India-Saudi Arabia strategic partnership expanding into novel areas of collaboration

A file photo of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This year coincides with 75 years of the establishment of India-Saudi Arabia diplomatic relations. (AFP)
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Updated 15 August 2022

India-Saudi Arabia strategic partnership expanding into novel areas of collaboration

N. Ramprasad

RIYADH: On the special occasion of the 76th Independence Day of India, I extend warm greetings and felicitations to all my fellow Indian nationals and friends of India in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

This year holds extra significance as we are also celebrating the momentous milestone of the completion of 75 years of our independence as Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, which also coincides with 75 years of the establishment of India-Saudi Arabia diplomatic relations.

On the stroke of midnight on this very day in 1947, India cast off the shackles of 250 years of colonialism and began its journey toward fulfilling the dreams of its freedom fighters.

After a momentous freedom struggle, we were left with the enormous challenges of a low GDP, food insufficiency, low literacy rates, and poor health indicators, among many others.

This day reminds us of the incredible journey which India has traversed over the last 75 years to become an emerging geopolitical power with a vibrant economy, making it one of the fastest-growing major nations in the world.

Today, India is recognized across the world as a country with world-class educational institutes whose alumni are now working at the highest positions in government and private organizations across the world.

India is applauded for its achievements under the Millennium Development Goals and is commended as a leading nation working toward attaining the Sustainable Development Goals. This day offers us an opportunity to feel proud of our nation and its tremendous achievements till now.

The next 25 years leading up to the centenary of India’s independence will be a defining moment in India’s growth story. In the next four years, India is projected to become a $5 trillion economy. The latest IMF forecasts project the Indian economy to grow at 7.4 percent in the next financial year.

According to the 2022 IMF estimates, India is the fifth largest economy in the world with a gross domestic product worth approximately $3.5 trillion.

In the last financial year, India received its highest-ever annual foreign direct investment inflow which stood at $83.57 billion, after witnessing a steep growth of 85 percent from FDI inflows in the financial year 2015.

This has been made possible by an enabling environment through facilitative policy measures and an investor-friendly strategy, which has significantly improved the ease of doing business in the country.

The Indian economy has also been catapulted by its focus on technological advancements and a flourishing startup ecosystem.

India now has the third largest startup infrastructure, with approximately 75,000 DPIIT-recognized — Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade — startups across the country.

Moreover, India now ranks second in innovation quality among middle-income economies.

The Indian economy has also allowed the exponential growth of unicorn companies.

The sector has ascended in the last five years, with a whopping growth of 66 percent on a year-on-year basis. As of July 2022, India had 105 unicorns with a total valuation of $338 billion. The sector is flourishing not only in the traditional domains of e-commerce, logistics, and services, but is also gaining ground in emerging areas of gaming, data analytics, artificial intelligence, and robotics.

Over the last seven-and-a-half decades, India has been guided by the principles enshrined in its constitution of justice, liberty, equality, and fraternity in its approach toward national development and on shared international issues.

India has become a leading voice on international platforms and raised critical issues such as the overdue reform of the UN Security Council, international consensus for counter-terrorism, maritime security, and peacekeeping.

India presided over the UNSC during Aug. 2021 and is currently a non-permanent member.

It is also pertinent to highlight that India has become a cardinal voice for dealing with emerging challenges like climate change and food security, and has been leading with tangible actions in that regard.

To emphasize the need for united global efforts to tackle the looming threat of global warming, India has led by example and instituted organizations such as the International Solar Alliance and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.

The year also marks the completion of 75 years of India-Saudi Arabia diplomatic relations.

During this period, our civilizational ties have grown multi-dimensionally and have reached unprecedented levels. The bonhomie between our leaders has driven bilateral relations upslope and, in the last few years, this has developed into a strategic partnership.

Bilateral economic relations have diversified to include a multitude of sectors, presenting enormous potential for trade and investment.

In the financial year 2021-22, our bilateral trade was valued at $42.9 billion.

During this period, India’s imports from Saudi Arabia reached $34.01 billion, and exports to Saudi Arabia were worth $8.76 billion, registering an increase of 49.5 percent over last year.

Saudi Arabia is a key energy partner for India as it imports around 18 percent of its crude oil requirement and 22 percent of its LPG requirements from the Kingdom.

At the same time, India is also a crucial partner to the Kingdom in ensuring food security.

Bilateral investment exchange has also been driven up in the last eight years as India’s investments in the Kingdom have reached $2 billion and are growing fast owing to the emerging opportunities under Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 program.

Similarly, the Kingdom is now the 17th largest investor in India, with investments amounting to $3.15 billion.

Investments from Saudi heavyweights such as PIF, Aramco and SABIC have strengthened the trust of investors in India’s growth story.

This growth in investments has come as per the announcement made by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his visit to India in Feb. 2019 that the Kingdom would be investing $100 billion in India in diversified sectors.

Our partnership in the field of defense has taken huge strides in the last few years. The maiden visit of the then-Indian Chief of Army Staff Gen. M.M. Naravane, in Dec. 2020, gave new momentum to our defense ties.  

Following that visit, our first bilateral naval exercise “Al-Mohed Al-Hindi” took place last year in August.

Recently, in June, the fifth meeting of the Joint Committee on Defence Cooperation concluded in Delhi with an agenda to further strengthen our defense collaboration in terms of security cooperation, training and capacity-building, and boosting trade in the defense sector.

Apart from these, I would like to underline the growing cultural engagements between our countries.

Our bilateral collaborations are expanding rapidly into novel domains of sports, entertainment, tourism, education, and health which have opened up recently in Saudi Arabia with the reforms undertaken as part of the Vision 2030 initiative.  

India-Saudi bilateral cooperation is ready to achieve new heights on the strong foundation of our people-to-people ties.

More than 2.2 million Indians reside in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and contribute immensely to the service sector requirements of the Kingdom.

It is my strong belief that India-Saudi relations will grow manifold in the coming years. The embassy of India looks forward to working closely with the government and friendly people of Saudi Arabia toward this objective.

I also thank the leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for their wisdom and for taking care of the welfare of all Indian nationals in the Kingdom.


N. Ramprasad

Charge d'affaires at the Indian Embassy in Riyadh

Riyadh prepares for opening of 14 top international restaurant brands

Updated 04 October 2022

Riyadh prepares for opening of 14 top international restaurant brands

  • The new fine-dining establishments, which include five with Michelin-starred restaurants in other countries, are due to open in December

RIYADH: More than a dozen renowned international restaurant brands are set to open in Riyadh by the end of the year, including several with establishments in other countries that have earned a coveted Michelin star.

As the tastes of Saudis develop, the Kingdom is increasingly becoming a focus for major dining brands, which are contributing to the development of the tourism and entertainment sectors in the country as well as the national economy. During Riyadh Season celebrations, for example, residents and visitors to the capital have spent more than SR6 billion ($1.6 billion), according to the General Entertainment Authority.

Prince Saud bin Abdulaziz bin Farhan, who chairs the board of directors at Yakoon, a leading company in the hospitality industry, said that 14 international restaurant brands are due open in the capital in December. Five of them have establishments elsewhere in the world that have been awarded a Michelin star, an honor considered by many to represent the pinnacle of fine dining.

The new restaurants in Riyadh will include L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, La Cantine du Faubourg, Sass Cafe and MusicHall. Renowned in Europe and elsewhere, they are considered to be among the most luxurious and distinguished in the world. In the Kingdom, they will be located in areas such as The Boulevard, Al-Bujairi in Diriyah, and King Abdullah Financial District.

“Bringing these restaurants to the Kingdom is in line with the development we are witnessing in the tourism and entertainment sectors,” Prince Saud told Arab News.

“We expect this category of restaurants in the food and nutrition sector to contribute positively to the tourist’s journey and the entertainment experience of the citizen and resident.”

He said his team’s investment aims reflect the objectives of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, including the development of the Kingdom as a global tourism destination. Part of this involves the comprehensive development of the entertainment sector and the promotion of a luxurious lifestyle, he added, and as part of its efforts to establish itself as a global destination, Riyadh will continue to enhance its image by embracing fine-dining brands.

“We aim to create an exceptional experience in the tourist’s journey or the experience of the citizen and resident in the food sector in the Kingdom, and bringing international restaurants to Riyadh and other cities of the Kingdom will contribute to enhancing the region’s touristic position,” Prince Saud said.

Who’s Who: Abdullah Al-Assaf, co-founder and chairman, OCEANX Consulting Firm

Updated 04 October 2022

Who’s Who: Abdullah Al-Assaf, co-founder and chairman, OCEANX Consulting Firm

Abdullah Al-Assaf is the co-founder and chairman of OCEANX, a Saudi consulting firm that provides consultative services to the government and private sectors through a selection of experts and competencies.

With over 14 years of experience, Al-Assaf has significantly contributed to the entrepreneurship sector. His specialties include financial engineering, developing financial models, redesigning financial plans and creating governance systems for various government and private entities.

He is also an approved valuer of economic facilities by the Saudi Authority for Accredited Valuers, also known as Taqeem.

During his early years, he established small manufacturing plants and cafes in 2005. While completing his university studies, he began working part-time as a business developer for a real estate company in 2006.

He worked as a financial business developer for the Badir Program for Technology Incubators from 2011 to 2012, following his bachelor’s and master’s programs.

In 2012, Al-Assaf was a vice president of finance at Gulf Furnishing Group. Subsequently, he co-founded OCEANX, and established the International Senbar Group, where he is currently a Chairman.

In 2014, Al-Assaf established Aram Investment Holding, affiliated with several manufacturing, wholesale and retail companies. Additionally, he co-founded VEST Investment Co., VoM Cloud Accounting Platform, and Fuel for Funding.

Moreover, Al-Assaf gave workshops on topics related to entrepreneurship and financial management in collaboration with public universities, including King Saud University, Taibah University, King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, and chambers of commerce, such as the Riyadh, Al-Ahsa, and Abha chambers.

He holds a master’s degree in international business and finance from De Montfort University, UK, a bachelor’s degree in finance from Qassim University, and diplomas in investment and management, finance and business strategy.

Saudi minister lauds workplace safety, health advances as major industry conference opens

Updated 04 October 2022

Saudi minister lauds workplace safety, health advances as major industry conference opens

  • The three-day conference is the Saudi sector’s most important annual event providing delegates with the chance to share information and experiences about the latest industry practices and technology trends on local, regional, and international levels

RIYADH: Saudi occupational safety and health legislation had helped slash the cost to businesses of work-related injuries, the Kingdom’s human resources minister said.

And as a major industry conference opened in the Kingdom, Ahmed Al-Rajhi highlighted efficiency improvements brought about through the implementation of new workplace rules, regulations, procedures, and initiatives.

The minister of human resources and social development’s comments came as the fifth international Conference on Occupational Safety and Health got underway on Monday at the Riyadh International Convention and Exhibition Center. The gathering is running in tandem with the fourth Arab Conference on Occupational Safety and Health under the theme, Upgrade and Safety. 

Ahmed Al-Rajhi, Minister of Human Resources (center), Abdullah Abu Thunain, Deputy Minister of Human Resources (left) and Fayez Ali Al-Mutairi, Director-General of the Arab Labor Organization, during the opening of the Fifth International Conference on Occupational Safety and Health, which began in Riyadh on Monday. (Supplied)

Al-Rajhi said: “I commend the private sector’s compliance with occupational safety and health legislation, as well as initiatives that reflect the genuine concern for providing safe, healthy, and sustainable working environments that upgrade the Saudi labor market.”

He praised Saudi government legislation, procedures, and initiatives aimed at improving working conditions and promoting occupational safety and health in the business sector.

“These steps have had a positive impact on reducing the costs of work injuries and enhancing the efficiency of facilities,” the minister added.

The three-day conference is the Saudi sector’s most important annual event providing delegates with the chance to share information and experiences about the latest industry practices and technology trends on local, regional, and international levels. 

Abdullah Abu Thunain, Deputy Minister of Human Resources, speaking in the first session of the Fifth International Conference on Occupational Safety and Health, which began in Riyadh on Monday. (Supplied)

Specialist working papers, certified training sessions, and interactive simulators form part of the conference events, and it was announced that a number of occupational safety and health training programs would be launched in collaboration with Makkah’s Umm Al-Qura University.

A conference statement also revealed that a training and rehabilitation program for certified occupational safety and health supervisors in the construction and building sector would be organized in collaboration with the Diriyah Gate Development Authority, in addition to training programs for workers’ accident and injury investigators.

The project will aim to organize the recording and investigation of workplace accidents and injuries, while putting initiatives in place for high-risk occupations.

Sattam Alharbi, deputy minister of human resources and social development for the control and development of the work environment, said the exhibition sought to meet the ministry’s goals of analyzing and exchanging Arab and global occupational safety and health experiences and best practices.

He added that while looking to promote a workplace culture of occupational safety and health by highlighting the latest technical advancements, the Kingdom was also engaged in encouraging research into prevention and helping to strengthen sector cooperation in developing the Saudi labor market.

Saudi healthcare facility honored at Patient Safety Conference

Updated 03 October 2022

Saudi healthcare facility honored at Patient Safety Conference

  • Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Humanitarian City takes platinum award at event in Dubai
  • Prize is ‘a culmination of tireless work,’ Prince Faisal bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz says

JEDDAH: A specialist healthcare services facility in the Saudi capital was honored at the Patient Safety Conference 2022, which ended in Dubai over the weekend.

Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Humanitarian City was presented with a platinum award in the Global Quality and Safety Initiative category after competing with 71 other medical projects in 16 countries across the Middle East.

It was recognized for its high-quality standards that guarantee the safety of surgical and medical procedures provided to patients.

Prince Faisal bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, secretary-general of the Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud Foundation, said: “This award is a culmination of tireless work … to implement the highest quality standards and the best international applicable methods.

“The city’s vision aims to create an exceptional healing and working environment, whether for patients or for the workforce. By this, it contributes to the development of everything that would positively reflect on the growth of programs and the development of medical care, which in turn helps in providing advanced services to the community.”

The prince also praised the Ministry of Health for working with the nonprofit sector and enabling it to better serve the community, and said he hoped the award would motivate other institutions in different sectors to innovate and develop positive working environments.

According to its website, the three-day conference and exhibition aims to highlight key issues in the healthcare field and support the training and education of workers to enhance medical care around the region and globally.

Tom Coleman, event director, said: “Never before has access to healthcare affected so many people, and these kinds of events, bringing together key actors in the sector from decision-makers to caregivers, is critical for us to continue working to bring better healthcare to all.”

He added: “Whether we are speaking to hospital workers or aid workers out in the midst of humanitarian crises, the issues we are addressing, such as patient safety and infection control, remain pivotal, whatever and wherever.”


Saudi coffee forum speakers brew up fresh thinking in sustainability

Updated 02 October 2022

Saudi coffee forum speakers brew up fresh thinking in sustainability

  • Expert emphasizes the importance of teaching coffee farming to the next generation

JAZAN: The second day of the Saudi Coffee Sustainability Forum welcomed some of the Kingdom’s experts in medicine, research and agriculture to shed light on Saudi Arabia’s expanding coffee industry.

Organized by the Ministry of Culture and held at the Grand Millennium Jazan, the second day of the forum took a deeper look into joint cooperation in the agricultural sector as well as the positive and negative effects of caffeine.

During the first session, the panelists highlighted ways to promote research cooperation on a global basis and the current obstacles faced within the local coffee industry limiting international progress.

The speakers highlighted the important role the government and research agencies can play in the coffee sector. They also covered the specifics of farming coffee such as the types of beans, climate conditions, and the growing customer demand.

Bandar Al-Fifi, director of the National Coffee Component Food and Agriculture Organization, said: “Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages worldwide, and the average daily consumption of coffee is increasing year after year. The consumption of coffee (is) increasing worldwide and with it so is this demand.”

He stressed that this increase in consumption requires a rise in production to meet demand. He emphasized the importance of teaching the next generation about farming to secure growth for the industry.

Industry leaders need to teach “the importance of applying good practices of farming techniques, and strategies to protect the coffee from diseases and pests, in addition to knowing the varieties that must be grown in order to achieve high productivity and reduce crop losses,” he stressed.

During the same session, Radi Al-Faridi, deputy director general of the National Research and Development Center for Sustainable Agriculture, discussed the importance of cooperation of all authorities in agricultural integration.

“The definition of agricultural sustainability includes all environmental, social and economic aspects,” Al- Faridi said.

“Currently coffee is considered the second-largest traded commodity in the world after oil, with the global coffee market value reaching $102 billion in 2020. It is expected that the coffee market will continue to grow to reach a rate of 4.28 percent during the period 2022-2026, as we find that the expansion in the coffee market increases so will the pressure on coffee supply chains,” he said.

The second session of​​ the Saudi Coffee Sustainability Forum welcomed a panel of medical specialists to highlight their research on the effects associated with the consumption of caffeine.

Dr. Amzaina Al-Naimi kicked off the final session of the forum, discussing a scientific paper on the effects of caffeine on mental health.

She highlighted the way caffeine contributes to the improvement of physical and cognitive performance of individuals. Al-Naimi said that a moderate (40 mg) to medium (300 mg) consumption of caffeine was a healthy way to improve alertness.

Rania Bogis, standards and regulations specialist of the Saudi Food and Drug Association, highlighted the various components in the different types of coffee that are present in the Kingdom and the safety measures and the proper storing methods that will prevent them from producing any harmful or poisonous elements.

“Supportive dates should be written on all products, the type of beans must be written, the types of roasting included even the types of grinding,” Bogis stressed.

“For instant Arabic coffee, it must be written on the packaging and the mix label, the additives must also always be clearly written as an additive,” she said.

The forum concluded on Sunday afternoon, with the Ministry of Culture highlighting 10 achievements the gathering accomplished.

The forum was designed to examine the challenges related to Saudi coffee in the value chain, the insight of farmers, obstacles they are facing as well as the ways to support and spark the entrepreneurship industry contributing to Saudi coffee on an international scale.

Closing the forum, Raed Alsufyani, the director of data management at the Ministry of Culture, highlighted 10 concepts discussed during the two-day event that will contribute to the sector.

1. Considering the accession of Saudi Arabia to the International Coffee Organization to exchange experiences.

2- Cooperating with international organizations related to research and promoting the field of scientific research for coffee.

3- Holding a special annual forum to discuss the advantages, aspirations and achievements of coffee.

4- Studying the launch of specialized indicators in cooperation with stakeholders to monitor support for the industry in this sector.

5- A day dedicated to celebrating coffee in the Kingdom.

6- Enhancing the role of farmers to improve production and sector sustainability.

7- Supporting the innovation and entrepreneurship industry to support the value and sustainability of Saudi coffee.

8. The presence of potential in the Kingdom to be in the first place for the manufacture and trade of coffee with unique specifications, including the coffee fruit and its strategic location.

9- The consideration of establishing an electronic magazine for Saudi coffee.

10 - Allocating an annual award for the best efforts, in all its diversity and in the media and culture, to contribute to the Saudi coffee sector.