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International relations

Saudi prince talks $100bn investment during India visit

Indian official lauds 'tremendous opportunities' in the South Asian economy

Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrive ahead of their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Feb. 20.   © Reuters

NEW DELHI -- Saudi Arabia looks to invest $100 billion in India, covering areas such as energy, refining, petrochemicals, infrastructure, agriculture and manufacturing.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman touted the figure on Wednesday during his maiden official visit to India, which included wide-ranging talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier in the day.

The crown prince's commitment reflects "the confidence of [the kingdom] in the vibrancy of the Indian economy and the tremendous opportunities available in India for investment," T.S. Tirumurti, secretary for economic relations in India's Ministry of External Affairs, said on Wednesday evening in a media briefing.

The crown prince's trip was part of an Asian tour that also takes him to China. He visited Pakistan before coming to India but has postponed his travel to Malaysia and Indonesia.

This is Crown Prince Mohammed's first visit to the region since the October murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Riyadh's consulate in Turkey. The prince's suspected involvement in the murder has caused controversy worldwide, and his current Asian tour is seen by analysts as a mission to repair his standing in the international community.

No time frame was set for the Saudi investment, nor was a detailed split of the funding available, Tirumurti said. But he confirmed the total includes some Saudi investment into a proposed $44 billion refinery and petrochemical complex in western India.

The kingdom's Saudi Arabian Oil along with Abu Dhabi National Oil of the United Arab Emirates agreed last year to take 50% equity in the joint project with state-run Indian companies such as Indian Oil, Hindustan Petroleum and Bharat Petroleum.

"I want to clarify that out of $44 billion [investment in the refinery project], there is a 50-50 split between the Indian and foreign investors," Tirumurti said, "and we are looking at $11 billion to $12 billion investment from Saudi Aramco in that."

Crown Prince Mohammed made a media appearance with Modi after their meeting earlier Wednesday.

"India-Saudi ties are centuries old and are part of our DNA," the crown prince said. "We see investment opportunities worth over $100 billion in India and want this to be beneficial to both countries."

Modi called Saudi Arabia "one of the most valuable strategic partners of India and an important source of its energy security."

Saudi Arabia, a leading member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, is the world's biggest oil exporter and accounts for 20% of India's crude supplies. New Delhi imports 80% of its crude requirements, the bulk of which comes from OPEC.

Saudi-India trade reached $23.2 billion for April-November 2018, after totaling $27.5 billion for the entire financial year that ended in March 2018. Tirumurti said the two leaders were pleased by the rising bilateral trade and look to tap other potential, particularly outside of oil.

Breaking with protocol, Modi received the crown prince with his signature bear hug when the Saudi royal landed in New Delhi on Tuesday night for the two-day visit.

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