Saudi-Indo engagement smoothened by SPO

Saudi Gazette report

SAUDI ARABIA has created a special office — Strategic Partnership Office (SPO), and this strategic partnership office is like a nodal agency that will take care of anything to do with business, trade, delegation visits, interaction and engagements between the two countries, and we are one among the eight countries who is part of the SPO, with four from Asia — China, India, Japan and South Korea, said Indian Ambassador Javed Ahmad at the Saudi Indian Business Network (SIBN) Annual General Meeting at Elaf Galleria Hotel in Jeddah.

“The Saudi-Indian relations has received a special thrust specially after the visit of our Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2016, and the directions has been very clear where engagements have to increase and become healthier, and have to be quick and fast because the kind of projects coming up in Saudi Arabia itself are … where India will have a role to play either in the area of skilled personnel, the skilled component coming in, or also the blue-collared component where the work will take off from making actual physical entities and construction,” Ahmad said in his speech.

“Of course all these will be dovetailing into Vision 2030 and we need to work out how we can be a part of it,” he said, adding, “Therefore it is important for business communities from both sides to look out where all we can converge and work together — whether it is a JV here or in India for there are areas like defense where we have a lot to offer, and as a matter of fact this is one of the things that converges very well with Vision 2030, of course there is education, health, wellness industry which have potential that has not been tapped.”

He continued, “I would like to request the Saudi business representatives present here to look at areas away from all others have been doing — like looking at tea and coffee. And we can facilitate your visit to coffee farms in south India if you want to avail this opportunity.”

Javed was emphatic in stating that the missions here are ever ready to assist Saudi businessmen wishing to do business with India or invest in India. “I would like to reiterate that the missions here are there to facilitate your (Saudi businessmen) visit to India and assist you in the areas you want to visit. That is something that we need to take forward such that it should benefit both the countries.”

The Ambassador extolled SIBN for its active role in fostering relations. “SIBN’s activity has special place for me and has always drawn me to Jeddah,” he said, adding, “So much has happened in this one year, I think it is matter of great happiness, pride and satisfaction for us to note that SIBN is alive and kicking in terms of delegations going to India and in terms of activities inside the Kingdom including exhibitions. I think it is on the right track, but there is much, much more that can be done and should be done.”

“As far as we (missions) are concerned our efforts will be to make it easy for interaction at all levels, whether it is business, entertainment and sports, and try and converge whatever it is with the flagship programs back home in India with Vision 2030 of the Saudi government. As a matter of fact there are so many areas that we have opened up and it is the right time for Indian and Saudi business people, houses or groups to take together and make full use of this opportunity,” the Ambassador stressed.

Ahmad said, while recapping what all had happened in the last year, that the most important and prestigious thing that happened in the context of India and Saudi Arabia are concerned is that India was chosen as the guest of honor for the prestigious national festival Janadriyah, and that itself was a great honor.

“It was a matter of pride, personal and for the mission, that Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman along with our Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj opened the Indian pavilion, titled as we know, ‘Saudi Bharat ka dost’, which translates into something like Saudi India are friends forever,” he said.

The pavilion showcased out traditions and strong points whether it was in medicine, tea plantations, space and defense technology, and of course we had the foods of India … we also displayed our varied cultural aspects and every day we had something new, Ahmad said, adding, “… the point I’ll like to make here is that every evening we would have so much of crowd for the cultural program put up by India … and at the end of the festival we had a call from the National Guard, the ministry which organizes the Janadriyah, stating that the number of footfalls to the festival was 2 million more than the previous year.”

Indian Consul General Md. Noor Rahman Sheikh had earlier embellished the fact that the missions were working toward facilitating the business experience of Saudis wishing to invest in India. “We are even considering issuing a 5-year business visa to allow for free movement for Saudi businessmen to India,” he said while lauding SIBN for their exemplary work during the year.

“SIBN in its 13 years of existence has proven to be a potent unit of enhancing Saudi-Indian business ties. For example we have sent several delegations to exhibitions in India. It has also played a role when delegations visit Jeddah. In the last year, SIBN has partnered with the Consulate to host 20 events, and that’s remarkable, and would like to thank its President Abdullah Al Kassabi, who was always available for consultations, and also SIBN Vice President Mohammed Alungal, who could not make it today due to a prior engagement, general secretary Zaki, the executive committee and all the members for their efforts and I thank them for organizing these events, for last year has been amazing in the type of participation and leadership role they have taken in organizing [email protected] with various state days,” Sheikh said.

“Of course Vision 2030 has helped SIBN to identify the area in which businessmen from both sides are interested in; the bilateral trade between India and Saudi Arabia is on the rise; and there is scope to increase the basket of items from India, like Indian teas. I’m sure members of SIBN and Saudi businessmen would tap such areas and work on promoting business between the two countries,” he said, adding, “India too has many mega projects in the pipeline and investments from Saudi Arabia to India can be boosted with the SIBN working to promote such projects to Saudi businessmen, such that both countries could benefit. We need to focus on enhancing bilateral investments in both countries.”

President Abdullah Al Kassabi in his brief speech said that he was happy at SIBN being a catalyst in boosting business between Saudi Arabia and India and hoped, “SIBN will further boost the ties between the two countries.” He also thanked the missions for their constant support to Saudi businessmen.

Rahul Goswami, senior consultant of the Law Firm of Hassan Mahassni, who has been working for the firm for more than a decade, stole the show with an engrossing presentation titled “Key Legal Changes and Growth Opportunities for Investors in Saudi Arabia”.

He spoke about the New Companies Law enacted in May 2016 and how it is facilitating the diversification of the Saudi Arabian economy beyond the traditional hydrocarbon-based economy and aiding the growth of the Saudi stock market as envisaged under the Saudi Vision 2030.

Goswami spoke about major improvements in the system and how SAGIA is providing licenses to foreign investors in matter of days, and higher level of transparency and participation in the legislative process through public consultation. He also spoke about the new Arbitration Law, which makes annulment of the Arbitral award difficult and improves enforceability of the Arbitral awards, a major boost to foreign investor confidence, and improved timelines and online application and enforcement process for the Courts.

He also highlighted the key takeaways from the New Bankruptcy Law (enacted in Feb 2018) and Commercial Mortgage Law (enacted in April 2018) which increases the local and foreign investors’ confidence in bankruptcy scenarios and defines issues like secured finance, priority of debts and priority of mortgaged assets over other debts.

Goswami also spoke about key opportunities for investors to invest in Saudi Arabia in new utility projects under the National Renewable Energy Program and KSA’s commitment to procure 9.5 GW renewable energy and opportunities for companies in the Independent Water and Power Projects. He also spoke about growth opportunities in the transportation projects including the Metro and Airport projects, banking and project finance and greenfield opportunities for online payment platform in KSA.

Earlier, the gathering was welcomed by General Secretary Mir Gazanfar Ali Zaki, followed by Videos of “Make in India” and “Incredible India” and a speech by Dr. Mohd. Nurul Hasan, consul (commerce). Vote of Thanks was delivered by Treasurer Vijay Soni and the event’s master of ceremony was Abdul Ghafour Danish.

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