Red rose similar to Acche din? Saudi Arabia: India’s Desert Rose

By Satish Misra, in New Indian Express, 03rd April 2016

                 (Note:  Desert Rose is replete with healing and hurtful images which have a great deal of relevance for Saudi Arabia the richest nation in the sandi-waste, as some used to describe the middle east. Saudi is the top oil producing nation in the world. If money is power which comes to Saudi like water from the sea, there is nothing and no power in the world which it cannot  buy for a pittance. That accounts for the unbreakable cordiality US accords to Saudi. Their running after for profit is best described by the taunt:  “Americans have more money than brains.” They won’t  break up good relationships which would result in loss of profit or a cut in the “Ache Din”. Can you think of good times without money? In spite of all the anit-Moslem  rhetorics and atrocities  bandied about  by a lawless hindutva brigade at home who feels secure under Modiji, how can any one fault him for the Ache Netha image he has created for India in the comity of nations today, especially among Muslim countries not cultivated much  by former Indian Prime Ministers? One has to say: “Hats off to you Modiji for the untiring determination you show to embrace every Muslim nation in the Middle East starting with the UAE-Dubai conglomerate, the most advanced, culturally and economically to Saudi Arabia which cultivates all, including terrorists around the world, as a tactic to cultivate “Ache din” with everybody. It should not be now long for Modiji to visit Iran, the archenemy of Saudi because for the one who preaches and James Kottorpromotes “Ache din” there can’t be any enimies  or untouchables who are financially well off.  We wish that Modiji cultivates that kind of oprneness, outreach and embrace to all fighting factions in the country  because for the PM no Indian can be an alien but one worthy of equal share of the PM’s love and care. james kottoor, editor)

PM Narendra Modi’s two-day trip to Saudi Arabia, fourth by an Indian PM, highlights the focus that New Delhi attaches to the country. Ties with the region as a whole and particularly with the Gulf countries have received due attention from the BJP-led NDA government.

Ongoing political instability, turmoil, religious conflicts and the rise of Islamic State in West Asia have thrown serious challenges to policymakers in South Block and thus journey to Riyadh is the continuation of the country’s engagement with the region. Reported cases of Indian youth eithing joined the IS ranks or having been radicalised on line have made the problem more complex. 

The PM had visited UAE in August 2015, which had paved the way for intensification of security and economic cooperation between the two countries. Ministerial visits have also taken place to Oman and Bahrain. Diplomatic engagements with Turkey, Israel, Egypt and Syria have also expanded.

Modi’s delegation-level talks with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who the former met in November 2014 on the sidelines of G-20 meeting in Brisbane, covered areas of trade, investment, energy, defence and security.

Relations with Saudi Arabia have been growing steadily since the visit of King Abdullah to India in 2006—the first Saudi monarch to come after a hiatus of 51 years. PM Manmohan Singh’s reciprocal visit in 2010 raised the level of bilateral engagement to ‘strategic partnership’ for cooperation in political, economic, security and defence realms.

India’s rise as a major economic power made Saudi Arabia realise that New Delhi could not only be a strategic economic partner but also a potential bridging power, with it playing a useful role for regional peace and stability.

Today Riyadh is the fifth largest market for India’s exports—3.6 per cent of its global exports go to Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia is India’s larger supplier of oil and the source of 6.30 per cent of its global imports

Similarly, bilateral investments have also been on the rise. Saudi Arabia is the 50th biggest investor in India with investments between 2000 and 2015 amounting to $53.37 billion. According to Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, 426 licences have been issued to Indian companies for joint ventures and 100 per cent-owned entities, bringing investment to the tune of $1.6 billion. Tata Consultancy Services is running an all-female BPO service centre in Riyadh since 2013 and is providing employment to almost 3,000 women.

While trade and educational relations have been growing, security and intelligence sharing between the two countries has been a positive development in the background of rise of terrorism in the region. Deportation of Zabiuddin Ansari (Abu Jundal), an accused in the 2008 Mumbai attack and other cases, in 2012 by Saudi Arabia was a watermark in security cooperation as it was done despite the opposition from Islamabad as Ansari was carrying a Pakistani passport. Since then, many suspects have been deported for their involvement in terror financing or radicalisation activities.   

While Modi’s journey to Saudi Arabia and UAE are positive steps in the backdrop of developments in West Asia, Iran, which is yet another strategically important dimension of the region, has so far remained out of focus for India’s foreign policy establishment. It is time Iran too received attention of the PM. The writer is Senior Fellow at New Delhi-based Think-tank Observer  Research  Foundation.

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