India Saudi Arabia Meeting

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    • Recently, the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia and the External Affairs Minister of India held a meeting in New Delhi.

    Key Points of the Meeting

    • This is the first ministerial visit from Saudi Arabia to India since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. 
    • Both ministers discussed all issues related to their bilateral relationship (in multilateral forums such as the United Nations, G-20 and Gulf Cooperation Council) and regional and international issues of mutual interest. 
    • Two main topics were discussed:
      • The evolving situation in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover, the Gulf and the Indo-Pacific region
      • Collaboration in the two nation’s fight against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
    • The two ministers reviewed the implementation of the Strategic Partnership Council Agreement signed between the two sides during the visit of the PM of India to Saudi Arabia in October 2019.
    • Discussions were held on steps to strengthen their partnership in trade, investment, energy, defence, security, culture, consular issues, healthcare and human resources.
    • Riyadh statement:
      • Saudi Arabia, which was one of three countries to have recognised the Taliban in its previous regime between 1996 and 2001, has, since mid-August, been extremely calibrated about its statements on Afghanistan.
    • New Delhi statement:
      • New Delhi is hoping that Riyadh will be able to exercise its influence over Pakistan in controlling the Taliban.
      • From India’s perspective, Saudi Arabia has emerged as an important partner in the Gulf as both have expanded their bilateral ties in political, economic and strategic fields.

    Strategic Partnership Council Agreement

    • India-Saudi Strategic Partnership Council was formed to coordinate on strategically important issues. 
    • The council will be headed by the Prime Minister and Crown Prince Mohammed and will meet every two years.
    • India is the fourth country with which Saudi Arabia has formed such a strategic partnership, after the UK, France and China.
    • Significance:
      • It will significantly boost strategic ties between India and Saudi Arabia and will open new avenues of partnership in strategic areas such as defence, counter-terrorism, energy security as well as renewable energy.
      • The Agreement will enable leadership at the highest level in both India & Saudi Arabia to meet regularly as well as monitor progress in ongoing initiatives/projects under a strategic partnership. 
      • It will also help identify new areas for forging strategic engagement and will define goals to be achieved and benefits to be derived. 
      • The proposal aims to benefit citizens with improved economic and commercial linkages with Saudi Arabia irrespective of any gender/class/income bias.

    (Image courtesy: World Atlas )

    India-Saudi Arabia Relations

    • Strategic Partner: 
      • Saudi Arabia has been a strategic partner of India since the signing of the Riyadh Declaration in 2010.
    • Trade:
      • By 1000 AD, the trade relations between southern India and Arabia flourished and became the backbone of the Arabian economy.
      • Arab traders held a monopoly over the spice trade between India and Europe until the rise of European imperialist empires.
      • India was one of the first nations to establish ties with the Third Saudi State.
      • Currently, it is India’s 4th largest trade partner. 
    • Crude oil:
      • It is currently India’s second-largest supplier of crude oil – providing about 18 % of its energy needs. It also has a major role in India’s Strategic Petroleum Reserves (SPRs).
      • The largest supplier of crude oil is Iraq.
    • LPG requirements:
      • 32% of the LPG requirements of India are met by Saudi Arabia. 
    • Indian expatriates:
      • The 2.6 million-strong Indian community in Saudi Arabia is the largest expatriate community in the Kingdom and is the ‘most preferred community’ due to their expertise, sense of discipline, law-abiding and peace-loving nature.
    • Pilgrimage and culture:
      • Haj pilgrimage is another important component of bilateral relations.
      • Trade and cultural links between ancient India and Arabia dating back to the third millennium BC.

    Need for Cooperation

    • Afghan Peace Process:
      • Being a major regional player, Saudi Arabia’s position on the developments in Kabul assumes significance as several countries in the Gulf region, including Qatar and Iran, were playing a role in the Afghan peace process before the Taliban’s capture of power.
    • Economic Reform:
      • Economic reform programs are underway in Saudi Arabia, for which it needs India’s economic as well as technological assistance.
    • Investments:
      • Saudi investment of around $100 billion is in the pipeline in areas ranging from energy, refining, petrochemicals and infrastructure to agriculture, minerals and mining.
    • Countering Militias: 
      • Saudi Arabia appears to have limited experience in countering threats from groups like Houthi militias. 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.
      • Also, India needs Saudi Arabia to support India’s efforts against terrorism and against Pakistan. Saudi Arabia is an influential nation in the 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.

    Challenges

    • The politics of the Middle East is complex and multidimensional so requires a collective and united effort.
    • The Saudi Arabia-Turkey rivalry could create problems for India.
    • Saudi Arabia-Iran Rivalry: India has close relations with both Saudi Arabia and Iran. However, India is yet to work out a way to balance its ties with Iran on the one hand and Saudi Arabia and the United States on the other. 

     

    Conclusion

    • Overall, India-Saudi Arabia defence cooperation has considerably picked up the pace.
    • The defence ties between the two countries are growing in the midst of rapidly changing developments in the Gulf region.
    • It will enhance bilateral cooperation and security in the Indian ocean Region.

    AL – Mohed AL – Hindi

    • Maiden bilateral naval exercise between India and Saudi Arabia.
    • Held recently (August 2021).
    • Indian Naval Ship (INS) Kochi participated in the exercise. 

    Source: IE