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India and Saudi Arabia announce agreement to expand economic, security ties

India and Saudi Arabia agreed Monday to expand trade and security ties, two days after their leaders and others attending a Group of 20 summit announced a new railways and port corridor deal that will link India, Middle East and Europe.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met in New Delhi and chaired a meeting of the India-Saudi Arabia Strategic Partnership Council. The two leaders discussed issues ranging from energy security, trade and investment to defense, health care and food security, India’s foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.

The India-Saudi Arabia Strategic Partnership Council, established in 2019, serves as a platform between the two countries to increase ties.

In a televised press statement, Modi called Saudi Arabia one of India’s “most important strategic partners.”

He said the “corridor will not only connect the two countries, but will also strengthen economic cooperation, energy development and digital connectivity between Asia, West Asia and Europe.”

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During last week’s G20 summit, India, Saudi Arabia, the United States, the European Union and other countries announced an ambitious rail and shipping corridor that will link India with the Middle East and Europe in a bid to strengthen economic growth and political cooperation.

Indian President Droupadi Murmu (L) walks past India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) hugging his Saudi Arabian counterpart and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as he arrives for a ceremonial reception at the President House a day after the G20 summit in New Delhi on September 11, 2023. (Money SHARMA / AFP)

The corridor would help to boost trade, transport energy resources and improve digital connectivity. It would include India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Israel and the European Union, said Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser.

Signatories hope it can help integrate India’s vast market of 1.4 billion people with countries to the west, offer a counterbalance to lavish Chinese infrastructure spending, boost Middle Eastern economies and help normalize relations between Israel and Gulf Arab states, including Saudi Arabia.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the initiative “a cooperation project that is the greatest in our history”

Ahead of the talks, Prince Mohammed was accorded a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan Presidential Palace in New Delhi. He is on a three-day trip to India that included the G20 summit.

India views Saudi Arabia as one of its most important strategic partners in the Middle East. Trade between the countries stood at over $52.8 billion in the fiscal year 2022-2023.

India also has warm ties with Israel, with Modi and Netanyahu enjoying a close personal friendship.

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