RIYADH: Imparting a fresh ballast to their strategic and security partnership, India and Saudi Arabia, New Delhi’s top oil supplier and host of the nearly 3 million-strong Indian community, have signalled a paradigm shift in their counter-terror cooperation by signing a pact to target terror financing and jointly called for dismantling sanctuaries of terror.
The first full-spectrum talks between India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Saudi monarch King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud at the Royal Court in Riyadh on April 3 culminated in an all-embracing template for intensifying counter-terror cooperation that includes intelligence-sharing, joint action against illegal transfer of money and capacity-building to bolster cooperation in law enforcement, anti-money laundering, drug-trafficking and other transnational crimes. This was reflected in the signing of a crucial pact on cooperation in exchange of intelligence related to money laundering, related crimes and terrorism financing.
In a major advance in converging perceptions, the leaders of India and Saudi Arabia “rejected totally any attempt to link this universal phenomenon to any particular race, religion or culture.” “They called on all states to reject the use of terrorism against other countries; dismantle terrorism infrastructures where they happen to exist and to cut off any kind of support and financing to the terrorists operating and perpetrating terrorism from their territories against other states; and bring perpetrators of acts of terrorism to justice,” said the joint statement.
There was no explicit discussion on Pakistan, but the focus on dismantling sanctuaries of terror indicates Riyadh’s disapproval of its old ally Pakistan’s policy of using terror as a political instrument.
Support for CCIT
Significantly, Saudi Arabia agreed to work with India and the international community towards the adoption of India’s proposed Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism in the United Nations. Riyadh’s support for CCIT underlines a willingness on its part to mobilise the support of sceptical OIC nations who are opposed to CCIT due to their long-standing differences over the definition of terrorism. Taking the long view, the two sides decided to meld intensified counter-terror cooperation with joint efforts to promote cooperation in cyber security, including prevention of use of cyber space for terrorism, radicalization and for disturbing social harmony. The counter-radicalisation drive, which includes plans to promote inter-faith dialogue, is critical to defeat online propaganda and recruitment drive of terror groups like the Islamic State.
This enhanced counter-terror cooperation comes in the backdrop of the rise of the IS in the volatile Middle East region and shared apprehensions about potential terror strikes against India and Saudi Arabia emanating from different terror outfits. The pact to curb terror cooperation and the new template will reinforce recent trends of cooperation that has generated much goodwill in India. In the aftermath of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008 and terror strikes in Saudi Arabia, there was a subtle change in Riyadh’s attitude towards Islamist terror groups using insidious ideology to perpetrate barbaric terror attacks across the world. The first breakthrough occurred in June 2012 when Saudi Arabia deported Zabiuddin Ansari (Abu Jundal), a terrorist suspected of involvement in the Mumbai carnage. This was hailed as a major advance by India as this was the first time Riyadh, despite pressure from Islamabad, extradited a wanted terrorist with a Pakistani passport, and signalled Riyadh’s intention to diversify its network of relationships in South Asia, beyond its traditional ally Pakistan.
Besides anti-terror cooperation, India and the Gulf’s most powerful country also decided to bolster defence cooperation. Building upon the 2014 defence pact, the two countries have decided to intensify bilateral defence cooperation, through exchange of visits by military personnel and experts, conduct of joint military exercises, exchange of visits of ships and aircrafts and supply of arms and ammunition and their joint development. In this context, the two sides are looking to hold the second meeting of Joint Committee on Defence Cooperation in Riyadh to map the way ahead. Maritime security is also set to acquire a greater salience, with the two countries declaring their intent to enhance cooperation to strengthen maritime security in the Gulf and the Indian Ocean regions.
The April 3 talks in Riyadh mark a qualitative transformation of India-Saudi relations that is set to bring the two countries closer in the security realm, and widen the canvas of their evolving strategic partnership.
(Manish Chand is Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network, www.indiawrites.org, an e-magazine-journal focused on international affairs, and CEO of TGII Media Private Limited. He is in Riyadh to report and analyse India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia)
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.
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