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Modis stimulus to Indo-Saudi relation through Security & Economic Paradigm
Siddharth Singh
2016-04-06
Region : Middle East-North Africa, India,
Issue : Security, Terrorism,
India and Saudi Arabia are the two regional powers who have nurtured their bilateral relationship in the past through trade and commerce, cultural exchanges and people to people engagements. With the passage of time, the two countries evolved their engagements into a more nuanced and diversified areas such as energy, migration, trade and investment, security, defence, counterterrorism and capacity building. The Saudi perception of India has also undergone a change over the years. With the end of the Cold War and the emergence of a stable India in the world scene, Saudi Arabia has realised the importance and potential of India. Saudi Arabia has expressed its faith in the Indian democratic structure and steady economic growth.
Indo-Saudi political relations remained “tenuous” during the initial years of the post-Cold War period due to the Kashmir issue as Saudi supported Pakistan on the Kashmir issue. In the recent years, however, shift in Saudi Arabian approach toward India and Pakistan, and particularly in relation to the Kashmir issue, have given way to understand the need for exploring the existing political opportunities. Today, Saudi Arabia calls for resolving the difference on the Kashmir issue bilaterally based on the existing Shimla and Lahore agreements confirms with New Delhi’s stand.
The new millennium came with a new dawn in relationship with the signing of the Riyadh declaration, termed the start of a “new era of strategic partnership”. The declaration which was signed between the then Indian Prime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and his Majesty King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia in 2010, actually set a road map for a closer Indo-Saudi bilateral partnership. However, close analysis of Indo-Saudi partnership assume greater significant not only because both countries are inspired to play greater roles in contemporary regional and International politics, but it goes beyond that. Beside these, the commonalities between the two in term of huge geographical size, large population, strong economy, growing military power, and most importantly ‘special relationship’ with the USA, provided a strong base for the further enhancement of the strategic partnership. From the Indian perspective Saudi Arabia is crucial not only for the energy security but strong ties with Kingdom of Saudi Arabia also provides India a unique platform for greater access to other countries of the region.
Indo-Saudi economic relations have shown remarkable growth with bilateral trade registering three-fold increase in the last five years. Saudi Arabia today is India’s 4th largest trade partner and is a major source of energy as India import around 20% of its crude oil requirement. During 2015-16, India’s bilateral trade almost reached USD 40 billion. Saudi Arabia is the 5th largest market in the world for Indian exports and is destination to approximately 4% of India’s global exports. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia is the source of almost 6% of India’s global imports. For Saudi Arabia, as per 2015 data, India is the 5th largest market for its exports, accounting for 8.9% of its global exports. In terms of imports by Saudi Arabia, India ranks 7th place. Indian IT companies are building capacity in Saudi Arabia, including an all-women business process operations center run by TCS as one example.
The 3 million plus strong Indian community in Saudi Arabia is the largest expatriate community in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and is the “most preferred community” due to their expertise, sense of discipline, law abiding and peace loving nature. The contribution made by Indian community to the development of Saudi Arabia is well acknowledged.
India and Saudi Arabia have developed a close understanding on the need to eradicating the menace of terrorism. Such understanding started to develop only after 9/11 attack. The counter-terrorism cooperation has seen a steady rise in the last one and half decade after 9/11 incident in terms of regular exchange of information and meetings with both internal and external security agencies of both countries. The two sides agreed to not only enhance cooperation in exchange of information relating to terrorist activities, money laundering, narcotics, arms and human trafficking, but also develop joint strategies to combat these threats. In other words Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy follow the principle of looking beyond its traditional allies and to build closer relations with other countries, especially with major Asian powers such as India on the issue of tackling terrorism.
India needs a close interaction with Saudi academia, particularly religious seminaries. A better understanding of ideology will certainly enable to give befitting answer to the propaganda and brainwashing of the susceptible youth falling to extremist traps. Both countries need regular exchange of scholars, social activists and develop a common media policy to counter the linkages between religious fundamentalism and extremism.
During PM Modi’s visit to Riyadh, India and Saudi Arabia also agreed to enhance cooperation so as to strengthen maritime security in the Gulf and the Indian Ocean regions which is vital for the security and prosperity of both countries. Both countries further agreed to promote bilateral collaboration for humanitarian assistance and evacuation in natural disasters and conflict situations.
Pakistan has been an important factor in the Indo-Saudi relationship from the very beginning. Often, Pakistan has played the Muslim card to consolidate its relationship with Saudi Arabia, and at the same time it has painted a bleak picture of India before Saudi Arabia. Pakistan has enjoyed cordial relations with Saudi Arabia, including liberal flow of aid from Riyadh and Pakistani forces guarding the Saudi royal palaces.
In conclusion, Partnership between India and Saudi Arabia are getting stronger and is expected to gain its momentum in the years to come. The economic complementarities are helping this relationship to grow stronger. The official visit of PM Narendra Modi to Saudi Arabia was mainly aimed at strengthening the economic and diplomatic ties between the two sides and in that he has succeeded. India and Saudi Arabia stands at a threshold of significant gains out of this partnership. It is the common interests and the mutual desire that have been the main driving force behind this partnership. Saudi Arabia’s strategic location in the Middle East and the political and economic power that it leverages as the largest repository of global oil reserves and the largest supplier of global oil supplies makes it an important partner for India. While India on the other side has undergone significant transformation that today New Delhi is being considered by many countries as the source of stability and security in Asia and the World at large. PM Modi’s visit will certainly enable the partnership of both countries to harness the vast potential of bilateral relations, drawing upon complementarities and each other's intrinsic strengths, and work together to address regional and global challenges.
Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of FORE INDIA
(Siddharth Singh is a Research Scholar in JNU and his Email ID is sidd4india@gmail.com)

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