India seeks Saudi investment in infrastructure

New Delhi: India on Wednesday sought investment in its infrastructure sector from Saudi Arabia, which is looking for stepping up commercial engagement with New Delhi amid a lack of opportunity in crisis-ridden Europe and uncertainty in the US.

A high-level Saudi Arabian business delegation led by Commerce and Industry Minister Tawfeeq Bin Fouzan Al Rabea held a series of meetings with business chambers and Indian ministers, including Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Commerce Minister Anand Sharma.

"We look forward to Saudi investment for development of our infrastructure and in other sectors," Mukherjee said during his meeting with the Saudi delegation. The two countries, he said, "need to develop strategies with a view to increase the volume of our trade in traditional items as well as diversifying the existing basket of traded goods… There is immense potential for increasing our trade in services as well."

India-Saudi Arabia bilateral trade totalled USD 25 billion in 2010-11. Earlier, in his meeting with Ficci, Al Rabea said, "We are eager to do more trade with India. Huge potential is present in both the nations as both are emerging economies." During the discussions, Saudi Arabia — which is home to a two million-strong Indian workforce — asked the Indian government to relax visa rules to boost bilateral trade and investment.

Al Rabea, who was at the head of a 35-member business delegation, said there are opportunities for bilateral engagement in sectors like infrastructure, IT and education. With economic troubles affecting the entire euro zone and the US economy giving uncertain indications, Saudi businesses are looking at India as an alternative investment and trade option, industry officials said.