Saudi Arabia and India address Covid-19, Afghanistan and restarting flights

Saudi Arabia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, held talks with India’s External Affairs Minister, Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, in New Delhi on Sunday.

The two foreign ministers discussed ways to boost bilateral ties including strategic co-operation in security and socio-cultural pillars, easing travel restrictions for Indians to the kingdom and the political changes in Afghanistan.

The two sides discussed bilateral co-operation in forums such as the UN, the Group of 20 major economies and the GCC.

Dr Jaishankar congratulated Saudi Arabia on its successful presidency of the G20 last year, despite the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.

India “urged early resumption of direct flights to Saudi Arabia” and agreed to work closely on all Covid-19-related challenges.

Dr Jaishankar said the meeting resulted in a “very useful exchange of views on Afghanistan, the Gulf and the Indo-Pacific”.

India’s consul general to Jeddah, Mohammed Shahid Alam, told The National that the “significant visit”, Prince Faisal’s first, reflects the “strong ties between both countries” as it occurred close to the 91st Saudi National Day.

“There are talks of resuming direct flights to Saudi Arabia and Covid-19 support on the agenda,” Mr Alam said.

During the meeting, both countries agreed to further strengthen their partnership in trade, investment, energy, defence, security, culture, consular issues, health care and human resources, India’s External Affairs Ministry said.

They reviewed the progress and implementation of the Strategic Partnership Council Agreement signed by the leadership of both countries during the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Saudi Arabia in October 2019.

Mr Alam said the success of the strategic partnership was a result of the strong bond between the leaderships of both countries.

More than 2 million Indians work in the kingdom, according to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.

The ministry also expressed its appreciation of Saudi Arabia’s support to its Indian community during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Prince Faisal arrived in the capital on Saturday for a two-day visit on Saturday and is expected to hold talks with Mr Modi on Monday.

Sunday’s talks were also attended by the ambassador of the kingdom to India, Dr Saud bin Muhammad Al Sati, and the director-general of the Office of the Foreign Minister, Abdul Rahman Al Daoud.

Secretary to the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, Sanjay Bhattacharyya, said that India and Saudi Arabia have strong bonds of friendship and were expanding co-operation in diverse areas.