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PM Modi, Saudi Crown Prince MBS chair SPC meeting: What is the Strategic Partnership Council | Explained News

PM Modi, Saudi Crown Prince MBS chair SPC meeting: What is the Strategic Partnership Council | Explained News

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud and Prime Minister Narendra Modi held extensive talks on Mondayagreeing to expand trade and security ties. The leaders also co-chaired the first summit-level meeting of the India-Saudi Arabia Strategic Partnership Council (SPC).

The India-Saudi Arabia Strategic Partnership Council was set up in 2019, making India the fourth country with which Riyadh formed such a partnership, after the UK, France, and China.

Here’s what the SPC was set up to do, and why it is significant.

What is the India-Saudi Arabia Strategic Partnership Council?

The pact to establish the SPC was signed during PM Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia in October 2019his second in three years. The Strategic Partnership Council essentially aimed to “establish a high-level council to steer the Indo-Saudi relationship”, according to a Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) statement.

PM Modi had then said that the SPC would “begin a new era of cooperation across sectors. Our ties across various dimensions such as trade, investment, security and defence cooperation are robust and deep, and will only strengthen further.”

According to the MEA, the SPC has two main pillars: Committee on Political, Security, Social and Cultural Cooperation; and Committee on Economy and Investments.

Both sub-committees have four functional levels of engagements: Summit level (Prime Minister & Crown Prince); Ministerial-level; Senior Officials’ Meetings; and Joint Working Groups (JWGs).

Four JWGs have been formed under each sub-committee. The JWGs under the Political committee are Political & Consular; Legal & Security; Social & Cultural; and Joint Committee on Defence Cooperation.

The JWGs under the Economic committee are Agriculture & Food Security; Energy; Technology & Information Technology; and Industry and Infrastructure.

In September 2022, Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal visited Saudi Arabia to attend the Ministerial meeting of the SPC. From the Saudi side, the Minister for Energy, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al-Saud, co-chaired the meeting.

Outcomes from that meeting included streamlining efforts to realise the announcement made by Mohammad Bin Salman during his visit to India in February 2019, of investments worth $100 billion in India.

The meeting also saw the “endorsement of the 41 areas of cooperation identified by the technical teams under the four broad domains of Agriculture & Food Security; Energy; Technology & IT; and Industry & Infrastructure,” according to a Press Information Bureau (PIB) statement.

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stands with President Droupadi Murmu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a ceremonial reception in New Delhi on Monday. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

The PIB listed as another outcome the “agreement to undertake implementation of the priority projects in a time bound manner. Priority areas of cooperation include: Collaboration in digital fintech sector through operationalisation of UPI and Rupay Card in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; Re-affirmation of continued cooperation in joint projects including the West coast refinery, LNG infrastructure investment and development of strategic petroleum storage facilities in India.”

What happened during the talks on Monday?

On Monday, India and Saudi Arabia decided to expedite implementation of the $50-billion West Coast refinery project, and identified energy, defence, semiconductor and space as areas for intensified cooperation.

At the SPC meeting, the two sides agreed to diversify the current status of their hydrocarbons relationship into a “comprehensive energy partnership” and inked eight pacts to boost cooperation in a range of areas, including digitisation and investment.

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The West Coast refinery project is a 60 million tonnes refinery-cum-petrochemical complex to be built on the Maharashtra coast, by Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL) from India, and Saudi Arabian Oil Co (Saudi Aramco) and Abu Dhabi National Oil Co (Adnoc).

At a media briefing, Ausaf Sayeed, secretary (overseas Indian affairs) in the External Affairs Ministry, said different areas of cooperation such as energy, defence, security, education, technology, transportation, healthcare, tourism and culture were identified in the talks between the two leaders.

The two sides also held deliberations on power grid, gas grid, optical grids and fibre networks for possible cooperation.

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