India, Saudi Arabia to strengthen anti-terror cooperation (Roundup)

Riyadh, April 3 (IANS) In a reflection of deepening bilateral ties, India and Saudi Arabia on Sunday agreed to further strengthen cooperation in the fight against terror and Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured Saudi and Indian businessmen that the Goods and Services Tax (GST) will be rolled out soon.

Modi was also conferred with the Gulf kingdom’s highest civilian honour, the King Abdulaziz Sash.

“The two leaders agreed to further strengthen cooperation in combating terrorism, both at the bilateral level and within the multilateral system of the UN,” said a joint statement issued after delegation-level talks here led by Modi and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.

Sunday was the second and final day of Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the Gulf kingdom.

“The two leaders called upon the international community to strengthen multilateral regimes to effectively address the challenges posed by terrorism,” the statement said.

Both leaders totally rejected “any attempt to link this universal phenomenon to any particular race, religion or culture”.

Modi and King Salman called on all states to reject the use of terrorism against other countries and dismantle terrorism infrastructures where they happen to exist.

Modi and King Salman discussed regional and international issues of mutual interest, including the security situation in West Asia, Middle East and South Asia.

“The two leaders agreed to enhance cooperation to strengthen maritime security in the Gulf and the Indian Ocean regions, vital for the security and prosperity of both countries,” the joint statement said.

Modi and King Salman also agreed to promote cooperation in cyber security, including prevention of use of cyber space for terrorism, radicalisation and for disturbing social harmony.

In the field of energy cooperation, both leaders agreed to transform the current buyer-seller relationship to one of deeper partnership focusing on investment and joint ventures in petrochemical complexes, and cooperation in joint exploration in India, Saudi Arabia and in third countries, according to the statement.

On bilateral trade, Modi and King Salman expressed satisfaction at the $39 billion trade in 2014-15.

King Salman also lauded the strong growth shown by the Indian economy and expressed appreciation for Modi’s remarkable vision for the future of the country.

“He commended Prime Minister Modi’s worthy initiatives of ‘Startup India’, ‘Make in India’, ‘Smart City’, and ‘Clean India’, noting their strong potential to provide Indian economy a positive thrust for growth,” the statement said.

Earlier on Sunday, addressing the Saudi Chambers of Commerce, Modi assured Saudi and Indian business leaders that his government was working to set up a predictable long-term taxation regime and said the long-awaited Goods and Services Tax (GST) would soon be implemented in India.

“Don’t worry…GST will happen, it will be a reality soon,”he said.

“Retrospective tax is a matter of the past. My government will continue to work towards establishment of a predictable long-term taxation regime,” he added.

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill, to implement a pan-India tax for a complete overhaul of the extant indirect tax regime, has been approved by the Lok Sabha.

It is currently stalled in the Rajya Sabha, where the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) doesn’t enjoy a majority.

Modu urged the audience to move beyond the traditional bilateral trading relationship.

“Let us move beyond merely the export-import relationship. Joint investment, technology transfers are areas that we should explore,” Modi said.

Ahead of Sunday’s bilateral talks, Khalid bib Abdul Aziz Al-Falih, Saudi health minister and chairman of Saudi oil major Saudi Aramco, met Modi and said that India was the number one target for investmen for his company.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir also called on the prime minister.

Five agreements were also signed between the two countries, including ones on labour cooperation and sharing intelligence on terror financing and money laundering.

Modi started his second day in Saudi Arabia by visiting the Tata Consultancy Services’ (TCS) all-women IT centre here.

“I am meeting those professionals who are now the glory of Saudi Arabia,” Modi said after he was welcomed with cheers by women at the centre.

“This atmosphere I am witnessing here today has the potential to give a strong message to the world.”

Saudi Arabia is the third and last leg of Modi’s five-day, three-nation foreign tour which also took him to Brussels and Washington, D.C.

In Brussels, he attended the 13th India-European Union (EU) Summit and held a bilateral meeting with Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel, and then in Washington he participated in the Nuclear Security Summit hosted by US President Barack Obama.

This is the first prime ministerial visit from India to the oil-rich Gulf kingdom since the visit of Manmohan Singh in 2010.

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