India has declared a day of mourning and voiced deep sadness at the death of late Saudi monarch King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, a close friend of New Delhi, whose tenure saw a marked transformation in India-Saudi ties.
Underlining its solidarity with Saudi Arabia, home to the largest Indian expatriate community in the Middle East, the government has sent Vice-President Hamid Ansari, a former Indian ambassador to Riyadh, for the funeral of the late king. “India has maintained close and friendly relations with Saudi Arabia under the leadership of King Abdullah. These bonds have been especially strengthened by the presence of the large expatriate Indian community which has found a home in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” said a statement by India’s Ministry of External Affairs.
The multi-faceted relations between India and Saudi Arabia were transformed after the path-breaking visit of King Abdullah as the chief guest at India’s Republic Day parade in 2006, the first trip by a Saudi monarch to India in over half a century. The visit elevated India-Saudi Arabia relations to the level of strategic partnership and firmed up a template of security and counter-terror cooperation.
King Abdullah’s visit culminated in the Delhi Declaration, the first international agreement personally initialled by the then custodian of the two holy mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud.
The Delhi Declaration imbued the ties with a “broad strategic vision” that included active cooperation in combating terrorism, a strategic energy partnership and dealing with regional issues from a broader global perspective.
Saudi Arabia is critical to India’s energy security as the Gulf country supplies over 30 per cent of the country’s oil imports.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee have sent messages of condolences to King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, who has succeeded him.
“In King Abdullah, we have lost an important voice, who left a lasting impact on his country. I condole his demise,” said Prime Minister Modi in a message. “Our thoughts are with the people of Saudi Arabia, who have lost a guiding force in King Abdullah, during this hour of grief. A few days ago I spoke to Crown Prince Salman and enquired about King Abdullah’s health. News of King Abdullah’s passing away is saddening,” he added.
“In his passing away, Saudi Arabia had lost a beloved leader, India a close friend and the world, an elder statesman,” said President Mukherjee. “King Abdullah had genuine warmth and affection for India and our people. He was personally committed to improving bilateral ties with India,” a statement from Rashtrapati Bhavan said.
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