New Delhi, November 21:

India and Saudi Arabia are working towards signing a ‘few agreements’ to promote bilateral investment when Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud visits in January, Riyadh’s envoy said here today. “We are planning to sign a few agreements hopefully during the visit of King Abdullah that will facilitate flow of greater private sector investment,” Saudi ambassador Saleh M Al-Ghamdi said during the first meeting of the India-Saudi Arabia Joint Business Council (JBC) meeting organised by industry lobby FICCI. “The visit by King Abdullah will further boost the existing relations between the two countries.” The king would be the chief guest at India’s Republic Day parade next year.

While trade remains the major focus between the two countries, Al-Ghamdi said there was an encouraging emerging trend of investment flow between the nations. “We do not want only Indian investment in Saudi Arabia but also want to ensure reverse flow of investment. More importantly, we want Saudi investment in India to multiply in all sectors whether industry, mining or energy. The proposal to sign avoidance of double taxation and investment protection and promotion treaty between the two countries will facilitate greater flow of investment and joint ventures,” Al-Ghamdi said.

There are currently 49 Indo-Saudi joint ventures in India, while there are 82 Indian companies

either fully owned or joint ventures in the Saudi kingdom, said Sanjay Singh, joint secretary (Gulf) in the ministry of external affairs. Pointing to the potential investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia, JBC co-chairperson Abdulrahman A Arabiah said the kingdom expects to see investment in excess of $624 billion the next five to 10 years. This would be in sectors like infrastructure, petrochemicals, power generation, water desalinations, tourism and IT among others. “Up to April this year, 42 investment projects from India with an investment of $411 million had been licensed. In addition, there are 40 non-industrial projects with an investment of $56.2 million taking the tally of Indian investments in the kingdom to $467.2 million,” said Arabiah, who is leading a 20-member delegation.

He said the team would be studying various investment proposals and interacting with business representatives in New Delhi and Hyderabad during their three day stay. The 1.7 million Indians in Saudi Arabia account for about 20 per cent of the expatriate community in the country. India is Saudi Arabia’s fourth largest trading partner and sources about 26 per cent of its total crude oil requirement from the kingdom. Both the countries are exploring opportunities for collaboration in the oil and petrochemical sector. Bilateral trade between

the two countries, which is in excess of $6.7 billion, witnessed 30 per cent growth during April-July this year compared to the corresponding period last year, said Ram Mohan Mishra, director in the ministry of commerce.