India-Saudi Arabia Economic & Commercial Brief
 

Introduction: India and Saudi Arabia enjoy multifaceted relations reflecting the centuries old economic and socio-cultural ties. India and Saudi Arabia are old business partners; their trade relations go back several centuries in time. Today, the bilateral business ties are being steadily expanded and further strengthened by continuous interaction and cooperation, including regular exchange of business delegations. Besides being a major trade partner, India sees the Kingdom as a major pillar for its energy security and an important economic partner for investments, joint ventures, transfer of technology projects.

 
Trade:

2. Saudi Arabia today is our 4th largest trade partner (after China, USA and UAE) and is a major source of energy as we import around 17% of our crude oil requirement from the Kingdom. In 2017-18, the India-Saudi bilateral trade has increased by 9.56% to USD 27.48 billion. The exports have increased by 5.88% to USD 5. 41 billion, while the imports increased by 10.50 % to USD 22.06 billion. During this period, our imports from Saudi Arabia reached USD 22.06 billion, registering an increase of 10.50% over previous year (USD 19.97 billion) whereas our exports to Saudi Arabia reached USD 5.41 billion registering an increase of 5.88 % over previous year (USD 5.11 billion). The current bilateral trade (April – Nov 2018 provisional figures) is valued USD 23.24 billion.

 
3. Saudi Arabia is the 15th largest market in the world for Indian exports and is destination to 1.85% (2017-18) of India’s global exports. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia is the 3rd largest source (4.74% in 2017-18) of India’s global imports. For Saudi Arabia, as per 2017 data, India is the 4th largest market for its exports, accounting for 8.88% of its global exports. In terms of imports by Saudi Arabia, India ranks 7th and is source of around 4.13 % of Saudi Arabia’s total imports.

 

4. India Saudi Arabia Trade:

Year
(April–March)

Imports from Saudi Arabia

Exports to Saudi Arabia

Total trade

% increase in bilateral trade

% increase in Indian imports

% increase in Indian exports

2011-2012

31.81

5.68

37.50

45.59

56.08

21.32

2012-2013

33.99

9.78

43.78

16.75

6.85

72.18

2013-2014

36.40

12.21

48.62

11.05

7.08

24.86

2014-2015

28.10

11.16

39.26

-19.24

-22.79

-8.65

2015-2016

20.32

6.39

26,.1

-31.97

-27.70

-42.71

2016-2017

19.94

5.13

25.08

-6.12

-1.85

-19.70

2017-2018

22.06

5.41

27.48

+9.56

+10.50

+5.88

Apr – Nov, 2018

19.79

3.45

23.24

--

--

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Source: Directorate General of Foreign Trade, Ministry of Commerce & Industry

 

Main Indian exports and imports:

5. Major Indian exports to Saudi Arabia include mineral fuels, oils and products thereof, agricultural products, electric machines and equipment, iron and steel, organic chemicals, spacecraft parts, articles of apparel and clothing accessories etc. India’s major imports include mineral fuels, mineral oils and its products, organic and inorganic chemicals, plastic and its products, fertilizers etc.

 

Bilateral Engagements:

6. The bilateral dialogue mechanism currently in place include India-Saudi Arabia Joint Commission at the level of Finance Minister, India-Saudi Arabia Energy Dialogue at the level of Petroleum Ministers. While 2nd India Saudi Arabia Energy Dialogue was held in Riyadh in October 2014, the 3rd round of Energy Dialogue is due since early 2015 in New Delhi.

 

7. 4th India-GCC Industrial Conference was inaugurated by H.E. Mr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah, the then Saudi Minister of Commerce and Industry on November 18, 2015 at Jeddah. The two-day Forum highlighted the paramount significance of strategic partnership between India and the GCC.

 

8. Saudi Arabia has constituted the ‘Saudi Centre for International Strategic Partnership’ (SCISP) in Nov, 2017 and has identified India as one of the 8 countries with which the Kingdom is keen to elevate the existing partnership to a comprehensive strategic partnership level. USA, UK, Germany, France, China, Japan, South Korea are the other countries. Saudi Arabia has proposed to establish a ‘Strategic Partnership Council’ with India focusing on four aspects namely Political, Security, Economic and Socio-Cultural. Initial discussions have already taken place in July 2018 in New Delhi between the NITI Aayog and the SCISP. While NITI Aayog is looking after the Economic part, MEA could be overarching body as it involves political and security component. The initial NITI-Aayog-SCISP workshop took place in Feb, 2019. NITI Aayog CEO Shri Amitabh Kant led a strong delegation, comprising Senior Govt officials and representatives from Indian Public & Private enterprises to the NITI Aayog-SCISP workshop in Riyadh, which identified more than 40 investment opportunities for cooperation and collaboration.

 

 

9. The 12th Joint Commission Meeting was held in Riyadh in February 2018. Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley paid a two-day visit (February 18-19, 2018) to Riyadh to co-chair the JCM with the Saudi Minister of Commerce & Investment Dr. Majed Al Qasabi. On the sidelines, Finance Minister called on the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and discussed ways of further strengthening and diversifying bilateral cooperation in the fields of mutual interest. Minister of Finance also held bilateral meetings with the Saudi Minister for Finance Mr. Mohammad Al Jada'an; Minister for Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources Eng. Khaled Al Falih, and Deputy Minister for Foreign Trade Mr. Abdurrahman Al Harbi and held detailed discussions on furtherance of bilateral cooperation in diverse fields in line with the Saudi “Vision 2030”.

 

10. Saudi Minister for Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources Eng. Khalid Al Falih visited India three times (Feb, April, and October 2018). During his visit in February 2018, he called on Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi and held official talks with Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitely, Commerce & Industry Minister Shri Suresh Prabhu, Petroleum & Natural Gas Minister Shri Dharmendra Pradhan and Minister of State (I/C) for New & Renewable Energy Shri R.K. Singh. Saudi Energy Minister also attended the 16th International Energy Forum (IEF) Ministerial Meeting in New Delhi. During his 3rd visit in October 2018, he participated in the 2nd India Energy Forum Meeting held in New Delhi.

 

Bilateral Investments:

12. According to Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) report of December 2017, there are 322 Indian companies as joint ventures/100% owned entities in Saudi Arabia with a total investment of USD 1.4 billion. Saudi investment in India has so far been relatively modest at USD 208.38 million only from April 2000 to June, 2018 (Source: DIPP).

 

13. Major Indian Companies such as L&T, TATAs, Wipro, TCS, TCIL, Shapoorji & Pallonji, EPIL etc. have established strong presence in Saudi Arabia. Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) opened the first all-female Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) service centre, in Saudi Arabia in 2014, aiming to provide employment opportunities to up to 3,000 women in three years. In May 2016, Wipro Arabia Limited, a subsidiary of Wipro Limited, Saudi Aramco and Princess Nourah University (PNU), Riyadh signed an agreement and inaugurated Kingdom's first Women Business Park (WBP). The project is expected to create nearly 21,000 jobs for Saudi women in ten years. The WBP is a joint venture between PNU, the largest women's university in the world and Wipro Arabia Ltd. Saudi Aramco is the strategic advisor and anchor to this initiative. Dedicated to working women, this business park is a first project of its kind aimed at providing knowledge-based employment for women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

 

14. The Indian Hotels Co. Ltd. (IHCL) announced (April 17, 2018) its foray into the Holy City of Makkah, Saudi Arabia for opening a luxury hotel in collaboration with Umm Al-Qura Development and Construction Co. The Indian Hospitality Start-up OYO Hotels have ventured into the Saudi market to boost the domestic hospitality sector and concluded an Agreement with the Hajj Ministry in the auditing of rooms for Hajj pilgrims. The Indian Oil Middle East is planning investments of Rs. 1000 crore in the Kingdom’s fuel outlets and retail sector, along with the Saudi Partner Al jeri tranportation, preferably in 2019. Bharat Forges based out of Pune has entered into an agreement with Indian Company ERAM based out of Dammam. The concept note shared by our Ministry of fertilizers to set up 2 Joint Venture fertiliser production plants in Saudi Arabia is under study by the Saudi Ministry. L& T hydrocarbons is in talks with Saudi Aramco to set up manufacturing facility for production of valves.

 

15. The Saudi Aramco signed an MoU with the Indian Consortium (IOC, BPCL and HPCL) to jointly develop the USD 44 billion Ratnagiri Refinery and Petrochemical Project Limited (RRPL) on 50: 50 basis. Later, UAE’s ADNOC also agreed to participate in the joint development of RRPL. The Saudi Al-Fanar is setting up a 300 MW power project in Kutch of worth USD 300 million since June 2018 and the project is expected to be completed by 2020. They have also invested US $ 700 million through their Spanish subsidiary. Also, Saudi Aramco signed a MoU with the Mumabi based GumPro for setting up a drilling fluids facility on the sidelines of 2nd edition of Future Investment Initiative in Oct, 2018. SABIC, which has a huge presence in India through its US $ 100 million worth R & D Center in Bengaluru has also facilities in Gurugram, Chennai, Vadodra. Also, SABIC is in talks with M/s Deepak Fertilisers for acquisition.

 

16. Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA) manages huge government reserves estimated to be around USD 517 billion (June 2018). The Saudi direct investment in India is not at par with the true potential of our economies. However, according to SAMA sources, its exposure to Indian economy is very huge through regular funds (and not hedge funds). The Embassy has been proactively projecting investment opportunities in India, including under “Make in India”, through regular interaction with private and government sector companies.

 

17. An important initiative to realise the potential of Saudi investments in India has been a proposal to set Saudi-India Investment Fund between Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Government of India, Establishment of the same is pending for a long time due to difficulties in resolving the issue of tax exemption on capital gains on the investments made under the fund. The formulation proposed by Indian side (during follow up to 11th JCM) in December 2015 is pending for long with the Saudi side for comments.

 

18. Visit of Indian delegations to Saudi Arabia during the year 2018:

 

(i). India participated as the 'Guest of Honour' in the 32nd edition of the prestigious Saudi National Heritage and Cultural Festival-Janadriyah 2018 from 7-28 Feb, 2018. Saudi King Salman and External Affairs Minister Smt Sushma Swaraj attended the inauguration of the India pavilion. The India pavilion comprised the friendship wall, traditional & contemporary India, business stalls, states part, flavours of India and information desk. The traditional India segment comprised the ‘Incredible India’, AYUSH, Handicrafts, Textiles and the much desired ‘Yoga Man’ while the contemporary India segment concentrated more on the modern technological skills of India displaying Ordnance Factories Board (OFB), Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Ministry of Shipping, National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and Ministry of Food Processing Industries. The business stalls included the Indian companies/firms namely Larsen & Toubro, LuLu, Tata Motors, ITL, Shapoorji Pallonji, Telecommunications Consultants India Limited, Virat Group, KBRL Rice, Al Abeer Medical Group, Aster Medcity, Max Healthcare, Artemis Healthcare, Jet Airways, Gateways Travels, Masah Construction, MDH Masala, Spice board, Tea board and Coffee board and Flavours of India. The companies/firms displayed their prominence in their respective sectors and distributed brochures, etc which attracted huge gathering to the India pavilion.

 

(ii). Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley co-chaired the 12th session of India -Saudi Arabia Joint Commission Meeting in Riyadh (18 & 19 Feb, 2018)along with the Saudi Commerce & Investment Minister Dr. Majed Al Qassabi. The JCM concluded with the signing and exchange of minutes focusing on Trade & Commerce, Security, Finance, Agriculture, Information & Media, Health, Vocational Training & Education, Tourism & Archeology, Housing, Energy, Sports, Culture and Community Welfare. A business delegation led by FICCI President Mr. Rasheh Shah visited Riyadh on the side-lines of the Joint Commission Meeting.

 

(iii). A team from the Exim Bank, led by the Deputy Managing Director – Mr. Debasish Mallick visited the Kingdom (16 & 17 April, 2018) on invitation of Saudi Exports Development Authority to guide them in establishing an Exim Bank for Saudi Arabia.

 

(iv). An business delegation led by Shri Ananta Das, Minister of Industries, Govt of Odisha visited Saudi Arabia (7 -10 July, 2018) to promote investment opportunities in Odisha and to invite Saudi Ministry Officials, businessmen to participate in the Make in Odisha Business Conclave in Bhubhaneswar from 11 -15 Nov, 2018. Odisha Minister met the Deputy Minister of Minerals Eng Khaled Al Muddaifer, interacted with officials of Aramco, SABIC, Ma’aden and businessmen from the Council of Saudi Chambers.

 

(v). A 3 member APEDA delegation visited Riyadh (28 -30 Sep, 2018) and interacted with SFDA to discuss on the MRLs of Basmati rice exported from India to Saudi Arabia.

 

(vi). A 10 member Gujarat delegation visited Riyadh (6-10 Oct, 2018) to promote the 9th edition of Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit 2019 and met the Ministry of Commerce Officials, SABIC, SAGIA, Saudi-India Business Council and Riyadh Chamber.

 

(vii). Mr. Ashok Sethi, Director, Trade Promotion Council of India (TPCI) visited Jeddah, Riyadh & Dammam (19-26 Oct. 2018) promote 'Indusfood 2019'. he met the prominent officials in the business chambers and the leading businessmen and invited them to the 'Indusfood 2019'.

 

(viii). Mr. Prakash Rao, Executive Director, NIIF, Ministry of Finance, GOI participated in the 2nd edition oif the Future Investment Initiative (FII)-2018 held in Riyadh (23 -25 Oct, 2018). In addition, several Indian Companies such as OYO, GumPro, Biomed India participated in the Conference. Saudi Aramco signed a MoU with GumPro on the side-lines of the Conference.

 

(ix). A 15-member business delegation under Trade Promotion Council of India (TPCI) from Agro food sector visited Riyadh & Jeddah (11-12 Nov. 2018) to meet Saudi counterparts from the agro food sector and explore export opportunities to the Kingdom.

 

(x). A 12-member business delegation under Trade Promotion Council of India (TPCI) from Infrastructure and Housing sector visited Riyadh (27 & 28 Nov, 2018) and explored business and investment opportunities available in the Kingdom under ‘Vision 2030’.

 

viii. Visit of Saudi Delegations to India during the year 2018:

 

(i). Saudi Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources Eng Khalid Al Falih visited India four times as follows: (i) Saudi Minister called on Hon’ble PM and held bilateral talks with Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley; Minister of Petroleum & Natural gas Shri. Dharmendra Pradhan, Commerce & Industry Minister Shri. Suresh Prabhu and Minister for Power and New & Renewable Energy (I/C) Shri R.K. Singh. During his visit, a Non-Disclosure Agreement was signed between Saudi oil company Aramco and Indian oil companies headed by Indian Oil Corporation on the possible investment by Aramco in the West Coast Refinery Project; (ii) to participate in the 16th International Energy Forum Ministerial Meeting (IEE16) in New Delhi (10-12 April 2018). During the visit, Saudi Aramco signed a MoU with the Indian Consortium (IOC, HPCL and BPCL) to jointly participate in the development of US $ 44 billion Ratnagiri Refinery & Petrochemical Project Limited. (RRPCL) in Ratnagiri, Maharashtra; (iii) to participate in the second edition of India Energy forum (14-16 Oct, 2018) in New Delhi. He also attended the Oil 7 Gas Leaders’ interaction with Hon’ble PM; and (iv) Met the Reliance Chairman Mr. Mukesh Ambani discussing investment opportunities in India in the private sector (7-9 Dec, 2018).

 

(ii). The Saudi Centre for International Strategic Partnership visited New Delhi and interacted with the NITI Aayog to further explore the business and investment opportunities available in India and further elevate the existing partnership to Strategic level.

 

(iii). Saudi Arabian Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) CEO Dr. Yusuf Al Bunyan addressed the IndiaChem 2018 in Mumbai (4-6 Oct, 2018)

 

(iv). Saudi Food & Drug Authority (SFDA) delegation visited India to inspect meat establishments, rice farms, laboratories, fruits packaging industries (9 -20 Dec, 2018). APEDA mentioned that the visit was by and large positive and the SFDA was satisfactory of the standards and corrective measures adopted by the Indian firms.

 

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