[Answered] “India’s relations with Saudi Arabia are one of the most important bilateral relationships in its extended neighbourhood.” Evaluate.

Demand of the question
Introduction. Contextual Introduction.
Body. Why is Saudi Arabia significant to India? What are the key areas of cooperation?
Conclusion. Way forward.

Since its independence, India has sought to maintain strong ties with Saudi Arabia, an important regional power and trading base in West Asia. Relations between the two countries are rooted in strong historical and civilisational links. Saudi Arabia is also home to more than 1.4 million Indian workers. The mutually beneficial partnership encompasses active cooperation in a wide spectrum of spheres.

Why is Saudi Arabia significant to India?

  1. Indian Diaspora: The 2.7 million strong Indian community is the largest expatriate group in Saudi Arabia. They send remittances of over US $11 billion annually to India.
  2. Counter-terrorism: India needs Saudi Arabia to support India’s efforts against terrorism and against Pakistan. Saudi Arabia is an influential nation in Middle East and Muslim World. Riyadh has largely shown an understanding of India’s terrorism-related concerns, and has agreed to work with India in countering the global menace.
  3. Strategic significance: Saudi is geographically located near Strait of Hormuz. This is world’s most important oil artery and strategically important for India’s energy security.
  4. Investment: Saudi has one of the largest Sovereign Fund in the World. It is an important nation to invest fund in India particularly in National Infrastructure and Investment fund (NIIF). India needs fund for its infrastructure sector.
  5. Against Pakistan: Saudi Arabia has a substantial influence over Pakistan. India can use this influence to bring Pakistan to negotiating table for talks on terrorism and bilateral relations.
  6. Energy: Saudi Arabia is a source of 17% or more of crude oil and 32% of LPG requirements of India and thus a key pillar of India’s energy security. With US sanctions on Iran, India needs to import crude oil from other sources to meet its energy need. Saudi Arabia have offered India with additional crude oil supplies to meet India’s growing needs.
  7. Cultural: The Saudi Kingdom facilitates Hajj pilgrimage to over 1,75,000 Indians every year. This is one of the other reasons why Saudi Arabia is an important country for India.
  8. Exports: Other areas of interest for joint collaboration are fertilisers, food security, infrastructure, renewable energy, etc. ICT, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, electronic and manufacturing facilities, and housing are other potential areas of enhanced cooperation.

What are the key areas of cooperation?

Relations between the two countries are rooted in strong historical and civilisational links. The mutually beneficial partnership encompasses active cooperation in a wide spectrum of spheres.

  1. The Riyadh Declaration of 2010 had forged a Strategic Partnership between India and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has identified India as one of the 8 strategic partners.
  2. It intends to deepen partnership in areas of political engagement, security, trade and investment, and culture. As part of this engagement, the two sides are finalising the setting up of a Strategic Partnership Council at the Ministerial level.
  3. With India’s growing economic, political and strategic interests, it cannot stay aloof for long with current geopolitical environment in Middle East, whether it is war in Yemen to strained ties of UAE and others with Qatar and Iran. India will have to engage more vigorously with developments in the region.
  4. Any kind of extended crisis in region will not just affect India’s energy security but also create insecurity among large Indian Diasporas. This has to be a priority for India’s foreign policy makers.

Indian Diaspora has been an important driver of Saudi’s economy, from labour force to investments. India should use them as soft power for furthering Indian interests. India Saudi relationships are indeed going through golden phase but the former needs to maintain an incremental approach in furthering the interest of both. Short-term and long-term interest should form a proper mix in this approach.

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