Amid efforts to position India globally and to isolate Pakistan and its policy of using terrorism as state policy, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia keeps strategic importance in terms of re-balancing geo-political scenario in the region. India’s relations with Saudi Arabia have been in positive direction over the last two decades based on growing energy ties and the Indian diaspora present in the Saudi kingdom. India’s efforts to strengthen ties with Saudi Arabia have far reaching implications. In recent times India’s relations with the gulf countries have become increasingly prominent. Counter-terrorism cooperation has emerged as a fundamental pillar of the India-Saudi Arabia partnership. Saudi Arabia’s crucial help in the evacuation of Indians from Yemen is also an important indication towards strengthening ties between both the countries.
Another important factor India’s relation with Saudi Arabia is Pakistan. However, Saudi Arabia is cautious in balancing ties between Pakistan and India. Pakistani establishment is trying to bolster ties with Saudi Arabia after a brief period of tension. Strategically, it is very important India to strengthen economic and security cooperation with Riyadh. India is taking efforts to bolster relationship with gulf countries that can act as a counterweight to Pakistan.
Saudi Arabia has already agreed to double oil exports to India, which will cut India’s dependence on Iran. However, India is cautiously ensuring a balancing act with Riyadh and Tehran. On the other hand, the US has already made it clear that it is no longer dependent on Saudi oil. The US may get closer with Iran especially after sanctions are lifted.
India and Saudi Arabia’s bilateral trade was at $39.4 billion in 2014-15. The gulf region has been very critical for India for decades. The region has been a source of energy, jobs, remittances, and military equipment, and holds religious significance for tens of millions of Indians. Indian IT companies are building capacity in Saudi Arabia. TCS is running an all-women business process operations center in Saudi Arabia.
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