India and Saudi Arabia on Wednesday decided to hold “joint naval exercises” and agreed to constitute a ‘Comprehensive Security Dialogue’ at the level of National Security Advisers (NSAs), and set up a joint working group on counterterrorism.
A joint statement issued late Wednesday night, after talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, stated that Modi welcomed the recent changes initiated by the Crown Prince to bring in moderation and openness in Saudi Arabia, while the latter conveyed his appreciation for the Indian ethos of inclusiveness, pluralism and tolerance.
“The two sides agreed to hold the inaugural joint naval exercises at the earliest and agreed to further expand bilateral exercises in other domains,” according to the statement. Noting the potential and mutual benefit, the two sides agreed to cooperate and collaborate in joint defence production of spare parts for naval and land systems, as well as supply chain development, in line with ‘Make in India’ and ‘Vision 2030’.
To enhance further cooperation in counterterrorism efforts and benefit mutually from “real-time intelligence sharing”, the countries agreed to constitute a ‘Comprehensive Security Dialogue’ at the level of NSAs and set up a joint working group on counterterrorism.
Expressing serious concerns at the misuse of cyberspace as a medium to promote subversive and extremist ideologies, the countries welcomed the signing of MoU on Technical Cooperation in Cyber Space and Combating Cyber Crime.
The Indian side also thanked the Saudi authorities for ordering the release of 850 Indian prisoners from Saudi jails.
On regional connectivity projects, both sides agreed that they should be based on international law, including respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of states, the joint statement said. This is a reference to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a flagship project of the Belt and Road Initiative.
They also decided to increase the quota for Hajj pilgrims from India to 2 lakh to reflect the latest census. Last year, it was 1.75 lakh. In all, 2,340 Muslim women will go to Hajj this year, without mehram (companion) and without the lottery system. This will be the third such increase in the last five years.
Recognising the importance of energy security as a key pillar of strategic partnership, the two sides expressed desire to grow bilateral trade in energy sector, acknowledging Saudi Arabia as the world’s most reliable supplier of oil and gas and the key supplier to India. The two sides stressed on continuation of the India-Saudi Arabia energy consultations.
The Crown Prince reiterated his country’s commitment to meet India’s growing needs for crude oil and petroleum products, and substitute for any shortage that may arise from any disruption in other sources, according to the statement.