India, Saudi Arabia to set up joint working groups on defence and security

    India and Saudi Arabia held the first meeting of a bilateral committee on political, security, social and cultural cooperation and agreed to create joint working groups on issues ranging from defence and security to the Haj pilgrimage.

    The committee comes under the India-Saudi Arabia agreement on a Strategic Partnership Council that was launched during a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in October 2019.

    The inaugural senior officials’ meeting, which was held virtually, discussed and reviewed cooperation in various areas and existing mechanisms.

    “Both sides agreed to give impetus to the work of existing mechanisms and establish joint working groups for regular dialogue covering various fields such as political, consular, Haj, defence, security, culture, health and education,” the external affairs ministry said.

    Discussions have also been held under the committee on economy and investment between the two sides.

    The Indian side at Wednesday’s meeting was led by Sanjay Bhattacharyya, secretary (overseas Indian affairs) in the external affairs ministry, while Adel Siraj Merdad, deputy minister of foreign affairs, led the Saudi team. The two officials noted the close cooperation between the two countries during the Covid-19 pandemic.

    Bhattacharyya thanked the Saudi side for taking care of the Indian community during the pandemic and hoped both sides would finalise an air bubble arrangement soon.

    The Saudi side thanked India for standing by Saudi Arabia during the pandemic, including on facilitating the travel of Indian healthcare professionals to Saudi Arabia, and looked forward to supplying of India-made Covid-19 vaccines, the external affairs ministry said.

    Both sides referred to Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia in October 2019 and “highlighted that the Strategic Partnership Council reflects the desire of the leadership of both sides to impart further momentum to this important relationship”, it added.

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