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India PM Modi in Saudi Arabia for trade push

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on a visit to Saudi Arabia hoping to secure trade ties as Indian demand for oil booms. The PM also sought to talk security for the millions of Indian expatriates working in the kingdom.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in Saudi Arabia on Saturday hoping to boost security cooperation, energy, and most importantly trade with the world's largest exporter of crude oil. In a highly populous country which already imports 80 percent of its petroleum, Modi was hoping to sign a series of deals taking advantage of low crude prices while demand back home skyrockets.

A foreign ministry official in Delhi said that "one of the key agenda points that the prime minister will be discussing with King Salman," will be making sure that supply of oil continues. As it stands, India buys about 20 percent of its foreign oil from the kingdom.

Eye of millions of Indian expats

Modi was also keen to discuss the safety of Saudi Arabia's large Indian community with King Salman as 2.96 million expatriates live and work in the country, pumping some $10 billion (8.7 billion euros) into the Indian economy by means of remittances every year.

Meeting with members of the Indian community, the prime minister was keen to stress that the "Indian economy was rapidly progressing," due to "political stability in the country." Modi then visited a residential complex to meet Indian workers employed by Mumbai-based engineering firm L&T. The construction conglomerate has been contracted to build part of the Riyadh metro lines.

On Sunday, Modi had meetings scheduled with Saudi business leaders as part of his effort to boost bilateral trade.

Another important aspect of the trip is to discuss security measures, particularly surrounding the Hajj pilgrimage site in Mecca. Last September, a stampede of Muslim pilgrims saw some 2,000 people killed, among them 116 Indians. Many blamed police road closures and poor Saudi handling of the annual influx of pilgrims for the tragedy.

es/ (AFP, Reuters)

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