Tilting towards the Saudis

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s check out to Saudi Arabia, perhaps the leader of the Sunni Muslim nations in West Asia, clearly sets out the priorities of his government’s policy for the region. The Riyadh journey came 8 months after Mr. Modi went to the United Arab Emirates, another Gulf nation and a member of the Saudi camp.

Historically, India’s West Asia policy has actually been multi-directional. Even when New Delhi warmed up to Israel in the 1990s as part of the nation’s efforts to diversify its diplomatic engagement in the post-Soviet world, it was careful not to jeopardize the traditional relations with Muslim countries.

Ties with Iran, however, took a beating throughout the sanctions years when New Delhi cut its energy cooperation significantly despite its vitality and big energy potential. It was throughout the same time that India grew cooperation with the Saudis. Mr. Modi’s check out to Riyadh ought to be seen against this background. His government seems following the local policy set by its instant predecessor. This method, while not totally quitting the tri-directional structure, is tilted more to the Saudi camp and Israel. Mr. Modi is anticipated to travel to Israel this year, the very first see by an Indian Prime Minister to the Jewish country. Numerous see the journey to Riyadh as part of New Delhi’s stabilizing act in between the Saudis and the Israelis. On the other side, there seems a total absence of interest on India’s part to reboot ties with Iran after international sanctions on the country were removed following the nuclear deal.

The Saudi significance

To be sure, there’s an agreement in India’s diplomacy establishment that preserving vibrant ties with Saudi Arabia is imperative to its national interest. Today, Saudi Arabia is India’s biggest supplier of crude oil. That India depends on imports to fulfill around 70 per cent of the nation’s energy need itself makes Riyadh an important player in the country’s pursuit for energy security. India is the biggest recipient of foreign remittances from the kingdom. Of the 11 million Indians working in West Asia, nearly 3 million are in Saudi Arabia. Therefore, stability in the area, and particularly in Saudi Arabia, is high on India’s core agenda. However bilateral relations have surpassed the financial realm in recent years, obtaining a tactical sense and pushing both countries to intensify their security collaboration.

For years, India was a passive player in West Asia a recipient of good relationships with multiple actors. In spite of the growing economic ties, political contacts in between Saudi Arabia and India were at minimum till the Manmohan Singh federal government took office in 2004. West Asia acquired terrific significance in Dr. Singh’s world view; he even selected an unique envoy for the entire area. The January 2006 go to of the late King, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, to Delhi set a brand-new tone for bilateral ties. Dr. Singh reciprocated the visit in 2010 the first Indian Prime Minister checking out Saudi Arabia in nearly 30 years and signed the Riyadh Declaration, which set the framework for improved cooperation in the security, defense and financial spheres. Since then, there has actually been marked improvement in security cooperation and intelligence sharing between India and Saudi Arabia. Riyadh also extradited numerous terror presumes to India in a clear departure from its recognized policy towards New Delhi.

The broader framework for reactivating India s Saudi ties was set in the post-9/ 11 worlds where counter-terror cooperation ended up being a new diplomatic standard between terror-affected countries. Dr. Singh found it a chance to deepen security ties with Sunni Muslim countries, and Mr. Modi seems taking this policy a step forward. The primary focus of his trips to both the UAE and Saudi Arabia was counter-terrorism. Both Abu Dhabi and Riyadh are Pakistan’s historic allies. The joint statements, provided in August with the UAE and this week with Riyadh, are unsurprisingly similar. And both have indirect references to Pakistan’s dual policy towards terrorism. It is clear that Mr. Modi is giving a Pakistan spin to the Act West Asia policy of his predecessor. India’s objective seems to construct a counter-terror narrative in diplomatic engagements with Pakistan’s close allies which could make complex the latter’s foreign policy. India would likewise not prefer to remain on the margins at a time when China is raising its profile in West Asia. Chinese President Xi Jinping recently visited Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iran. The relationship in between Beijing and Tehran is especially going strong.

Enhanced ties with India are vital for Saudi Arabia. In this context, India is a crucial market for Saudi Arabia. Pakistan also refused to sign up with Saudi Arabia’s war union that has actually been battle Yemen for the previous one year in the name of battling the Iran-backed Shia rebels.

The sore points

Will Saudi Arabia abandon Pakistan and assistance India’s positions in multinational online forums? The Saudis might like to use their growing relations with India to put pressure on Pakistan, but a structural overhaul of Riyadh’s South Asia policy is not on the cards. If India, while reactivating its West Asia policy, looks just through the Pakistan prism, it may end up making strategic mistakes.

While Saudi Arabia knocks all forms of terrorism, Saudi money is funding Wahhabi Islamic groups around the world. Saudi Arabia s aggressive foreign policy in West Asia under King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud is doing terrific damage to local stability, which is India s most vital objective in the region.

In Syria, the Saudi assistance for the rebels has played a crucial role in destabilizing the regime, resulting in the increase of the Islamic State. In Yemen, the war has actually released chaos and a humanitarian disaster, creating conditions for radicalism to thrive.

So Saudi Arabia is not constantly a source of stability in West Asia, it is a disruptor too. India will have to factor these developments in its general West Asia approach. The very best way to do it is to bring back the balance in its West Asia policy.


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