Indian Minister of Electricity and New and Renewable Energy Raj Kumar Singh said that his country was seeking to establish a deeper partnership with Saudi Arabia and to maximize bilateral projects, underlining New Delhi’s commitment to reducing the emissions intensity of its GDP by 45 percent by 2030.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the sidelines of his participation in the Middle East and North Africa Climate Week (MENACW) 2023 in Riyadh, Singh said that Saudi Arabia was a reliable source of crude oil and India’s fourth-largest bilateral trading partner, noting that hydrocarbons accounted for about 68.6 percent of bilateral trade.
“Saudi Arabia plays an important role in India’s energy security, as is the second-largest exporter of crude oil to India after Iraq, and the fourth-largest exporter of liquefied natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas,” he said, expecting the “Climate Week” event to produce enabling factors and technologies to achieve comprehensive transformations.
According to the minister, the India-Saudi Strategic Partnership Council will create a multi-faceted and mutually beneficial strategy that includes cultural exchanges, defense and security cooperation, trade and investments, healthcare, technology, energy security and food security.
He added that the relations between Saudi Arabia and India are based on mutual respect, trust and cooperation, since independence.
“These relations gained further momentum with the visits of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Saudi Arabia in 2016 and 2019, and the visits of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, to India in 2019, where the India-Saudi Strategic Partnership Council was established, covering the entire scope of our bilateral relations,” Singh told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Economic, cultural and sports cooperation
The Indian minister went on to say that India was the second-largest trading partner for Saudi Arabia, while the Kingdom was India’s fourth-largest trading partner.
“Bilateral defense cooperation between the two countries has witnessed further progress this year, with engagements reaching their highest levels ever, demonstrating the strong interdependence and mutual trust between our two great countries,” he stated.
Singh continued: “Saudi Arabia has also become a favorite destination for Bollywood movies, while yoga and cricket are very popular in the Kingdom... The presence of more than 2.4 million strong Indian communities in the Kingdom is a living bridge between our two great countries.”
Cooperation in energy
The minister pointed out that Saudi Arabia plays an important role in his country’s energy security, being the second-largest exporter of crude oil to India, and the fourth-largest exporter of liquefied natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas.
In this context, he said that he signed with his Saudi counterpart, Minister of Energy Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, a historic memorandum of understanding for cooperation in the fields of electrical connectivity, clean green hydrogen, and supply chains.
“This memorandum of understanding aims to establish a general framework for cooperation between the two countries in the field of electrical interconnection during peak times and emergency situations, joint development of projects, joint production of clean green hydrogen and renewable energy, as well as the establishment of safe, reliable and flexible supply chains for materials used in clean green hydrogen,” he remarked.
Renewable energy in India
According to Singh, India, with its ambitious agenda, is leading the way in the energy transition and emerging as a global leader.
“We are aware of our responsibilities as an emerging economy, and have taken important measures to shift towards a low-carbon economy without compromising our growth and development,” he said, adding: “India is committed to aligning its energy transition efforts with the common goal of limiting global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius.”
He stressed that his country has made great strides in enhancing power generation capacity from traditional fuels, establishing a unified national grid, strengthening the distribution network, encouraging renewable energy, expanding access to electricity and achieving full comprehensive household electrification, and implementing innovative policies.
Hydrogen, a pivotal source of clean energy
Raj Kumar Singh said that green hydrogen will play a crucial role in decarbonizing industrial sectors, along with renewable energy sources.
“India took the lead and recently launched the Green Hydrogen Mission with the ambitious goal of achieving 5 million metric tons of green hydrogen production annually by 2030,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.