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Transcript of Special Briefing on the State Visit of Crown Prince & Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia to India (11 September 2023)

September 12, 2023

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: A very good afternoon to all of you. Thank you for joining us for the special media briefing on the occasion of the ongoing state visit of His Royal Highness the Crown Prince and Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. To give us a sense of the visit and the discussions that took place today morning with Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, we have the privilege of having with us Dr. Ausaf Sayeed, Secretary (CPV and OIA) in the Ministry of External Affairs. Also joining us on the dais, Shri Suhel Ajaz Khan, our Ambassador to Saudi Arabia as well as Shri Aseem Raja Mahajan, Joint Secretary of the Gulf Division in the Ministry. Sir, may I hand over the floor to you for your opening remarks.

Dr. Ausaf Sayeed, Secretary (CPV & OIA): Good afternoon friends. First of all, welcome for this press briefing on the visit of His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia who was on his second state visit to India. He had arrived as you know on 9th morning and he was accompanied by a high level delegation comprising of almost 14 members and 8 ministers and the context of the visit was of course the participation in the G20 but also to co-chair the first Leaders’ Summit of the Strategic Partnership Council which was established as you all know between the two countries in October 2019 when Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi had visited Riyadh. So today the Crown Prince was accorded ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan at the forecourt and after that the Prime Minister hosted the Crown Prince for restricted level discussions followed by the Strategic Partnership Council meeting as I mentioned and then the Prime Minister also hosted a luncheon and a working lunch for him. Thereafter now in the evening the Crown Prince will call on Rashtrapati and the Rashtrapati ji would also be hosting a banquet. Thereafter the Crown Prince is expected to depart this evening itself.

At the outset of the discussions which they had in the morning the Crown Prince congratulated India for a very successful G20 meeting with lots of major outcomes in that meeting. The Prime Minister also acknowledged that the Kingdom had been very actively participating in the G20 meetings and especially the two sides expressed their happiness at the launching of the India-Middle East Economic Corridor as one of the major outcomes of the G20 under India's presidency. Honourable Prime Minister also congratulated the Kingdom on becoming a full member of the BRICS of course as a follow-up of their membership in the SCO. Thereafter the two sides had long discussions. The Crown Prince went on to mention that India and Saudi Arabia have a long history of friendship over several hundreds of years and no instances of any differences or conflict that kind of bonhomie he was emphasizing. He also mentioned that both the Kingdom and India are the two fastest economies where the two fastest economies in 2022 last year and continues to be so and it is expected that the two countries would remain the leading economic growth countries of the world for the next one decade or so. And so there are so many different areas in which the two countries could cooperate and the two sides identified areas such as energy cooperation, defence, security, education, technology, transportation, health care, tourism and culture. Both sides also identified space and semiconductors as other areas of cooperation. They agreed to diversify the current status of their hydrocarbons relationship into a comprehensive energy partnership. Both sides, the Prime Minister as well as the Crown Prince, extended their full support to the early implementation of the West Coast refinery projects which as you know is a trilateral cooperation between Aramco, Adnoc and the Indian companies for which funds to the tune of 50 billion dollars are already year marked. Now the new thing which has come up is that the two sides agreed to set up a joint task force to help in identifying and channelizing the 100 billion investments which was actually promised by the Saudi side, half of which was for the refinery; and again to have a monitoring committee to ensure that the progress in the refinery projects are done as per the plans laid out by both sides.

Discussions also revolved on the grids, various types of grids like power grid, gas grid, water grid, optical fiber network, so that the two countries could cooperate. Another important element was that the two sides also agreed to expedite the India-GCC FTA negotiations which they felt would act as a catalyst for further strengthening our economic cooperation between the two sides. They also agreed to strengthen cooperation in the fintech field and also explore trading in the local currencies. This was discussed. The two leaders expressed their satisfaction at the volume of trade, the trade level where both countries have reached, India being the second largest trading partner of Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabia being the fourth largest trading partner of India. Again the Prime Minister also laid emphasis on certain sectors and he mentioned, certain sectors for cooperation so he mentioned critical minerals as one area. Food security is another area which was mentioned especially it is of Saudi interest, creation of food parks and other things. Since we have a very good startup ecosystem in India, Prime Minister emphasized on the need for setting up a startup bridge between India and Saudi Arabia. On the education field the Prime Minister in the light of the New Education Policy emphasized on the need for strengthening cooperation in this sector particularly in the student exchange program and university to university and institution to institution level collaborations. And he also suggested, our Prime Minister suggested that a joint working group on education and skill development could be set up to kind of explore this. Also in the context of culture and people to people, the cooperation in the field of film making also came up, so both sides agreed that this is another area where we can work together.

I am happy to share with you that during this visit, as many as eight agreements have been signed and the important ones, or I would just read out to you; one is in the field of energy which was signed by the Saudi Minister of Energy and our Minister of New and Renewable Energy. Then there was an agreement in the field of digitalization and electronic manufacturing between the IT Ministries of both sides. There was one agreement between the CVC of India and its counterpart the Saudi Oversight and Anti-corruption Authority, and the fourth agreement was between the National Archives. Then there was an agreement between the two investment entities that is the Invest India on the Indian side and the Ministry of Investment on Saudi side. There was another agreement between the two EXIM banks. There was also another agreement between the small and medium enterprises banks of two sides that is SIDBI and the SME bank of Saudi Arabia and the last one was in the field of desalination. In addition to these there are several other agreements which are under various stages of discussion the prominent one is the one on grid connectivity which is in the advanced stages of discussion. We are also separately discussing with the Saudi side, Visa Waiver Agreement for diplomatic passports which is not yet ready but we hope that it would be ready soon.

So these were some of the main points which had come up for discussions during this. The strategic partnership meeting took place in a very amicable and cordial manner where the two leaders recognized the efforts made by the respective ministers, you know that it had two verticals, headed by the Foreign Ministers and the other one headed by our Commerce and Industry Minister and Saudi Minister of Energy and the other SOMs and other joint working groups. They agreed to have the meeting at regular frequency. The next one would be in Riyadh, hopefully next year. So this is in sum, the parameters and contours on which the discussions have taken place and the two sides have worked out a joint statement which will be released soon and you will be able to access it later in the evening after the end of the visit. So these have been the outcomes. The minutes of the 1st Leaders’ Summit were also signed by the two leaders, our Prime Minister and the Crown Prince and these are the minutes of encompassing all the discussions which had taken place and the sums of this so that was also one of the things which was done.

I would also just like to add one point, there was also on the sidelines, investment forum which was organized with five key themes again ICT and entrepreneurship, chemicals and fertilizers, advanced manufacturing, food security, energy and sustainability, it was a joint event but mainly the lead being taken by the their Ministry of Investment and also supported by Invest India and FICCI. And we believe that several agreements in the private sector have been signed during this, this is still going on, it will end I think in another couple of hours time.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you Sir, I understand that has more than 500 participants in that with a very large contingent from Saudi Arabia. Before I open the floor ground rule, please introduce yourself and the organization that you represent.

Reza: Reza from the Hindustan Times. Question for the Secretary. Basically, there were reports about some problems with the site for the West Coast Refinery. Is that still an issue? And if we could just get an idea why it's taken so long for this, you know, I mean, although we had COVID in between, why it's taken so long for this $100 billion proposal to move forward?

Huma: Sir, I'm Huma Siddiqui from the Financial Express. Just wanted to know when will the negotiations for the India GCC FTA start? I mean, there have been meetings before, but what's the status now?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Sorry, Huma, was that be part of this visit in any which way?

Huma Siddiqui: He said that they talked about India-GCC FTA. Also about the space cooperation. In the morning, they announced that India and Saudi are in talks about space cooperation.

Vishal Pandey: Sir main Vishal Pandey hoon Zee News se. Mera sawal hai economic corridor ko lekar. Ye economic corridor ki ghoshna ke baad pahli mulakat hui hai Pradhan Mantri aur Crown Prince ke bich mai, Bharat ke liye kitna important hai ye economic corridor aur kya ise China ke BRI ka jawab bhi mana ja raha hai?

[Question in Hindi: Approximate Translation] Sir, I am Vishal Pandey from Zee News. My question is regarding the Economic Corridor. This is the first meeting between the Prime Minister and the Crown Prince after the announcement of the Economic Corridor. How important is this Economic Corridor for India, and is it also being considered as response to China's BRI?

Sahil: Sir, I'm Sahil from Asian News International, ANI. You spoke about the defence cooperation as well. Can you elaborate on that, Sir? What aspects were discussed?

Sidhant: Hi, Sir, Sidhant from WION. Sir, you talked about national currencies being discussed, trading and national currencies, if you can give details. Also, there are many Indians in Saudi Arabia, blue collar workers, about their situation. Was this part of the conversation as well? We saw the Prime Minister talking about taking care of Indians. So if you can elaborate on that.

Dr. Ausaf Sayeed, Secretary (CPV & OIA):
Reza, your question on the West Coast Refinery. Of course, there had been delays since it was announced, but then there were many reasons you also mentioned about COVID and other things. See, today's focus was how we could expedite this. And so the whole idea was that a joint working group or a committee would go into all the facets of this and then see ways and means of expediting this. And both sides are very keen that this is realized sooner than later. So I think the approach was forward-looking and the commitment of the two leaders and also the guidelines to their respective ministries was that one should work together to find out how best we could expedite this. So all aspects will be discussed in this. And then as and when details come up, we'll certainly share with you.

On the India-GCC FTA, you see one of the primary reasons why there was a delay was that there was a change in the chief negotiator. So now that the chief negotiator of the GCC has been appointed, earlier the terms of reference have been exchanged. Now the two sides would go into those terms of reference. And now that the chief negotiator has also been appointed, I think the negotiations would be brought back on track and I would say fast track, since there is a keenness on both sides to complete these negotiations as early as possible.

Space cooperation, emphasis was given by both the leaders and these were identified as the key areas, especially in the context of India's first and foremost what are developments and the Chandrayaan launch and many other things. Just to give you as a background that the two countries, the two sides have exchanged a country-wide agreement. This was exchanged a few months ago and these agreements are under the discussion. And once this has been signed, earlier there used to be only agreements on the institutional level, like ISRO with the Saudi Space Commission. Now we are talking about a country-wide agreement and space cooperation remains one of the key areas of cooperation between our two countries.

Economic Corridor, the two sides as I mentioned recognize this as one of the major outcomes of the G20. It is one of the biggest such plurilateral agreement you could think of connecting several countries. So I am are putting this thing against some country or other that we do not see it. It is actually basically connecting our like-minded partner countries and in different geographic zones which is extremely important, Asia with Middle East and Europe. And if you are reading the press and if you have read what has come up also in our own press releases, another thing you realize the dimension of it. So it is something which we are all looking forward to and it would need close coordination and work with all the partner countries in that.

Defence cooperation, we have an ongoing defence cooperation which is going on very well. We already had two rounds of…the joint naval exercises we have. We are now exploring the possibility of taking these joint exercises to other domains, other than the naval. Then the other important aspect is the joint collaboration in terms of defence manufacturing. This is something which both sides are keen about. The Saudi side also has inbuilt local manufacturing focus in their Vision 2030 and our companies have also shown interest in showing their capabilities depending on the needs and capabilities matching the both sides. And if you recollect in October 2019 when Prime Minister was there and visited there, there was an agreement which was signed on defence cooperation between the manufacturing sector. So this is going on. We would expect more such exercises and more involvement of Saudis in bilateral and multilateral exercises.

Sidhant, you asked about the national currencies. The two sides have started discussing this. It is only at the discussion stage. Proposals and concept notes have been exchanged. The Saudi side is aware that we have worked out similar arrangements with other countries in the region. So the discussions have already begun.

The blue-collared workers...Prime Minister emphasized the large number of Indian workers there and also thanked the Saudi side for specifically taking care of them in difficult situations such as COVID. One of the things which was suggested also, this joint working group on skill development would also in a way affect the way the recruitment is done and it also would go a long way in ameliorating whatever the recruitment conditions are there. And you know that we have been separately at the local levels discussing with the Saudi Embassy and the Saudi Labour and Health Attaches to see how best we can streamline the process of recruitment. Some aspects of what they have asked may also be there in the joint statement.

Thank you, Secretary. This is Suhasini Haider from the Hindu. I just wanted to pick up on the answer you had given on IMEC, the India, Middle East, Europe Corridor as it is called. In terms of details of where the funding for this, because trade has always gone through these routes, where funding for this is going to come from, has there been any clarity? Because we haven't seen it in the White House's fact sheet nor have we seen it in any of our... So did the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, the Crown Prince, discuss this aspect at all? And I just wanted to clarify one thing. The US President, Joseph Biden said yesterday in Vietnam that we're going to have a new rail-road from India all the way across to the Mediterranean. I presume this is incorrect, but I just wanted to clarify if the plan is for India to be connected by the rail-road as well, and is India building the railroad? Thank you.

Manas: This is Manas from PTI. My question is related to defence again. So, was there any specific discussion on co-development or co-manufacturing of any specific platform or equipment? And second question is that in fact, recently the Chinese Foreign Minister said that the China-brokered Saudi-Iran deal is making waves of reconciliation in the Middle East. So, are we concerned about it, the growing proximity between Saudi Arabia and China, and then China's growing influence? Was it any way in fact discussed in the talks?

Sudhi: Sir, Sudhi Ranjan from Bloomberg. if you could give us a little more detail on the West Coast Refinery, taking up from Reza. Is there a timeline that has been set? When can we see it? Is there a decision that it needs to be put on the ground by X number of dates? Any detail that you could give us?

Manish: Sir, this is Manish Kumar Jha from Financial Express. You spoke about a $100 billion investment, possible investment, a long run investment in India. I understand which largely focused on refineries so far. I would like to know possibly if you could talk about the range of other potential investment and talks under way with India from Saudi Arabia.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: For the $100 billion?

Manish Kumar Jha: Yeah. If some data, some figure how much has been done. Thank you.

Meghna: Sir, Meghna Dev from DD News. I have a question on what are the discussions going on under green connectivity and also an additional question on desalinization plants. Are you also looking at PPP models and what is the agreement about, if you can give us some details?

Yeshi Seli: This is Yeshi Seli from the New Indian Express. Can you elaborate a bit on the grid.. cooperation on the grid and interconnection, and also is it on the discussion stage or is there already a route wherein you have decided which countries to take this grid connectivity from? And secondly, who all are these delegates comprising of? Are they from a particular sector or are they from across different industries?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Delegates for what?

Yeshi Seli: He said 500 delegates have come.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Oh, businessmen. It is a business delegation that came on that business forum which is quite successful. I think we will leave that.

Dr. Ausaf Sayeed, Secretary (CPV & OIA): I am taking the first question from Suhasini Haider. I do not think anything on the funding aspect of this was discussed. And I think to me it appears also too early because it has just been signed. So, whatever is put on the domain and I think you would have already seen it. But further details of funding, who would put what, that I think it is kind of too early. Now, the second is the connection. India would be connected by rail-roads perhaps is a correct interpretation rather than India building the rail-roads. So, this is there because I think the India Middle East interconnectivity, as we understand and during the discussions, the various forms of connectivity, ports, railways, better roads, grids, all those things which I mentioned in my opening remarks. So, that is the overall thing. Funding, nothing has been discussed so far.

Manas from PTI, the co-development and co-manufacturing, you see there are no specific platforms, no specific items for co-manufacturing discussed. Discussions have been exploring what could be done based on each other's acceptability and the technologies available. So, again it is not specific to any particular platform. You have mentioned about the Saudi-Iranian deal. We are happy that such a deal has happened but then why would we really concerned about this thing. We have very good relations as you know with all the Middle Eastern countries, GCC countries and the Arab League countries which is reflected in many different ways and you have been seeing it. This major India Middle East Economic Corridor itself is a reflection of our relationship. So, this is the thing. We need not every time draw connectivity here and there in a different form.

West Coast Refinery, you have asked. So, again the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas and the Ministry of Energy, the officials would sit together and as I said the teams have been assigned the task of sitting together and listing out, are there anything which is hindering early implementation or are there ways in which this thing could be expedited. So, that is the instruction the two leaders have given today and I do hope that in the coming days and weeks something the two sides will do.

Now the 100 billion dollars of investment, one question was I think you asked; the areas, just to mention that the Prime Minister listed the following areas where Saudi investments could be made. One was tourism, waterways, expansion of railways and freight corridors, highway infrastructure, ports, energy, hydrogen and especially the production of equipment for electrolysis, gas grids, optical fiber. These are some of the areas but I also mentioned to you in the beginning the areas of focus of the two countries too. So, these are there and which would also include renewable energy and energy, IT & IT related infrastructure. So, there are many areas. So, while half of the investment was dedicated for the refinery, the other half could be utilized for all these investible projects if the two sides are able to identify.

So, similarly I think the discussions are going on between the two sides on both this green connectivity and desalination and other things. The specific elements of such cooperation have not been identified in so much of detail and again in the days to come, we will be in a position to kind of identify specifically which kind of projects which both sides will be able to invest into.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Sir, green connectivity and desalination.

Dr. Ausaf Sayeed, Secretary (CPV & OIA): Yes, you see the one which we are discussing with Saudi Arabia is basically on the electrical interconnection, the areas of cooperation and then of course there are elements in that. Since this is still an agreement under discussion, I would not like to give too much of details because still the two sides are discussing it but I do hope that once it is finalized in the coming days, we will be very happy to share with you more details.

One thing on desalination is once we have signed this today, the agreement MoU on desalination. Now this MOU includes cooperation in the fields of future technologies, in the field of sea water desalination, investment exchanges in desalination industries like solar desalination, exchange of expertise, joint research & capacity building and we do believe that both sides will be able to enhance their ongoing cooperation in sea water desalination through this MoU. Details will be made public.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Just to add Manas, if I could Sir, on your query on the discussions or the deal that you mentioned Manas about China brokered or whatever Saudi-Iran thing. Look I think we made a position clear on this one earlier and I do not think we have anything much to add. I think we said something about, look you know about good relations with various countries in West Asia. We have deep abiding interests as you saw in the region and we have always advocated dialogue and diplomacy as the way to resolve differences and I think we will reiterate that position on that.

Let me open the floor for more questions please.

Saud: Hello, I am Saud from Saudi Al-Watan daily. My question is what is the most important outcome of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman's visit to Delhi and my second question is how deep Saudi-India relations so far?

Megha: Hi, I am Megha from News-X and you mentioned about the discussion being held between Prime Minister Modi and Mohammed bin Salman about visa waivers. If you could give us more details.

Kallol: Kallol from the Hindu, Sir. As we know that there are reforms that are taking place in Saudi Arabia in various sectors of life. So when you engage the Saudi Government, the Crown Prince, do issues like gender justice and say, consider treatment of Indian convicts in Saudi prisons and do such issues figure in your discussion with the Saudi authorities?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: You say which such issues? The Two issues..

Kallol: Like gender justice and human rights…

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: and treatment of Indian citizens…. are very different issues.

Kallol: There are Indian citizens in Saudi prisons.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: I agree. You heard Prime Minister talk about it and I am sure Secretary will add to that.

Kallol: In addition to it, you have done an agreement on the archives. So what sort of access are you going to give the Saudi authorities to Indian archives because Indian archives are truly priceless.

Sandhya: Sandhya with ET. Quickly, just want to have some sense around the discussion around semiconductors and I would like to know if our flagship project UPI was discussed and if there is any movement forward on that?

Sridhar: Sridhar from the Asian age. Sir, what about the people-to-people exchanges especially on pilgrimage and on that specific thing?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Discussions?

Sridhar: Yes.

Pia: Hi, Pia here. Last month India's crude oil imports from Russia saw a decline and some of those volumes were replaced by a sharp surge in imports from Saudi Arabia. In fact, the oil imports from Saudi Arabia rose 63% month on month. Did this feature in the discussions today especially since both countries have talked a lot about renewable energy and the need to shift towards green energy?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Sorry, I didn't get your question. It should be an objection that our increase is going on and we should be unhappy?

Pia: No, the fact that Saudi Arabia has re-emerged as a top oil supplier to India, had it featured in these discussions.

Reza: Reza from Hindustan Times. Just a clarification, the Secretary mentioned that there will be a task force for the 100 billion dollar investments. And he also said there will be a JWG on the refinery. Are these separate?

Dr. Ausaf Sayeed, Secretary (CPV & OIA): JWG on education and skill development.

I think there are many questions, so let me see. One question was asked by Saudi Al-Watan daily. You know, see, one of the prime outcomes… of course, Crown Prince’s visit was two parts. One, of course, is a part of the G20 and you know that G20 outcomes have been discussed separately and one of the outcomes which I mentioned was the India Middle East Economic Corridor. So there is that and for which there was separate briefings were done. I am restricting myself to the bilateral part. The bilateral part, as you know, you see the number of agreements which were signed, eight agreements which were signed, the resolve of the leadership to continue to focus on energy cooperation, particularly on the downstream sector. This was another important area which was there. And the two sides recognizing each other's economic capabilities in the form of the fastest growing economies and agreeing to work together in future in various areas, this itself is something which I would say noticeable and there are many areas these agreements covered. For example, the important agreement which was on energy which was signed today, I would just give you some elements of it because that may also help you. This of course will cover renewable energy, energy efficiency, hydrogen, electricity, petroleum, strategic petroleum reserves, circular carbon economy and so many fields. So these are many, many areas which are there.

A question was asked on visa waivers. Now visa waiver has not been discussed in the meeting as such, but this was discussed outside of the meeting as a preparation to the meeting. A proposal was made and both sides started working on this. That means the diplomatic passport holders on both sides, if this agreement is concluded, would not need a visa. Like this is a very, you know, agreement which is there between many countries, we have with all the GCC countries, except with Saudi Arabia, so the Saudi Arabian side is also very keen. We do hope that, you know, in weeks to come this will be done.

Now, the talk about reforms, reforms which are taking place in the Kingdom. Of course, these are the questions you should put to the Saudi ministers and others, what are the reforms they are doing, but having served there, we could see that there are large number of reforms which are taking place and these reforms are all forward-looking. Now when you go to the first thing which you would notice when you go to any airport is that so many women at the immigration counters which are there. So I don't think there are the issues which you have talked about, I don't know in the modern context they are as relevant and these are all internal issues and we don't normally comment on any of the internal issues. As far as our own people are concerned, we have always in various mechanisms and various platforms through the Embassy and through our discussions have always talked about the welfare of our people. There are various discussions and you know that we always try and streamline the recruitment process. One of the things which we were able to negotiate with the Saudi side was the removal of the PCC which really helped large number of people go through. There are separate discussions which are going on the recruitment process, dealing process, so that is something very there and at the same time those who may be incarcerated in detention centres in various countries, there are established mechanisms for their release depending on what sentences they are and many times in these countries every year, once or twice a year, there are amnesties declared and people come in. So we don't have very many major issues to talk about.

I think you asked a question here about…since there has been a surge in the imports from Saudi Arabian oil, was this aspect discussed? It was discussed in the sense that Saudi Arabia remains the third largest supplier at least till this thing and one of the major hydrocarbon partners for us. Both sides agreed as I said to upgrade the energy partnership, hydrocarbon partnership into a comprehensive energy partnership which would mean investment in strategic petroleum reserves and downstream petrochemicals and this refinery project, many such things. So it is an identified fact that both sides recognise each other as very dependable mutual partners.

Archives, you have talked about the archives and you said that we have very precious thing, we are not going to send another Kohinoor to any country, so please be rest assured. This is basically, research is there as you see that we have rich information repositories in India, so it could mean exchange of information on subjects, holding of seminars, holding of visits, exchange of experts, so that will strengthen both sides. So generally this is a very common agreement which countries have, between national archives, this is one such agreement which is there.

Semiconductors, Prime Minister mentioned about the opportunities in India for investments in the semiconductor industry, so basically inviting the Saudi Arabia and other countries to look at the opportunities for investments in semiconductors.

UPI, there are discussions which have opened up, we are still in the discussion stage, but we do hope that like with other countries where we have been able to make a breakthrough in the UPI, here also we will be able to make a breakthrough.

Pilgrims, I think there was one question on the people to people exchange. Our Prime Minister congratulated the Saudi side for the successful completion of Haj and also mentioned that depending on the capacities in Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom would be…perhaps should be able to accommodate more number of pilgrims from countries and including India, so basically that was the context and the facilities which are made available to pilgrims from all countries, particularly India, so there are various categories of pilgrims which go and especially the categories where women were going without male escorts and those categories and all these things, so it was in the general context. The current quota is 175,000.

Reza, there will be one joint working group which will look into the all aspects of investments, how to kind of channelize the investments and streamline it in various sectors and also a specialised committee which would look specifically into the refinery projects and other things.

Sridhar: Sir, did they offer to increase the quota for Indian pilgrims and any specific figures?

Yeshi: Sir did you say that five billion dollar has already invested in India out of these hundred million, if I heard you right?

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: No, I don’t think he said that. Anything on the numbers, Sir?

Dr. Ausaf Sayeed, Secretary (CPV & OIA): You see the discussion on increase of quota has not come up for discussion, but as you know the quota depends on the population. Every year before the Haj, the Saudi authorities ask for population figures and based on the population of Muslims, 1,000 pilgrims per one million of population, that is how the quota is fixed.

Shri Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much for your time, Sir. I also want to thank Ambassador Suhel Ajaz Khan as well as Aseem Raja Mahajan, JS (Gulf) for their time. Thank you all for joining us. Good afternoon.

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