India’s top business body prepares to open Riyadh office

A delegation of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry meets representatives of the Federation of Saudi Chambers of Commerce in Riyadh on Feb. 19, 2024. (FICCI)
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Updated 29 February 2024
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India’s top business body prepares to open Riyadh office

  • India organized the first trip of the country’s top CEOs and government officials to Riyadh
  • `From the Indian side, the office in the Saudi capital will be led by an FICCI member, the federation’s secretary general S.K. Pathak told Arab News

NEW DELHI: India’s top business federation is preparing to open its office in Riyadh after leading a high-powered delegation to the Kingdom to explore the possibilities offered by Saudi megaprojects.

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, India’s largest and oldest trade association, organized the first trip of the country’s top CEOs and government officials to Riyadh and the site of the flagship multibillion-dollar NEOM project in Tabuk, on Feb. 18-21.

The visit was in the wake of the growth of Saudi-Indian ties during India’s presidency of the G20 last year, which was followed by the state visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Saudi-India Business Forum in September.

During the forum, Saudi Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih and his Indian counterpart, Piyush Goyal, agreed to open chamber of commerce offices in their respective countries.

From the Indian side, the office in the Saudi capital will be led by an FICCI member, the federation’s secretary general S.K. Pathak told Arab News.

“We have already identified the location. We are just waiting for the paperwork, and we will launch. This will be in addition to our other offices in GCC. It’s a matter of weeks,” he said in an interview in Delhi on Wednesday.

The office will facilitate better business interactions between Indian companies and those based in the Kingdom.

“Whether you are a FICCI member or not, we are all Team India. Anyone from the Indian industry wanting to have ties in Saudi Arabia, this office will help you. That’s the objective,” Pathak said, adding that following last week’s visit there had already been multiple inquiries from companies interested in the Saudi market, and especially NEOM.

The FICCI delegation met NEOM leaders and executives responsible for projects such as The Line linear smart city, the floating Oxagon city, Trojena futuristic ski resort, Sindalah island resort, TONOMUS — the world’s first ecosystem of cognitive technologies — and ENOWA, which leads the development of NEOM’s sustainable energy and water systems.

“The NEOM project itself is a trillion-dollar project. It’s going to be a multi-decade project, and there is so much that India and Indian companies can do there,” Pathak said. “We have been flooded by inquiries from FICCI members and many who want to become FICCI members saying they also want to participate in this business opportunity.”

There was also an opportunity to learn, he said. The way water will be recycled in NEOM, which is set across desert valleys, and the smart city and biotechnological services designed for the site, were relevant to India too.

“That’s a great lesson for all Indian cities,” Pathak said. “It is quite an exciting opportunity for anyone in infrastructure and services to go and look at.”

Under the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, increasing opportunities have been available for Indian companies and the number of them operating in the Saudi market has grown from 400 in 2019 to 2,900 in 2023. Their biggest presence is in construction, information technology, health, oil and gas, telecommunications and financial services.

“This is a great time for India, and we are looking at the next 10 years, 25 years being a very good time for Indian business,” Pathak said. “Vision 2030 gives us the confidence that India and Saudi will grow even closer together.”


Saudi students shine at European math Olympiad

Updated 17 April 2024
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Saudi students shine at European math Olympiad

  • Olympiad is an international math competition for high school girls with a passion for the subject beyond the standard curriculum
  • Saudi students Fatimah Hassan Buali from Al-Ahsa and Retaj Al-Saleh from the Eastern Province earned a bronze medal and a certificate of appreciation, respectively

RIYADH: Two Saudi students excelled in the European Girls’ Mathematical Olympiad held in Georgia from April 11-17.

The Olympiad is an international math competition for high school girls with a passion for the subject beyond the standard curriculum. This year, 212 students from 54 countries participated.

Saudi Arabia, represented by the King Abdulaziz and His Companions Foundation for Giftedness and Creativity (Mawhiba) and the Ministry of Education, won two medals in the event.

Saudi students Fatimah Hassan Buali from Al-Ahsa and Retaj Al-Saleh from the Eastern Province earned a bronze medal and a certificate of appreciation, respectively.

This is the Kingdom’s 12th participation in Mathematical Olympiad. Over the years, Saudi students have won two gold, six silver, and 13 bronze medals, as well as seven certificates of appreciation.

Mawhiba’s Secretary-General Amal bint Abdullah Al-Hazzaa said that the students’ successes highlight the integration between Kingdom’s institutions and its commitment to advancing young talents through education and training in line with international standards.

She praised the cooperation between Mawhiba and the Ministry of Education, a partnership that aims to develop Saudi human capital in line with the National Transformation Program and Saudi Vision 2030.

Mawhiba, in strategic collaboration with the Ministry of Education, operates the Mawhiba Program for International Olympiads, preparing Saudi teams for such competitions. This includes advanced training and curriculum development, aligning with the annual Saudi scientific teams’ participation in international competitions. 

The Saudi girls participating in the Mathematical Olympiad underwent intensive training to develop their scientific skills, and were nominated to participate based on their results in the training forums held by Mawhiba.


Saudi FM receives Armenian counterpart in Riyadh

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan receives his Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan in Riyadh on Wednesday. (SPA)
Updated 57 min 30 sec ago
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Saudi FM receives Armenian counterpart in Riyadh

  • During the meeting, the two officials reviewed bilateral relations and ways to strengthen and develop them in various fields

RIYADH: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan received his Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan in Riyadh on Wednesday, Saudi Press Agency reported.

During the meeting, the two officials reviewed bilateral relations and ways to strengthen and develop them in various fields. 

They also discussed the latest regional and international developments and efforts made with regard to them.


Culinary caravan is a chance to savor Saudi Arabia’s food heritage

Updated 17 April 2024
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Culinary caravan is a chance to savor Saudi Arabia’s food heritage

RIYADH: A flavor of Saudi’s rich culinary heritage is delighting tastebuds in Najran, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Hosted by the Culinary Arts Commission, a mobile exhibition showcasing national dishes and desserts is currently offering visitors an immersive experience at King Fahd National Park, in the scenic Saqam forest.

The event, which runs until April 20, puts two iconic delicacies — jareesh and maqshush — in the spotlight, presenting them in innovative and enticing ways.

Jareesh is a savory dish of cracked wheat, cooked slowly with vegetables and tomato sauce. The addition of lamb is optional. Maqshush is a buckwheat dessert topped with ghee, honey, dates, molasses or sugar.

Visitors to the culinary arts caravan can explore the essence of Saudi cuisine through activities such as live cooking demonstrations, where they watch the dishes being prepared and then enjoy freshly cooked samples.

Jareesh is a savory dish of cracked wheat, cooked slowly with vegetables and tomato sauce. (Supplied)

The exhibition is part of the commission’s National and Regional Dishes Narratives initiative, which is dedicated to cataloging and celebrating local culinary gems. Designating jareesh and maqshush as national culinary treasures highlights their significance as part of the Kingdom’s dining culture.

The caravan embarked on its journey in November last year, starting in Riyadh and traversing Makkah, Madinah, Tabuk, Jouf, the Northern Borders, Hail, Qassim and the Eastern Province. Its stop in Najran marks another milestone, with upcoming visits to Jazan, Asir and Baha concluding the seven-month odyssey.

Its aim is to deepen appreciation of local heritage, forge stronger connections with Saudi culinary traditions across generations, and provide visitors with an unforgettable culinary experience while instilling pride in national dishes.

The National and Regional Dishes Narratives initiative has also designated official dishes for the regions. Marqooq was chosen for Riyadh, saleeg for the Makkah region, Madini rice for Madinah, bakila for Jouf, and malehiy for the Northern Borders.

Al-Maqnah bread was picked for the Baha region, kubaybat for Hail and raqsh for Najran. Kaleja was selected to represent Qassim, Al-Hasawi rice for the Eastern Province, Al-Mughash for the Jazan region, Al-Sayadiyah rice for Tabuk and Al-Hanith for Asir.

The event, which runs until April 20, puts two iconic delicacies — jareesh and maqshush — in the spotlight, presenting them in innovative and enticing ways. (Supplied)

 


Saudi, UN officials discuss aid efforts in Sudan

Updated 17 April 2024
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Saudi, UN officials discuss aid efforts in Sudan

RIYADH: Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, supervisor general of the Saudi aid agency KSrelief, recently met with Clementine Nkweta-Salami, the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator for Sudan, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.

The meeting took place on the sidelines of the International Conference for Sudan and Neighboring Countries, organized by France and the EU in Paris.

Discussions focused on matters of mutual interest related to the relief and humanitarian situation in Sudan, along with key topics on the conference’s agenda.

Al-Rabeeah highlighted the humanitarian efforts undertaken by Saudi Arabia through KSrelief in Sudan.

He said that 13 aircraft carrying supplies had been sent to Sudan, while 43 humanitarian projects worth more than $60 million had been implemented in the country and neighbor states in partnership with international, UN, and local organizations.

Additionally, the center dispatched 20 medical volunteer teams to Sudan.

Nkweta-Salami commended the efforts of the Kingdom in aiding the Sudanese people in need. She expressed hope for continued bilateral cooperation to further support humanitarian initiatives in Sudan.

On Monday, KSrelief signed two agreements with the World Food Programme, worth $1.4 million, to treat and prevent malnutrition across Sudan and South Sudan.

The agreement aims to prevent nutritional deficiencies among children, and pregnant and nursing women by providing food aid and nutritional supplements.

The funding will help more than 35,000 children, and pregnant or breastfeeding mothers affected by conflict, economic shocks, and climate events.


Saudi FM’s visit part of ‘concerted efforts’ to close investment deals — Pakistani envoy to Riyadh

Updated 17 April 2024
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Saudi FM’s visit part of ‘concerted efforts’ to close investment deals — Pakistani envoy to Riyadh

  • Ahmed Farooq says size and rank of Saudi delegation showed “keenness” of economic engagement plans with Pakistan
  • Saudi delegation briefed about Pakistani legal, procedural, administrative reforms undertaken to facilitate investments

RIYADH: Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud’s visit to Pakistan this week is part of “concerted efforts” to close investment deals that have been under discussion between the two nations in recent years and also discuss new areas of cooperation, Islamabad’s envoy to Riyadh Ahmed Farooq has said. 

Prince Faisal arrived in Pakistan on Monday on a two-day visit aimed at enhancing bilateral economic cooperation and pushing forward previously agreed investment deals. His trip came a little over a week after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Makkah and reaffirmed the Kingdom’s commitment to expedite investments worth $5 billion.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy strong trade, defense and cultural ties. The Kingdom is home to over 2.7 million Pakistani expatriates and the top source of remittances to the cash-strapped South Asian country.

Speaking to Arab News on Tuesday, Ambassador Farooq said during Sharif’s recent meeting with the Saudi crown prince, it was decided that the Kingdom would expand its collaboration with Pakistan across various sectors. Both countries also agreed on a roadmap for expediting investments from Saudi Arabia into strategic sectors of the Pakistan economy.

“Guided by this clear direction of the leadership, the economic teams of the two countries are now in advance talks to finalize partnership proposals in diverse sectors such as energy, renewables, connectivity, mining, agriculture, information technology, construction, human resource development and export and strategic investments,” Farooq said.

“Concerted efforts are underway to close the deals that have remained under discussion in recent years, while identifying new areas of cooperation.”

It was as part of such efforts that Prince Faisal visited Pakistan, the ambassador added, accompanied by a team of top officials across Saudi ministries. 

“The size and rank of the visiting delegation showed the keenness with which the Kingdom is pursuing economic engagement plans with Pakistan,” Farooq said. 

Among key highlights of the visit, apart from bilateral meetings between the economic teams, was a special interactive session organized by the newly established Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), set up last year to oversee all foreign investments in Pakistan. 

“Several short, medium, and long-term projects were discussed in the dedicated sector-wise breakout sessions,” the envoy said. “The Saudi delegation was also briefed about the specific legal, procedural and administrative reforms undertaken by Pakistan in recent months to attract and facilitate foreign investments in key sectors of the economy.”

'Bedrock of support'

Cash-strapped Pakistan desperately needs to shore up its foreign reserves and signal to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that it can continue to meet requirements for foreign financing that has been a key demand in previous bailout packages. Pakistan’s finance minister, Muhammad Aurangzeb, is currently in Washington to participate in spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank and discuss a new bailout program. A $3 billion ongoing loan deal expires this month.

Saudi Arabia has often come to cash-strapped Pakistan’s aid in the past, regularly providing it oil on deferred payments and offering direct financial support to help stabilize its economy and shore up its forex reserves.

“For Pakistan, Saudi Arabia has remained a bedrock of support,” Farooq told Arab News when asked about cooperation between the two nations.

“The kingdom has always supported Pakistan and provided much needed economic support and assistance. Kingdom has also played a critical role in helping us with international financial institutions.

“Even today, the Kingdom has a central role in the future economic plans of Pakistan. The new government in Pakistan has a strong desire to attract Saudi investment – both from the public and private sectors – to usher in a new era of economic growth and development.”

Farooq said the Saudi leadership was also keen on seizing this opportunity and further enhancing economic, political and security cooperation with Pakistan.

He said there were many areas for future collaboration including energy, renewables, IT, mining, agriculture, construction, and human resource development and export.

Asked about how investment between the two nations could be further enhanced, Farooq said Pakistan had created SIFC to act as a one window operation to facilitate Saudi and other foreign investments. 

“It is tailor made for this purpose,” he added. “We are developing a lot of projects across all sectors of the economy in which the Saudi public and private sector can invest. 

The Kingdom has shown great keenness and desire to work with Pakistan and realize these projects. I am confident that we will soon see a lot of investment going from Saudi Arabia into Pakistan.”