indo-saudi arab relationships

A New Phase in Indo-Saudi Arabia Relationship

Indo-Saudi Arabia Relations are gaining a new sky in multidimensions because of the number of high-level visits by political leaders from both countries in recent years. It shows the strategic importance accorded by both countries to one another.

Developments in the Ties between Indo-Saudi Arab:

  • Earlier Indo-Saudi Arabia relations were based only upon oil-energy trade and Connectivity issues for Indian workers there.
  • Now, the relationship has become diverse in many areas, including defence, maritime security, counter-terrorism, science and technology, strategic oil reserves, investments, tourism, and people-to-people contacts so on.
  • Saudi Arabia is India’s second biggest supplier of oil after Iraq.
  • It is also now India’s fourth largest trading partner with bilateral trade at $27.48 billion in 2017-18.
  • Saudi Arab wants to investment of around $100 billion in areas ranging from energy, refining, petrochemicals and infrastructure to agriculture, minerals and mining. This is a partnership which is becoming truly strategic.
  •  India is the source of the largest expatriate community in Saudi Arabia with a 2.6 million-strong Indian diaspora. Unlike in the past, New Delhi is no longer diffident about leveraging its diaspora in its bilateral engagements.
  • “Hard-work and commitment” of the Indian community in Saudi Arabia have helped to generate a lot of goodwill for the overall bilateral relationship in strengthening the bilateral ties between the two nations.

indo-saudi arab relationships

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Need of India for Saudi Arabia-

  • For the mega economic reforms in Saudi Arabia, India can provide economic as well as technological assistance.

Need of Saudi Arabia for India-

  •  India is looking for Saudi investments in India’s petrochemicals, infrastructure, and mining sectors alongside cooperation in economic and security matters.

Relations of both countries turning to new road-

  • In the Cold War era, Indo-Saudi Arabia ties were mainly determined by the Pakistani factor. For decades, this prevented both India and Saudi Arabia from discovering the strategic importance of engaging one another.
  • But, over a period, they have begun to disentangle themselves from certain inhibitions of the past.
  • Both Country’s Government changed its view to Pragmatism and giving more importance to Development rather than past.
  • Now, Saudi Arabia is less interested in meddling in India’s internal affairs. This could be a reason why the Saudi government reportedly conveyed that it understood India’s approach and actions regarding the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • This neutral stance taken by Saudi Arabia is telling for India, particularly considering Pakistan’s concerted attempts to internationalize the issue.

Cooperation on Security Sector-

  • Both countries are facing cross-border terrorism (including seaborne threats). Saudi Arabia remains vulnerable to frequent missile and drone attacks on its civilian dwellings as well as on its major oil fields, including the strike on Aramco’s oil processing plant, Abqaiq, and the Khurais oilfield this year.
  • To counter above issue, both countries constitute a “Comprehensive Security Dialogue” at the NSA level and set up a Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism was timely. Further NSA level Dialogue can explore new areas of cooperation alongside reinforcing the already thriving bilateral engagements.
  • Both countries are facing multi-dimensional security threats, not only on land, air, and sea, but also in cyberspace.
  • Saudi Arabia, despite being one of the military powers in the Middle East and spending billions of dollars annually on arms purchase. And on the other hand India is ready to sell its defence items under Make in India mission.
  • Saudi Arabia have limited experience in countering threats from groups like Houthi militias, who have mastered guerrilla warfare tactics for several years. This is an area where India’s expertise in fighting such threats could be imparted to the Saudi side, by enhancing joint military training programs and exercises.
  • Saudi Arabia has interests to play arole in the Indian Ocean region, uplifting cooperation in the maritime security domain from the current status would be in the interest of both countries. Both navies will hold their first joint naval exercises either toward the end of 2019 or at the beginning of next year.
  • It is important from the prism of maritime security cooperation as well as to safeguard international trade via sea routes.indo-saudi-arabia-relationship

Cooperation in Space Technology-

  • ‘Space’ is an important domain where bilateral engagements could be strengthened. Remote sensing, satellite communication, and satellite-based navigation are some of the areas where both countries could jointly work and mutually benefit.
  • India’s ISRO is famous for its Space programs. So India could explore the possibility to engage with the newly established Saudi Space Agency, which is expected to become the focal point for all programs related to Saudi’s international space cooperation.
  • In Saudi Arab,The King Abdulaziz City of Science and Technology(KACST), is responsible for “satellite manufacturing and research and development, as well as for implementing and managing space science and exploration research and missions”.
  • The kingdom is focusing on developing its potential in the field of space technology, it could turn for assistance toward countries with advanced experience in space science, including India.
  • Remote sensing, satellite communication, and satellite-based navigation are some of the areas where both countries could jointly work and mutually benefit.

Cooperation in Economic Sector-

  • Pragmatism is dictating Saudi posture as the future of its economic model is at stake. It needs new partners such as India.
  • Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) decision to sell a 20 per cent stake in its oil-to-chemicals business to Saudi Aramco at an enterprise value of $75 billion made it one of the biggest Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) deals in the country.
  • Future Investment Initiative is Saudi Arabia’s annual investment forum, which is also known as ‘Davos in the Desert’. The Prime Minister of India also invited Saudi companies to invest in India’s energy sector as India has set a target of $100 billion investment in the sector by 2024.

Cooperation in the Energy Sector-

  • Saudi Arabia is keen to play a role in the creation of strategic petroleum reserves at Padur in Karnataka.
  • A study is being conducted for the setting up of the world’s largest Greenfield refinery at Raigarh, Maharashtra by Saudi Aramco, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) of the United Arab Emirates and Indian public sector oil companies.

Cooperation in People to People Contacts-

  • Saudi Arabia increased the Haj quota for the pilgrims from India to 2 lakh.
  • Indian worker community generated a lot of goodwill for its “Hard-work and commitment”, which can be encash in strengthening the bilateral ties between the two nations.

Way Forward:

  • India and Saudi Arabia are gradually scaling new heights by wielding their foreign policies with craftsmanship. Now, Development and own country’s economy is the key factor in ties.
  • Realpolitik and the strategic interests of both sides have been instrumental in bringing the ties closer than ever before.
  • Both governments have become cognizant of the fact that they have more to gain by solely focusing on their national interests, rather than letting their bilateral ties be dictated by a third party.

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