Features Saturday, March 21, 2015 - 05:30
Fakir Balaji (IANS) | The News Minute | February 21, 2015 | 4.28 pm IST  Bengaluru: A record 1.2 million Indians were granted visas to visit Saudi Arabia in 2014, indicating the surge in contacts and diversification of ties between the two countries, the country's top envoy has said. "Our embassy issued 1.2 million visas in India in 2014, a record for a Saudi mission anywhere," Saudi ambassador Saud Mohammed Alsati told IANS here. Similarly, the number of Indian expatriates in the desert kingdom has gone up to a staggering three million - one of the largest Indian diaspora in any country - over the years. "In the past few years, our strategic partnership with India has strengthened remarkably, expanding in key areas such as trade and investments, energy, science and technology, education and culture as well as security and defence," Alsati recalled. Alsati, who has been in India for the past three years, was on a day-long visit to this tech hub Thursday for official engagements, including a meeting with Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala on promoting socio-economic ties between the two countries. "We want more Saudi students to do higher education in India, especially in science and technology, information technology (IT), biotechnology (BT) and aerospace to benefit them in pursuing a rewarding career," Alsati said on the margins of an event here. About 100 students from Saudi Arabia are currently studying in Bengaluru, including some on scholarship for graduating in science and technology. "We are working to deepen our energy partnership with India by focusing on investment, joint ventures and technology transfer," Alsati said after interacting with officials of Saudi hydrocarbon major Sabic and the Indian chemicals and fertilisers ministry. The $50-billion Sabic (Saudi Basic Industries Corporation) has a $100-million technology centre on the city's outskirts, doing research in chemistry, material science, process engineering and analytics. Ranked among the world's top petrochemical firms, the Riyadh-based diversified manufacturing firm is also active in chemicals and intermediates, industrial polymers, fertilisers and metals. "We have been a major pillar for India's energy security for many years meeting about 20 percent of its oil imports presently. We have agreed to enhance our cooperation in a broad range of areas spanning energy, pharma, textiles, education, tourism and vocation training," Alsati pointed out. The Saudi-India joint commission met at Riyadh year ago to tap opportunities in both the countries in various sectors spanning trade and economy. King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, who as crown prince visited India year ago to attend the joint panel's meeting, reiterated the resolve of the kingdom's leadership to strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries. The strategic partnership between Saudi Arabia and India had grown remarkably, expanding in key areas such as trade and investments, energy, science and technology, education, culture and security and defence. Sabic was founded in 1976 when the Saudi government decided to use hydrocarbon gases associated with its oil production as feedstock to produce chemicals, polymers and fertilisers. As a major investor, the Saudi government has 70 percent equity stake in Sabic, with the balance 30 percent held by private investors in the kingdom and other Gulf countries.IANS Tweet
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