New Delhi: India and Saudi Arabia share security concerns in their neighbourhood and their cooperation on security issues, including counter terrorism, are progressing well, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in an interview to Arab news.
The prime minister, who is in Saudi Arabia to attend a key financial conference and hold talks with the top Saudi leadership, said “I believe that Asian powers like India and Saudi Arabia share similar security concerns in their neighbourhood,” without referring to any country.
Saudi Arabia is a key ally of Pakistan, which is accused by its neighbours of providing safe havens to terrorists.
India has not been engaging with Pakistan since an attack on the Air Force base at Pathankot in January of 2016 by a Pakistan-based terror group, maintaining that talks and terror cannot go together.
“I am happy that our cooperation, particularly in the field of counterterrorism, security and strategic issues, is progressing very well. My national security adviser just visited Riyadh for a very productive visit,” Modi said, referring to the visit of National Security Adviser Ajit Doval to the Gulf Kingdom.
“We have a Joint Committee on Defence Cooperation that holds regular meetings. We have identified a number of areas of mutual interest and cooperation in the field of defence and security,” he said.
Modi said the two countries are also in the process of entering into agreements on security cooperation, collaboration in defence industries, and they have also agreed to hold a comprehensive security dialogue mechanism between them.
On the progress made since the inking of the Riyadh Declaration in 2010, Modi said, “Neighbourhood First” continues to be the guiding vision for his government’s foreign policy. “India’s relations with Saudi Arabia are one of the most important bilateral relationships in our extended neighbourhood,” he said, adding that the high level visit from the two sides including his 2016 trip to the Gulf Kingdom consolidated this special relationship.
On the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, Modi said a balanced approach is required to resolve the conflicts, while respecting the principles of sovereignty and non-interference in each other’s internal matters.
On economic growth, the prime minister said India has undertaken many reforms to create a business-friendly environment, and to ensure that it remained a major driver of global growth and stability.
“Our reforms for ease of doing business and introducing investor-friendly initiatives have contributed to improving our position in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index from 142 in 2014 to 63 in 2019,” he said.
This is Prime Minister Modi’s second visit to the Gulf Kingdom. During his first visit in 2016, King Salman conferred Saudi’s highest civilian award on him. The Crown Prince visited India in February 2019, giving a further fillip to the bilateral ties.
Saudi Arabia last month said it was looking at investing US$ 100 billion in India in areas of energy, refining, petrochemicals, infrastructure, agriculture, minerals and mining.