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India- Saudi Arabia Relation

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November 02, 2023

Why in news?

Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia visited India for participating in G20 summit and also co-chaired the 1st meeting of India- Saudi Arabia Strategic Partnership along with Indian PM.

What are the pillars of India- Saudi Arabia relationship?

  • Historical ties - The two countries established diplomatic relations in 1947 and 2021-22 marked 75 years of establishment of diplomatic relations.
  • Delhi Declaration in 2006 was a watershed moment in India – Saudi Arabia relationship.
  • Riyadh Declaration in 2010 elevated bilateral ties to a strategic partnership.
  • Diplomatic relationship - Saudi Arabia’s highest civilian honour, the King Abdulaziz Sash was awarded to Indian PM Narendra Modi.
  • The visit of Crown Prince to India in February 2019 allowed investment of approximately 100 billion dollars in India and enabled the kingdom to join in International Solar Alliance (ISA).

The International Solar Alliance (ISA) was a joint effort by India and France to mobilize efforts against climate change through deployment of solar energy solutions. It is guided by its ‘Towards 1000’ strategy.

  • Strategic Partnership Council (SPC) Agreement, signed in 2019 established a high-level council to steer the Indo-Saudi relationship.
  • Economic Ties – India is Saudi Arabia’s 2nd largest trade partner and Saudi Arabia is India’s 4th largest trade partner.
  • As of January 2022, there were 2,783 Indian companies registered as joint ventures/ 100% owned entities with investments worth approximately $2 billion in the kingdom.
  • Among the major proposed investments is the $44 billion West Coast Refinery & Petrochemicals Project in Maharashtra, which is being jointly built by Saudi Aramco and an Indian consortium.
  • Energy cooperation – Saudi Arabia is a key partner for ensuring India’s energy security.
  • Saudi Arabia was India’s 3rd largest crude and petroleum products source for FY23.
  • India also imports LPG from Saudi Arabia.
  • Defence Partnership - Two editions of the bilateral naval exercise, Al Mohed al Hindi, have been concluded so far.
  • Diaspora – The Indian community is more than 2.4 million and is the largest expatriate community in the Kingdom.
  • India’s e-Migrate system integrated with the Kingdom’s e-Thawtheeq system to streamline the migration process for workers.
  • Saudi Arabia supported in evacuation of Indian nationals stranded in Sudan through Jeddah under Operation Kaveri.
  • Cultural Relationship – Indian Cultural Week was organized in Riyadh in collaboration with the Saudi Ministry of Culture in 2012.
  • India participated as the ‘Guest of Honour’ at the prestigious Saudi National Festival of Heritage and Culture – Janadriyah in 2018.
  • Counter terrorism – Both nations stressed the importance of combating terrorism and it’s financing.
  • They emphasized that terrorism, in all its forms, remains one of the gravest threats to humanity.

saudi-arabia

What about the recent developments?

The two sides signed 8 agreements aftermath of G20 Summit in 2023.

  • Diplomatic Ties – 1st meeting of the India-Saudi Arabia Strategic Partnership Council.
  • Energy Ties – Both agreed upon upgrading their hydrocarbon energy partnership to a comprehensive energy partnership for renewable, petroleum and strategic reserves.
  • Investment promotion – Both agreed to create a joint task force for $100 billion in Saudi investment.
  • Currency convertibility – Discussion for possibility of trading in local currencies.
  • Trade agreements – Both were expediting negotiations for a free trade agreement between India and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) of which Saudi Arabia is a member.

GCC is a regional political and economic alliance of 6 countries in the Gulf region - Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain.

IMEC is a massive infrastructure project that would connect India to Europe via West Asia, and could rival China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

  • Global peace and stability – Both nations stressed the importance of achieving security and stability in Afghanistan.
  • Cooperation Agreements – Cooperation between
    • India’s Central Vigilance Commission and Saudi’s anti-corruption unit,
    • Investment entities, small and medium enterprises banks,
    • National Archives of the two countries, and on
    • Desalination and renewable energy

What are the concerns?

  • The political scenario of the West Asia or Middle East are complex and multidimensional.
    • Example: Saudi Arabia is rival with Iran and Turkey.
  • India has close ties with both Saudi Arabia and Iran and thereby straining the relationship at times.
  • Increased engagement of kingdom with China as it is their biggest trading partner.
  • Riyadh still helps Pakistan with economic aid.

What lies ahead?

  • India should frame a dedicated policy for west Asia on similar lines of Act East Policy.
  • Saudi Arabia is consolidating its partnership with the US, India, and Europe which need be encouraged.
  • India should use every opportunity to engage with Saudi Arabia for energy security and for maintaining peace in the neighbourhood.

 

References

  1. IE| India-Saudi Arabia Ties
  2. Ministry of External Affairs| Bilateral Relations
  3. Embassy of India, Riyadh| India- Saudi Bilateral ties
  4. World atlas | Image
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