NEW DELHI (Reuters) -A new ports and railway corridor for the Middle East and South Asia will include train links to India, an Indian foreign ministry official said on Monday, offering new details about the plan unveiled over the weekend at the G20 summit in Delhi.
Asked about the proposals, Ausaf Sayeed, a secretary in the Foreign Ministry, spelled out that the corridor would include trains to India and not just links by port.
“India would be connected by railroads is the right interpretation, rather than India building the railroads,” he said in response to a question at a media briefing.
The multinational rail and ports deal, which includes as members the United States, Saudi Arabia, India, the European Union and the United Arab Emirates, is being viewed as a response to China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative.
The corridor would be “the equivalent of the Silk Route and Spice Road,” Saudi Investment Minister Khalid Al Falih said at an event in New Delhi later in the day, adding that it will provide “greater energy connectivity, green materials and processed and finished goods that will rebalance the global trade.”
During Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s state visit to New Delhi on Monday, India and Saudi Arabia also discussed the possibility of trading in local currencies and expediting the negotiations for a free trade agreement between India and the Gulf Cooperation Council, of which Saudi Arabia is a member.
Sayeed said the two countries signed eight agreements on Monday, including a pact to upgrade their hydrocarbon energy partnership to a comprehensive energy partnership for renewables, petroleum and strategic reserves.
Saudi Arabia is among the top exporters of petroleum to India.
They also agreed to create a joint task force for $100 billion in Saudi investment, half of which is earmarked for a delayed refinery project along India’s western coast, Sayeed said.
Sayeed said that new corridor will include ports, railways, better roads and also power, gas grids and optical fiber network.
During their talks earlier in the day the Indian leader and the Saudi crown prince also discussed cooperation in space, semiconductors and collaboration in defence manufacturing as well.
(Reporting by Shivam Patel, Krishn Kaushik, editing by Ed Osmond and Angus MacSwan)