.