Deepen ties with Saudi

Saudi’s investments in India will mean a mutually beneficial engagement while its flow into Pakistan is only meant to bail out Islamabad

AuthorPublished: 21st Feb 2019  12:12 amUpdated: 20th Feb 2019  9:14 pm

India must use the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to push the anti-terror agenda as part of diplomatic efforts to isolate Pakistan against the backdrop of Pulwama tragedy. After his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the two countries identified terrorism as their common concern and reiterated the enduring and independent nature of the bilateral relationship. Significantly, Riyadh pledged to cooperate with New Delhi in all possible ways, including intelligence sharing, to counter terrorism. This is an occasion to push for deepening strategic partnership on the back of growing security cooperation and intelligence-sharing. It is also heartening that Saudi Arabia is not seeking to hyphenate its ties with India and Pakistan and is looking at an investment opportunity of $100 billion in various sectors in India in the coming few years. India has been identified as one of the eight strategic partners with whom Saudi Arabia hopes to deepen partnership in terms of security, trade, investment and culture. The visit of MBS is being closely watched after his two-day tour in Pakistan, where he praised Islamabad’s efforts for “regional peace and security” just days after a dastardly terror attack in Kashmir’s Pulwama by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad. While the Saudis still rely on Pakistan to supply their nuclear arsenal, they have seen the limits of Pakistan’s utility as a military ally. Saudi Arabia is also aware that India is a far more important partner in the long term. It has already condemned the Pulwama attack and is quite aware of the fact that India is a much bigger commercial and strategic prize.

India imports 20% of its crude requirements from Saudi Arabia. The overall bilateral trade exceeds $25 billion. The two sides have sealed agreements related to investment, tourism, housing, and broadcasting. There is already an agreement on cooperation with intelligence-gathering on money laundering and terrorism financing. There has been active intelligence and security cooperation and many instances of terror suspects such as Lashkar-e-Taiba operative Abu Sufyan and Indian Mujahedeen member Zainul Abedin being sent back to India. Delhi’s relations with Riyadh should not be compared with those of Islamabad where investment deals worth $20 billion were signed during Crown Prince’s visit to help Pakistan’s cash-strapped economy. While Saudi’s investments in a robust economy like India will mean a mutually beneficial engagement, its flow into Pakistan is only meant to bail out Islamabad from crisis. Saudi Arabia hosts more than three million Indians who remit roughly $10 billion annually. Good relations with Riyadh and other West Asian capitals are essential for the welfare of the expatriate Indian community. India must leverage its strength and global standing to get the international community on its side and completely isolate Pakistan on terrorism.