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    PM Narendra Modi and Saudi king to sign key agreements in meeting today

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    India and Saudi Arabia are expected to sign several key agreements during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud today, including one to set up a Strategic Partnership Council and another to facilitate the entry of Indian workers to the kingdom.

    Modi held meetings on Tuesday morning with Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud, the energy minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, the foreign minister, Ahmad bin Sulaiman Alrajhi, the labour minister, and Abdulrahman bin Abdulmohsen Al Fadley , the environment minister.

    The main agreement will be the one on the Strategic Partnership Council, first mooted when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited India in February. Modi has said the council will mark the beginning of a “new era of cooperation across sectors”.

    The council, which will be chaired by the Indian prime minister and the Saudi crown prince, will facilitate the monitoring of progress in the strategic partnership and projects taken up by the two sides. The body will comprise two mechanisms  one under the foreign ministers to oversee political and diplomatic relations, and the second under the commerce ministers to guide commercial and energy ties. Both mechanisms will report to the prime minister and the crown prince.

    Another agreement will be the integration of India’s e-Migrate and Saudi Arabia e-Thawtheeq portals, which PM Modi said will “facilitate the process of migration of Indian labour into the kingdom”. Saudi Arabia is currently home to 2.6 million Indians whose annual remittances amount to about $11 billion.

    Yet another agreement between the Middle East unit of Indian Oil Corp and Saudi Arabia’s Al Jeri group will focus on collaboration in the downstream sector, including setting up petrol stations in the kingdom.

    There will also be agreements for the launch for the launch of India’s RuPay card in Saudi Arabia, which will facilitate payments and remittances by the large Indian diaspora, and on training diplomats in the academies of the two countries.

    Saudi Arabia is currently India’s second largest supplier of oil  providing about 18 % of its energy needs and PM Modi said New Delhi is looking at Saudi investments in downstream oil and gas projects, and Saudi Aramco’s participation in a major refinery and petrochemical project on India’s west coast as well as in India’s strategic petroleum reserves.

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