By Arab News
By Ghazanfar Ali Khan
Saudi Arabia and India on Sunday signed five major agreements, including one on terror financing, following wide-ranging talks between Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The talks between the two leaders focused on ways to expand strategic cooperation in a range of areas such as trade, investment and counter-terrorism.
The king briefed Modi on his initiative in bringing together 34 countries to form a powerful Islamic military coalition to combat terrorism, as the two leaders agreed to strengthen cooperation in fighting the menace.
Speaking on the occasion, King Salman pledged to look at other trajectories of bilateral ties that will eventually strengthen the strategic relations between the Kingdom and India.
The king, while referring to the regional issues, said: “We appreciate India’s interest in the region as well as its keenness on supporting the stability of the Middle East.”
He added: “We hope that the international efforts will finally resolve the Syrian crisis, and peace and security will also prevail in Yemen.”
The two leaders expressed hope for achieving a just, comprehensive and lasting peace in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative and the resolutions of international legitimacy, in a way that guarantees the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, including the establishment of their independent, united and viable state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
They expressed identical views on the whole range of bilateral and regional issues.
Further in his speech, King Salman stressed the importance of continued cooperation and coordination with the Indian government in the field of counter-terrorism.
“We are confident that our discussions will enhance cooperation in various fields in order to achieve a higher level in strategic partnership,” said the king, while referring to the growing relations between the two countries.
Prime Minister Modi said the two sides have agreed to strengthen cooperation in combating terrorism, both at the bilateral level and within the multilateral system of the UN.
The Indian premier, while applauding the role and initiatives of King Salman on regional and international levels, said, “New Delhi is keen to enhance relations with Riyadh in the fields of security, defense, and investment.”
Referring to his talks with the king, the Indian prime minister said a range of topics of mutual concerns were raised during the delegation-level talks.
“The Saudi government has agreed to look at the cases of Indian prisoners sympathetically and constitute a review mechanism with immediate effect,” tweeted Modi after the talks.
He said that he took up with King Salman the cases of Indians, who are serving sentences for minor offenses.
Modi also expressed his sincere gratitude to the king for the warm welcome and gracious hospitality.
The king hosted a ceremonial red carpet welcome for the Indian premier amid beats of drums and melodious musical rendition of the national songs of India and Saudi Arabia.
Referring to the agreements signed by the two sides, Vikas Swarup, spokesman of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, said:, “The two countries reached five accords on Sunday, the final day of Modi’s visit to Riyadh. They include a memorandum of understanding (MoU), which was signed between the financial intelligence units of the two countries on cooperation in exchange of intelligence related to money laundering, terror financing and related crimes.
Another agreement was signed by Invest India and Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) which spells out the framework for investment promotion cooperation. A labor agreement was also signed for recruitment of general category workers from India.
The fourth agreement was signed between India’s Export Promotion Council for Handicraft (EPCH) and the Saudi Commission for Tourism & National Heritage on an executive program for cooperation in the field of handicrafts.
Another important accord that calls for technical cooperation between the two countries was signed between the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and Saudi Standards, Metrology and Quality Organization (SASO).
“These agreements will go a long way in boosting strategic relations,” said a Saudi official. “Examining the strengthening of the strategic partnership, the king and the prime minister led delegation level talks,” Swarup tweeted.
The candid talks between the two leaders will cement new momentum in bilateral ties between the Kingdom and India while expanding cooperation in diverse areas including trade, investment and counter-terrorism.
Prior to the delegation-level- talks, Modi held separate discussions with King Salman.
Fighting terrorism, energy cooperation and trade and investment were high on the agenda in Sunday’s talks.
King Salman hosted a luncheon banquet in honor of the Indian premier.
Modi also met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif, deputy premier and minister of interior, and Prince Mohammed bin Salman, second deputy premier and minister of defense, before he left for New Delhi on Sunday.
Top Saudi officials including Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir and Health Minister Khalid Al-Falih also called on Modi and discussed a range of issues of mutual interests.
Al-Falih, who also heads Aramco, said: “India is the most preferred investment destination for Aramco.”
India’s ties with Saudi Arabia have been on an upswing over the last two decades based on burgeoning energy ties, security cooperation and growing number of Indian workers deployed in the Kingdom. Modi was also conferred Saudi Arabia’s highest civilian honor, the King Abdul Aziz Medal, by the king during a palace ceremony.
Modi gifted King Salman a gold-plated replica of the Cheraman Juma Masjid, which is located in Thrissur district in Kerala.
The mosque is believed to be the first one built in India by Arab traders around 629 A.D.
According to historical records, the mosque was named after Cheraman Perumal, who was the Chera king and met Prophet Muhammed, peace be upon him, in Makkah and embraced Islam, after witnessing the full moon split into two miraculously.
The events including the royal audience with the king and the signing ceremony at the palace were attended by a large number of Saudi and Indian officials, including prominent members of the royal family.
Besides Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif and Riyadh Gov. Prince Faisal bin Bandar, National Guard Minister Prince Miteb bin Abdullah and Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf were also present.