Insights into Editorial: The Saudi-India-Pakistan triangle
India and Saudi Arabia enjoy cordial and friendly relations reflecting the centuries old economic and socio-cultural ties.
Close geographical proximity, civilizational links, cultural affinity, natural synergies, vibrant people to people contacts.
Common challenges and opportunities have added momentum to this robust engagement.
The two sides re-affirmed their deep commitment to strengthen the ‘strategic partnership’ envisaged in the ‘Riyadh Declaration’ of February 2010
Saudi Arabia is India’s fourth largest trading partner and India has long played an important role in our economy.
Visit of Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia to India:
- Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, or MBS, will lead to further strengthening of Saudi Arabia-Indian ties, a process that had begun with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Riyadh in 2016.
- Saudi interest in expanding trade and investment in India and collaboration in the energy sector.
- Saudi Arabia is already one of the three largest suppliers of oil to India.
- Saudi Arabia said, it would share intelligence with India and other countries, that were willing to fight terrorism.
- Joint Statement urged for the early adoption of UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism
- Both the sides resolved to create comprehensive security dialogue consisting of National Security Advisors. There would a Joint Working Group on counter terrorism.
- Both the sides launched Strategic Partnership Council that is led by the Prime Minister and the Crown Prince. Saudi Arabia joined the International Solar Alliance.
- Both the sides agreed to expedite the work for $ 44 billion West Coast Refinery and Petrochemical Complex.
- Saudi Aramco is interested in partnering with the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company in developing an integrated refinery and petrochemicals complex at Ratnagiri in Maharashtra, a $44 billion joint venture with Indian public sector involvement.
India and Saudi Arabia relations reflects Economic but with Pakistan shows Strategic:
First, Pakistan is far too important to Saudi Arabia for internal security reasons for Riyadh to sacrifice its stake in Islamabad in order to appease New Delhi.
- The Pakistan Army has more than once acted as the Saudi ruler’s praetorian (security body guards) guard and given the uncertain hold of MBS on his country, and also MBS may need the services of Pakistani mercenaries in the near future.
- Pakistan on its part perceives MBS as a valuable interlocutor on its behalf with the U.S. because of his excellent rapport with U.S. President Donald Trump.
- Islamabad deems this essential in light of the recent strains in U.S.-Pakistani relations over Pakistan’s support to terrorist groups.
- Saudi economic largesse matters greatly to Pakistan, which is in dire economic straits and has been forced to turn to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for loans that are bound to come with strict conditionalities.
- Over and above the $6 billion already promised by Saudi Arabia, MBS has promised a further $20 billion in Saudi investment in Pakistan.
- A large part is earmarked for investment in the construction of an oil refinery in Gwadar on the Makran coast, which is being developed as a strategic port by China and features prominently in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) plan.
To Dealing with Afghanistan Taliban:
Second, Afghanistan has been a point of strategic convergence for Pakistan and Saudi Arabia going back to the 1980s when the Saudis used Pakistan as a conduit for material assistance to the Islamist forces fighting the Soviet Union and its proxy government in Kabul.
With U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the consequent expansion of Taliban influence very much on the cards, Pakistan’s strategic value as the Taliban’s patron has grown exponentially.
Saudi Arabia is interested in curbing Iranian influence in Afghanistan and needs Pakistan to contain Tehran’s ability to influence events in that country after the American withdrawal through its Tajik and Hazara allies.
Iran Angle for Saudi Arabia:
The Saudi-Iranian rivalry is being played out across the region, from Syria to Yemen.
Riyadh perceives Pakistan as a major asset it can use to check the spread of Iranian influence. It sees Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa as more amenable to Saudi persuasion.
As Pakistan’s relations with Iran deteriorate, it is likely to move further into the Saudi orbit.
In the context of this strategic and economic nexus between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, it will be unwise for New Delhi to seriously believe that it will be able to wean Saudi Arabia away from Pakistan.
However, India should take advantage of any benefit that accrues from India’s economic relations with Saudi Arabia but should not pin much hope on Riyadh in the political-strategic sphere.
Saudi Arabia is transforming and that the opportunities for partnership and growth are unlimited. Saudi Arabia is a G-20 economy that is opening up to foreign investors at an unprecedented rate.
Vision 2030 of Saudi Arabia has created a roadmap for social and economic transformation and enabling the private sector is at the heart of it.
From the discussions at the Saudi-India Forum in Delhi, it is very clear that the economic partnerships between Saudi Arabia and India are moving from strength to strength as our nations undergo significant periods of positive change in order to realize the ambitious goals of Saudi Vision 2030 and New India @75.