A fresh page was turned in the growing trade and banking ties between Saudi Arabia and India with the formal inauguration of the Jeddah branch of the Indian banking giant — State Bank of India (SBI) on Wednesday. Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA) Deputy Gov. for Technical Affairs Abdul Rahman Al-Khalaf, on behalf of the SAMA governor, declared the branch open. He said: “It is indeed a pleasure to launch the commercial operation of one of India’s largest banks.” “The opening of the bank’s first branch in Jeddah is also a clear manifestation of growing trade and commercial ties between Saudi Arabia and India, while also indicating that the two nations economies are robust and healthy,” Al-Khalaf said in his speech while dedicating the branch. The fact that both the countries were able to withstand the global financial turmoil is largely due to the sound, solid systems in both the nations, Al-Khalaf said, adding that strong regulatory systems also contributed to the robust economies. While stressing the steep growth in bilateral trade — SR23 billion in 2010 up 31.7 percent from SR17.6 billion in 2009, Al-Khalaf said the bank should use this opportunity to boost the existing linkages between both the countries. Indian Ambassador to the Kingdom Hamid Ali Rao, guest of honor, said it was fitting that the opportunity and honor to become the first Indian bank to operate in Saudi Arabia has gone to SBI. He too citied the growing trade ties between the two nations while calling on investors from both countries to use SBI as a via media to increase investment on either side. After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Jeddah branch General Manager J. Parameshwarappa said in his welcome address: “Our special thanks to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for giving us permission to set up the first Indian bank in the Kingdom, and we are grateful to the Saudi Arabian Monetary Agency (SAMA), the regulators, for their support in making our dream come true,” While, SBI Managing Director for International Banking and Group Executive Hemant Contractor too thanked SAMA for its support in establishing the branch, while stressing that the bank would be concentrating on corporate, retail and remittances. “The Saudi market is a growth driver for the entire GCC, and with the Kingdom hosting a number of Indian expatriates and the existing strong linkages between India and Saudi Arabia in every field has thrown up tremendous business opportunities for our bank,” he added. While promising excellent services to customers, he said, “A slew of services on both sides of the balance sheet and beyond balance sheet as well will be on offer. And we have a special product for remittances i.e. “\'SBI Super Remit’, which is really super.” SBI Managing Director for National Banking and Group Executive A. Krishna Kumar in his concluding remarks too promised a range of products and services, while stressing that SBI had a 30 percent share in global remittances, “And we hope to add to our kitty with this branch here.” Earlier, Consul General of India Faiz Ahmad Kidwai launched the bank’s website and Lulu Group Managing Director M. A. Yusuff Ali launched the bank’s net banking services.