New Delhi, March 10 (IANS) Betting big on Asia's third-largest economy, Saudi Arabia's government-backed fund and private companies plan to invest heavily in a host of areas in India, the kingdom's ambassador here, Saud Mohammed Al-Sati, has said.
"Saudi Basic Industries Corp (SABIC) is the largest public sector firm. This company is looking for joint ventures to expand operations globally. In India it is in the process of investing around $100 million," Al-Sati told IANS in an interview.
"Several other Saudi firms are exploring similar opportunities. They are finding India attractive," the envoy said.
According to Saudi and Indian sources, Saudi Arabia's investment in India runs into hundreds of millions of dollars. Al-Sati said this investment figure was likely to increase many-fold in the near-term.
"I think the actual figure is much more than what government records say. But in a year or so it will increase sharply," said the ambassador, an alumunus of the University of Southern California, who wants to push bilateral trade and investment relations. Before coming here, Al-Sati was Saudi Arabia's deputy chief of mission in the US, considered a very important diplomatic posting.
"India and Saudi Arabia share a very strong strategic and friendly relationship. Both sides are interested in promoting trade and investments," he said and pointed out that the Gulf kingdom was the fourth largest trading partner of India.
The two-way trade was $36.74 billion in the financial year 2011-12 out of which $31.06 billion represented India's imports. Saudi Arabia is the largest supplier of crude to India. Nearly a fifth of India's total oil supplies come from there.
"Oil is the main thing. But there is a huge scope in areas like farming, infrastructure, transport, education, healthcare and technology," Al-Sati said. Saudi Arabia also has over two million Indians who are lauded for their role in its growth and development.
The ambassador said companies from both sides saw a lot of possibilities for investments in the infrastructure sectors, adding the kingdom was also keen to get Indian investments and expertise in these areas.
India plans to invest over $1 trillion in infrastructure over the next five years, with half of that expected from the private sector and overseas. Saudi Arabia is also looking at $625 billion in this area, apart from petrochemicals, power, telecom and healthcare.
As per data available with India's foreign office, Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority has issued over 400 licences to Indian companies for joint ventures and 100-percent owned entities, which is expected to result in investments of $1.62 billion.
(Gyanendra Kumar Keshri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)